Yashima and nearby Mure and the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum can make for a fun half-day or full-day trip from Takamatsu, about 6km to the west.
There's much to see and do in Yashima. First of all the history of the place is associated with the Battle of Yashima which was fought between the Minamoto and Taira clans in 1185. The Taira were defeated in the naval battle and, finally and conclusively, again at Dan-no-ura, a month later, off the coast of Shimonoseki. There are memorials scattered here and there on Yashima commemorating these events.
Even earlier Yashima-ji Temple at the summit was founded by the Chinese monk, Ganjin in 754 during the Nara Period. Later the temple was converted to Shingon Buddhism by Kobo Daishi in 815 and moved to its present location on the south side of the Yashima plateau. On the grounds of the temple is a small pond (chi-no-ike; "Pond of Blood"), where the victorious Minamoto warriors supposedly cleansed their swords.
The Main Hall of Yashima-ji still stands after its construction during the Kamakura era at the beginning of the 14th century and is classified as an Important Cultural Property. The bell in the bell tower is also from the Kamakura Period.
Yashima-ji Temple is close to the rather decrepit New Yashima Aquarium (Shin-Yashima Suizokan), which may be redeveloped in the near future.
There are also great views over the Inland Sea and back to Takamatsu from the northern side of the plateau where there is also the reconstructed remains of an early Asuka and Nara Period fortress. This early stone fortification (Yashimanoki; 屋島の城) is connected with the Yamato state's conflict in Korea in the 7th century when it allied with the Kingdom of Baekje in a war against the combined armies of Silla and the Tang Dynasty of ancient China. Japan and its Baekje allies suffered a great defeat at the Battle of Hakusukinoe (白村江の戦い) and was not to send armies into Korea again until the late 16th century under Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
At the bottom of the Yashima plateau is Yashima Shrine and the interesting Shikoku Mura with a collection of over 300 buildings brought from all over Shikoku and surrounding islands.
Highlights of Shikoku Mura include Vine Bridge (kazurabashi) from the remote Iya Valley in Tokushima Prefecture - a reconstruction (with steel cables) of a traditional bridge that was once made with a tough mountain vine called shirokuchi.
It is thought that after their defeat in the Battle of Yashima in 1185, surviving members of the Taira clan fled to the Iya Valley and set up so-called "fugitive villages" (ochiudo mura). Access over the steep river valleys was aided by these vine bridges. Only one original vine bridge still exists in the Iya Valley and its vines are replaced every three years.
The Farmers' Kabuki Theater from Obu village on Shodoshima Island is another standout feature of Shikoku Mura. This large thatched building would have provided kabuki performances for the local villagers' entertainment. Occasional dramas are still performed with the seating all outdoors.
Finally don't miss the conical sugar cane presses and the lighthouse keepers' residences by British architect R. H. Brunton (1841-1901) - the so-called "Father of Japanese Lighthouses" who built a total of 26 Japanese lighthouses in Western style around Japan based on the design of those in his native Scotland.
Yashima is a shuttle short bus ride up the mountain from Kotoden Yashima Station on the Shido Line from Kawaramachi Station (two stops from Takamatsu-Chikko Station close to Takamatsu JR Station). There are three trains an hour from Kawaramachi Station to Kotoden Yashima Station.
Alternatively there are less frequent trains from JR Takamatsu Station to JR Yashima Station, from where the Kotoden shuttle bus begins its journey. The fare is 100 yen presently and on weekdays buses leave JR Yashima Station at 8.37am, 9.37am, 10.37am, 11.17am, 12.17pm, 12.37pm, 1.17pm, 1.37pm, 2.17pm, 2.37pm, 3.37pm and 4.37pm. The bus arrives at Kotoden Yashima Station about 8 minutes later and takes about 18 minutes to reach the top of the Yashima plateau. The last bus down on weekdays is at 5.25pm. From December through February the first bus that departs at 8.37am does not run though it does run January 1-3.
On weekends and public holidays buses start at 11.17am from JR Yashima Station with the last bus up at 2.17pm. The last bus down on weekends and public holidays is at 2.45pm.
There are also various hiking trails up to the top of the Yashima Plateau including the pilgrim route that enters through where the old fortress main gate once stood. The ascent is steep with many stairs.
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