Takamatsu is not a city that many people think of when visiting Japan, but it is the city that I happened to find myself in for a year.
It is in the Kagawa prefecture of Shikoku Island. Shikoku is the smallest of the four main islands that make up Japan and is positioned south west of Osaka. Shikoku Island is most famous for its 88-temple pilgrimage. It is joined to the mainland by a number of bridges, including the Seto Ohashi Bridge, one of the longest in the world.
Takamatsu is situated on the North side of the Island and has a harbour area that faces into the Seto Inland Sea. The city has a population of around 400,000. It has a large shopping, restaurant, and nightlife area.
Ritsurin Park is a 75-hectare park of 6 ponds and 13 small hills that has been designated as a “national place of special scenic beauty”.
Inside the landscaped park are a huge variety of plants, trees and flowers. Pick up a map and it will show you a few suggested walking routes.
The park faces Mt. Shiun which makes it easy to get your bearings. Look out for the famous view of Bairin-kyo Bridge. You’ll also find plenty of colourful Koi fish in the large interconnected ponds and lakes.
If you have more time there is a tea house where you can be served Japanese green tea (there is an extra charge for this). For more information see my Ritsurin Park page.
Takamatsu Castle / Tamamo Park
Takamatsu’s castle, properly called Tamamo Castle is located near the harbour area of Takamatsu. It is one of the “three water castles” of Japan, taking its moat water from the Seto Inland Sea.
The castle is nice, but you will find more impressive castles elsewhere in Japan. However you should still go here to have a look, and have a walk through the Tamamo Park grounds.
If you are in Takamatsu in during late October / beginning November then Tamamo Park is the location for a festival of chrysanthemum flowers. You may also find Bonsai trees on display.
Covered shopping streets (shotengai)
The main shopping area of Takamatsu consists of a number of covered shopping streets. Take a walk along Tamachi, Minamishinmachi, Marugamemachi, Kataharamachi, Hyogomachi, Lion-Dori and Tokiwamachi. You’ll find hundreds of shops and many restaurants.
There are clothing shops, household goods, Udon restaurants, book shops, souvenir shops and more. This is an especially good place to shop if it is raining as you can get across large areas of the city without being too exposed to the elements.
Harbour and Sunport area
Takamatsu is a harbour city and the relatively new Sunport area has been built to show it off.
Go to the 8th floor observation deck of the Sunport building and you’ll be able to see across the Seto Inland Sea. In the Sunport Tower building you’ll also find some good restaurants, coffee shops, clothes shops, and more.
Have a walk along the harbour area and you can see the regular passenger and car ferries sailing to and from the harbour. It is worth taking a walk along the harbour promenade to the red lighthouse, which sits on at the end of a long pier.
From the harbour area you can get a ferry to one of the many islands that are close by such as Naoshima, Shodoshima, Megijima and Ogishima.
Naoshima can be reached by ferry in less than an hour from Takamatsu port. Once there you should get a bus to the Art House Project and buy a ticket which will allow you to look at art installations which have been placed in a number of old Japanese buildings.
There is also a very small James Bond museum on the Island if you are a fan.
Less than an hour be ferry will get you to Shodoshima Island. I’d recommend going to the Kankakei Mountain where you can either get a cable car or walk to the top. Once at the top there are viewing areas, food, shops, and more walking paths.
Yashima flat top mountain
A short Kotoden train journey from Kawaramachi station will get you to the base of the Yashima flat top mountain. From there you can either walk up or get the bus. On the top you will find Yashima aquarium with its many types of fish, as well as a dolphin and sea lion show. There is also a great view across the Takamatsu harbour to see, and a temple – one of the 88.
There are other attractions around Yashima as well such as the folk museum and a shrines and temple. You can read more about the Shikoku-Mura folk museum here.
Takamatsu is surrounded by hills. Some of them are easy to walk up. Mount Inari is in easy walking distance from the town centre. The nearest station is Ritsurin Koen Kitaguchi. The walking paths aren’t very visibly marked. The best thing to do is to walk around the hill until you find the path. I found a path entrance on the North side of Mount Inari.
Walking up took about two hours as I took some wrong turns – the route is not very visible so a bit of trial and error may be needed. Once at the top you get a small view of parts of the city – note that there are many trees at the top obscuring your view so go up for the fun of the walk – not the view.
You might want to note that there were very few other people in the area so if you have an accident you’ll be in trouble! And as the hill is covered in tall trees no one will see you. I’d suggest you don’t do a walk like this alone – and make sure you do it on a dry day as some of the paths can be slippy.
Other hills and mountains in the area are likely to be walkable if you do a bit of exploring. Certainly a walk up Mount Yashima will give you a great view of the Takamatsu harbour.
88 temple pilgrimage
Shikoku Island is famous for its 88 temple pilgrimage. The temples are scattered all over Shikoku Island, however quite a number of them are in easy reach of Takamatsu. If you go to look at any of them keep a look out for the pilgrims who will be dressed in white.
Kotohira – 1400 steps
Take the Kotoden train to Kotohira station and you will be able to see one of the most famous Shinto shrines in the country. To reach the main shrine you will have to climb 785 steps up Mt. Zozusan. Another 583 steps will take you as high as you are allowed to go.
Along the way you’ll pass a number of shops, shrines and statues. There’s a great view from the top. There are more photos and information on my Kotohira page.
There are quite a number of festivals and special events in the Takamatsu area which are worth keeping an eye out for. These include a Winter festival, the Shionoe Firefly Festival, the stone lantern road, and every three years the Setouchi International Art Festival.
Travelling around Takamatsu
Takamatsu is very easy to get around. The town centre and Sunport areas close together. Walking is the most convenient way to get around the centre. There is a local Kotoden tram network that will take you further outside of Takamatsu. Takamatsu mainline train station will allow you to get trains around Shikoku and also onto the main Japan Island. Taking a JR train over the Seto Ohashi Bridge to Okayama will give you great views of the Seto Sea.
If you are likely to be using the local trams frequently (along with the Kotoden local busses) then it may be worth getting an IruCa card. The IruCa card is a smart card that you ‘charge up’ with credit. You can then use the Kotoden tram and Kotoden busses without needing cash.
On the trams you’ll need to swipe your card over the scanner at the start and end of your journey. At larger stations such as Kawaramachi there are ticket barriers to make sure you do this. At smaller stations such as Hanozono there are IruCa readers on the platform. When you leave the train the train’s ticket inspector will watch you to make sure you swipe out! Google Maps knows the timetable and costs of the Kotoden trams so if you do a route search between two destinations in central Takamatsu it will give you tram information.
On the Kotoden buses you’ll need to enter by the door in the middle of the bus. You’ll then have to touch the IruCa reader by the door with your card. When you exit through the front door of the bus you’ll have to touch the card on IruCa reader at the front of the bus. You can pay by cash as well – just get the numbered ticket when you enter. On Okawa buses you’ll need to get a ticket on entering, and pay when you leave. There is timetable information on the Kotoden website and the Okawabus website, but it is only available in Japanese.
You can also use the IruCa card to pay for items in some shops and for items in some vending machines displaying the IruCa logo.
If you want to travel further away (Tokyo, Naha, Kagoshima or Seoul) then you might want to read my Takamatsu Airport page.
Eating in Takamatsu
I have reviews of some vegetarian friendly restaurants in Takamatsu that you may be interested in reading. This includes Italian, Indian, and an Udon restaurant.
Hotels in Takamatsu
I’ve never stayed in a Takamatsu hotel (as I’ve been living here), but my parents tell me that the Dormy Inn Hotel was very good, and reasonably priced. It is well positioned in the centre of the city, near the covered shopping area.
The largest cinema is the Warner Mycal multi-screen cinema at the Aeon shopping centre (was a Saty shopping centre prior to March 2011) which is East of Takamatsu between Sunport and Yashima. The Warner Mycal Takamatsu schedule page is here. The nearest Kotoden station is Okimatsushima. There is a smaller cinema just off the shotengai in the Kawaramachi area.
Many Western films are shown in the original language with Japanese subtitles. Look out for the ones that have this ‘subtitles’ symbol 字幕. If the listing doesn’t have this symbol then the film will probably be dubbed in Japanese!
Shopping centres and Western food
Two of the larger shopping centres are Youme Town which is South of Ritsurin Park, and Aeon which is to the West of Takamatsu. You can get buses to both of these places from Sunport and Tenmaya.
In Aeon is a Kaldi Coffee Farm shop which sells some non-Japanese foods that are hard to find (nachos, biscuits, salsa sauce). Some other items like chick peas are cheaper here than elsewhere.
Takamatsu is extremely bike friendly. It is very flat, you can cycle on the roads or pavement, and drivers are (almost always) considerate to you. You can rent bikes for ¥100 from a number of bike hire places around the city – there’s one near the main station.
If you are looking for yoga then there is a bilingual (Japanese/English) yoga class taught by Michi that I can recommend.
Takamatsu has a Round 1, where you can do bowling, skating, and other racket sports. I have some Round 1 bowling information on the site.
Takamatsu long stay information
If you are staying in Takamatsu for longer than a normal holiday then there are a number of useful places, and organisations that can make your life easier.
Takamatsu is home to Kagawa’s International Exchange Centre, also know as the I-PAL Centre. Here you can do Japanese classes very cheaply, get access to foreign magazines and newspapers, and take part in their Japanese language salon where you can practice your Japanese with local residents. They also can offer interpreter and legal help if you need it.
If you don’t have your own internet access then you should check out e-topia in the Sunport Tower. Here you can use their computers for surfing the web (you just need to fill in a quick form to do this), or if you have your own laptop you can sign up for their secure WPA2 encrypted WiFi access. You might need to take a Japanese speaker with you in order to be able to get through the sign up process.
Alternatively there is an internet connected computer in the library in the I-PAL Centre (they have WiFi too), and you will find free WiFi access near the North end of the covered shopping arcade.
For weather information look at the Japan Meteorological Agency page for Kagawa.
If you are looking to meet new people then you should join the newly formed Kagawa Foreigners United Network (K-FUN) who are organising events in the Kagawa area.
For practical information on living in the Kagawa prefecture have a look at the International Affairs Division website. My guide to alien registration has a few specific details about registering in Takamatsu.