Your first port of call for "art islands", awe-inspiring structures and amazing udon
Takamatsu has a long history of service as a port town, a status that earned it the nickname Gateway to Shikoku. But in more recent years, locals have taken to calling it the Udon Kingdom for its delicious noodles. It seems residents have a passion for all things long and thin, as Takamatsu is also home to the longest covered shopping arcade and the two-tiered Seto-Ohashi bridge system, the longest in the world at 13.1km. The city also houses some major works of art at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum and on nearby “art islands” Naoshima and Teshima. You won’t want to miss beautiful Ritsurin Koen, a huge Japanese garden that’s well worth a visit.
Things to do
Art of gold
Takamatsu is home to the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum opens in new window, an institution dedicated to the Japanese-American sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi, best known for designing Hiroshima’s Peace Park. Beyond that, there are two islands nearby given over to modern art displays. Naoshima opens in new window has some interesting architecture by Tadao Ando, an art museum-cum-bath called I Love Yu. and a James Bond museum. Teshima opens in new window is home to the Teshima Art Museum and Les Archives du Coeur, where you can record your heartbeat and listen to those of others.
The area around Takamatsu Station was recently redeveloped and one of the additions was Symbol Tower, a 30-storey, mixed-use building with shopping, performance spaces and dining. The observatory on the top floor offers views of the city and sea and there are also restaurants on floors 28-30 run by former Iron Chefs. Choose from French, Chinese or Japanese cuisine.
Rise and shrine
Shikoku’s most popular shrine is about an hour from Takamatsu in a place called Kotohira. The approach to the main hall of the mountain shrine of Konpirasan has 785 stone steps and takes about 45 minutes to reach if you’re in good shape. A further 583 steps (and an additional 45 minutes) take you from there to the inner hall. To save yourself the walk, you can also hire a palanquin to carry you.
Suited to a tea
Ritsurin Koen isn’t one of the official three most beautiful gardens in Japan, but some might argue that it deserves to be. This sprawling traditional landscape garden is lovely to behold and includes three teahouses, a craft museum and a restaurant. Pay a little extra at the teahouse to get a mini tea-ceremony experience and really feel like you’re in Japan.
Use your noodle
Thick, chewy udon noodles are the speciality here, particularly a variety called Sanuki udon. The basic model is udon in a hot broth made with dashi and soy sauce with perhaps some sliced onions and a piece of kamaboko fish paste thrown in, but add the various toppings and you’ve got nearly endless variations. Try Tsurumaru if you need an English menu or ask a few locals for recommendations.
Travel time 30 minutes
Taxi Approx JPY ¥4,700
Bus The Airport Limousine bus to Takamatsu Station takes 50 minutes and costs JPY ¥760.Takamatsu Airport is connected to the city by bus. Take the Airport Limousine bus to Takamatsu Station for JPY ¥760. The trip takes about 50 minutes and the bus stops at some of the larger hotels in town. The bus schedule is set so there’s always a bus leaving about 15 minutes after a plane lands. The trip to Takamatsu station by taxi costs about JPY ¥4,700 and takes 30 minutes. Back to top
When to go
Like most of Shikoku, Takamatsu has warm, humid summers and chilly winters with minimal snowfall. Summers see temperatures in the mid to high 20s with high humidity. During the winter, the mercury gets close to freezing overnight, but stays around 5 degrees Celsius during the day.
May through July is the rainy season, when Takamatsu can see heavy rainfall. Shikoku’s typhoon season is in September, but as Takamatsu is on the sheltered inland sea side, it doesn’t get hit as hard as cities on the Pacific side.
The biggest event of the year is the Sanuki Takamatsu Festival in mid-August. The event runs for three days and features fireworks displays and parades in which thousands of locals perform traditional dances. There’s also a winter festival around Christmas that sees the city brightly illuminated and rife with dancing Santas.Back to top
Many sites in Takamatsu are reachable on foot, but Japan Rail trains and the local Kotoden Railways will connect you to sites a bit farther out. Fares are charged based on the distance travelled. Renting a bicycle opens in new window is also a good option, as Takamatsu is very bike friendly and rentals are just JPY ¥200 a day. You just need a photo ID the first time you rent.Back to top