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 'Udon Kingdom' for its delicious noodles. It seems residents have a passion for all things long and thin, as Takamatsu is also home to Japan's 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 nearby are the charming art islands Naoshima and Teshima. And you won’t want to miss beautiful Ritsurin Koen, a huge Japanese garden.
Things to do: Takamatsu
Art of gold
Takamatsu is home to the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum opens in new window, dedicated to the Japanese-American sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi, best known for designing Hiroshima’s Peace Park. Plus, there are two islands nearby with a modern art focus. Naoshima opens in new window has some interesting architecture by Tadao Ando, an art museum-cum-bathhouse 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 opens in new window 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 tea houses, a craft museum and a restaurant. Pay a little extra at the tea house for a mini tea ceremony experience to 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 some sliced spring onions and a piece of kamaboko fish paste, but with the addition of various toppings there are nearly endless variations. Go to Tsurumaru if you need an English menu, or ask the locals for recommendations.
Distance to city centre 15km
Taxi A taxi into central Takamatsu takes around 30 minutes and costs about JPY ¥4700.
Bus The Kotoden Limousine bus opens in new window departs around 15 minutes after each flight arrival. It takes about 40 minutes to get to Takamatsu Station and costs JPY ¥760.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 5ºC 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 firework displays and parades of thousands of locals performing traditional dances. There’s also a winter festival around Christmas that sees the city brightly lit and rife with dancing Santas.Back to top
Many of Takamatsu's sights are reachable on foot. You can use the local Kotoden trains opens in new window to get around parts of the city, and Japan Rail trains will connect you to places a bit farther out. Renting a bicycle opens in new window is a good option, as Takamatsu is very bike friendly – you just need to present a photo ID the first time you rent.Back to top