Posts Tagged ‘shikoku’

Plum blossoms in Ritsurin Park

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Japan’s most famous type of blossom is the cherry blossom, but if you can’t wait until March/April to see them you can see the plum blossoms in February.

Ritsurin Park in Takamatsu has one of Japan’s most famous gardens, and in that garden are two groves, each filled with 80 plum trees (also known as Japanese apricot trees).

ritsurin park plum blossom 1

The first plum blossom trees in the South grove were planted in the Edo period, and the first ones in the North grove were planted in the Meiji period.

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There were plenty of other people taking photographs of the blossoms as well as me.

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Japan is very in tune with the seasons, so whenever there is a change in nature (plum blossoms, cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, etc) Japanese people flock to gardens like this to see it. They even show the progress of the blossoms in the weather forecasts as they start flowering through Japan. A sign in the garden says that one of these trees is a ‘sample tree’ that is being observed by the Takamatsu meteorological observatory.

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As well as pink blossoms, there are also white ones, and others that are light yellow. Many of these plum blossom trees are 50-60 years old

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Here’s a close up of some of the pink flowers.

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And a close up of some light yellow ones that are waiting to come out.

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And finally in the background is Mount Shion which is visible through much of Takamatsu.

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Seto Inland Sea sunset photos

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Whilst living in Takamatsu, Kagawa I had the opportunity to observe the Seto Inland Sea sunset many times. Here is a small selection of my photos. This first one was taken from the Naoshima to Takamatsu ferry.

seto inland sea sunset 1

The Seto Inland Sea is always busy with passenger ferries taking people between the islands. There are many interesting islands to visit near Takamatsu, I visited some of them as part of the Setouchi International Art Festival.

seto inland sea sunset 2

Most of the photos are taken from the Takamatsu harbour area near to the Sunport Centre and red lighthouse. But the next two are taken from Naoshima Island.

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Here is the ferry arriving to take me from Naoshima to Takamatsu.

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All the colours are natural; I didn’t use any filters, or software to change them. They were taken using my cheap compact camera that I’ve had for many years.

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These were taken during the Summer/Autumn seasons of 2009 and 2010 which is why everyone is in short sleeves!

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Many people came to the red lighthouse pier with much more expensive camera equipment than I did.

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And finally a sequence of the Sun disappearing behind the Seto Inland Sea.

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Bowling in Japan at Round 1

Friday, February 18th, 2011

If you want to go ten pin bowling in Japan there are plenty of bowling alleys in the cities. I went to a big chain called Round 1 which has locations all around Japan. The one I went to was in Takamatsu, Kagawa.

bowling in japan at round one 1

If you are thinking that this building is a bit big for a bowling place that’s because there is much more inside. They have skating, a games arcades, pool, karaoke and racket sports.

bowling in japan at round one 2

They have a complicated system of memberships that can get you discounts if you visit more than once (see their Japanese website for details), but you can just go bowling without having to sign up as well.

The weekday cost at this branch was ¥500 per person per game, plus ¥350 each for shoe hire. If you are really keen they were offering 6 games for ¥1500. They allocate you lane at the reception, but you don’t pay them until after you are finished.

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The shoe hire area was very high tech. They had a line of shoe vending machines with the sizes written on them (in cm). Each had a button, and an opening at the bottom. You press the button, and the shoes come out. The machines did however only go up to 27.5 cm. Too small for my fairly average European feet. Fortunately you can ask them for larger sizes.

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They have a selection of different bowling balls to choose. The orange ones (there were other colours as well) were standard bowling balls with different weights, and finger sizes. The yellow ones were labled as ‘easy balls for ladies’. They are lighter, have larger finger holes, and contain rubber inserts. The text explains that they are less likely to damage your nails.

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The rest of the bowling alley looked pretty standard. There were the usual displays above the lanes, and on the side. There are music videos playing at the end of the lanes.

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The results screen had some Japanese on it, but you don’t need to be able to read any of that to see your score. The button to move onto the next game appears on the bottom right, after the current game is over.

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The actual alleys looked very well maintained. Very clean and smooth.

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After the games were over we could put our shoes in a ‘shoe bin’ which was in the middle of the line of shoe vending machines. Then after paying we got a print out of our scores. Here’s mine: 107 on the first game, and 125 on the second.

bowling in japan at round one 9

We were also each given a token which we could use to have a go on one of those ‘catcher’ games in the arcade, and some fake Round 1 coins that could be used in the ‘money pushing’ machines.

You can get more information about Round 1 on the Round 1 website [original Japanese] [English translation]. And here is a direct link to the prices [original Japanese] [English translation] at the Takamatsu branch. There is also a PDF with some English information on how their system works.

Free udon queue in Takamatsu!

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Kagawa prefecture in Japan is the home of the famous Sanuki udon. If you tell any Japanese person that you have been to Kagawa then 9 times out of 10 they will ask you not about Ritsurin Park, or the Kotohira Shrine, but about the udon.

The Japanese love their udon, and the Sanuki udon from Kagawa are considered to be the best. Japanese tourists travel to Kagawa just for the udon. You can even get a guide book listing the ‘101 best udon restaurants in Kagawa’ – that’s an indication as to how many udon places there are.

For the uninitiated udon are wheat noodles that can be served in a variety of ways; usually with fish sauce (dashi), and fish, meat, spring onions, eggs, or tofu toppings.

One day as I was walking past the big dome of the Marugamemachi I spotted this free udon queue.

free udon in kagawa takamatsu 1

A new udon restaurant was opening and they were giving away free udon to publicise it. Throughout the time I was watching there was a continuous stream of new people arriving to get their udon. Let’s take a closer look at the queue.

Men wearing yello jackets wave signs that tell the shoppers this is a queue for free udon. The shoppers eagerly join the queue and are given some promotional material for the restaurant.

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The shoppers patiently snake their way around the queue. One of the men in the yellow jackets kept on rearranging the barriers for the queuing system, probably so he could look busy!

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The shoppers reach the udon station. Here a production line of staff puts the udon in the bowls, adds some spring onion topping, and then hands the bowl of the udon to the next in line along with some wooden chopsticks.

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After getting their udon the shoppers quickly eat them up (lots of slurping is considered the polite way to eat them). It looked like they were enjoying the udon.

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Then the shoppers could move a bit further along and get an orange or two, as well as having their photo taken with someone in a cartoon character costume.

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What a lot of people then did was run around back to the start of the queue to get more udon! The staff seemed happy to let them do this as they had huge crates full of udon portions ready to serve. Here’s a video of some of the event.

And finally here a photo of what it looked like after the crowds had died down.

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Takamatsu Christmas ‘Dream Illumination’

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Here are some photos from the ‘Dream Illumination’ event that is taking place in Takamatsu’s Chuo Park this year. The event is on from the 18th December to 25th December. On many of the days there were events happening on the stage (singers and dancers). But on the day I went it was just the illuminations. The centre piece of the park was this large Christmas tree made of hundreds of lights (there is no actual tree inside it).

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On entering Chuo Park (no charge!) there are loads of food stalls selling octopus, ramen, soba, okonomiyaki, chips and ice cream (you do have to pay for these though).

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I just had some chips, but the meat and fish is there if you want it.

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Onto the lights. There are lots of displays around the park with various Christmas themed images. Plenty of snowmen and bells.

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There was a bouncy castle in the shape of a rabbit, and a tunnel of blue lights that you could walk through.

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Here is one of the stages – it was very quiet, as no one was performing today.

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This is Christmas scene, made of out (I think) coloured plastic bags which are rolled into cylinders.

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Finally a family of snowmen, near to one of the park tents. More food and drink was being served inside these tents.

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Ritsurin Gardens Light Up in Takamatsu

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

The Ritsurin Gardens in Takamatsu, Kagawa is one of the best looking gardens in Japan. Usually you visit it during the day, but during November, for less than two weeks, the gardens are open at night.

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 18

Selected trees, plants, water features, buildings and statues are lit up with a mixture of white and coloured lights.

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 01

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 02

Unlike during the day when the whole of Ritsurin Park is open, only certain routes around are available to walk along during the light up. This is partly for safety reasons, and also partly because it would be too complicated to light up the whole park for such a short time.

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ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 04

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The light up proved very popular, with hundreds of locals visiting to take photos using their expensive cameras and tripods.

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I made do with my cheap compact held in my hand, but the results aren’t too bad!

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 07

The Koi fish were up and as ever hoped to get food from the visitors.

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 06

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It is a bit like being at an art gallery where you move from one piece to the next rather than the usual Ritsurin Gardens where you can look at everything.

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 09

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 10

Here is the Ritsurin Gardens waterfall. It is an artificial waterfall and at one time servants had to carry water up to make it work. These days a water pump is used.

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This shot is of the Ritsurin tea room reflected in the lake. The lighting provided for some great ‘reflected in the water’ photo opportunities.

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That isn’t the moon by the way, it is a light behind the tree.

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In the dark even a simple piece of tree bark became very interesting to look at.

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Many of the stepping stones across the ponds were off limits due to the dark, but this set of stones was well lit up.

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ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 20

And finally here is the poster of the 2010 Ritsurin Park light up.

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 21

If you want to see what Ritsurin Park looks like during the day see my other Ritsurin Park photos.

Mure Gempei Stone Lantern Road in Takamatsu

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

The stone lantern festival takes place on Mure Gempei Road near Yashima in Takamatsu every August and September. In 2010 it was held from July 31st to September 20th.

mure gempei stone lanterns 19

Hundreds of stone lanterns light the street daily from dusk until 10pm. They are mostly outside people’s houses and it is completely free to view them. This is the 2010 English poster.

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If you can’t read the details the nearest station is Yakuri is on the Kotoden Shido Line. If you are travelling on the JR Kotoku Line you can get off at Furutakamatsu-Minami station, but the walk will be further.

There are a large variety of lanterns, from elaborate to very simple ones like this face.

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Quite a number of the lanterns had an animal theme. Here is a mouse waiting by some illuminated cheese.

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Visitors who visited earlier in the month than I did were able to vote on their favourite lanterns and stone sculptures. The first prize was this dog looking up towards the light.

mure gempei stone lanterns 1stprize

Here are the 2nd and 3rd place winners.

mure gempei stone lanterns 2nd3rdprize

And the 4th and 5th placed lanterns. If you are wondering what the connection is between the moon and the rabbit, it is because of a Japanese folklore about a rabbit (Jade Rabbit) that lives on the moon.

mure gempei stone lanterns 4th5thprize

mure gempei stone lanterns 08

This fishing scene contains a real goldfish.

mure gempei stone lanterns 01

Powering all these lights must use a fair bit of electricity so they had some information about what they are doing to reduce the power consumption. They use solar panels to collect power during the day, and the lanterns are lit with LED lights.

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The lanterns are made out of locally produced Aji stone. You can see some of the stone factories along the route.

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If you fancy buying one of these stone lanterns you can. They have brochures that you can pick up listing the lanterns and the prices. Some are very expensive and can go for a several hundred thousand yen. Cheaper ones can be bought for under 50 thousand yen.

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If that is too expensive for you there are stalls along the route selling smaller lights. There are also food and drink stalls.

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If you are in Takamatsu during August and September then make sure you visit. You should allow an hour or two to walk along the road and back again. If you aren’t in Takamatsu at this time you can find a number of simpler stone lanterns by Tamamo Castle near the Sunport area of the city. Enjoy the rest of the photos.

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Here is the link for the official Mure Gempei Road page.

Takamatsu Airport

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

If you are on Shikoku Island and want to fly to Tokyo, Seoul, Naha (Okinawa) or Kagoshima then you might find yourself using Takamatsu Airport. There is no train there so you’ll either have to get a taxi or the bus.

takamatsu airport bus 1

The Takamatsu Airport Limousine Bus costs ¥690 from Kawaramachi station and departs from stop 2. You can buy the ticket from the booth near the bus stop, or just buy it from the driver. Above is what the bus looks like from the outside and inside. And on the right is what the tickets look like.

Here is the outside of Takamatsu Airport when you arrive there by bus.

takamatsu airport 3

It was very busy when we got there (school holidays) so we used an ANA automated check in machine. We just had to scan the bar code of the receipt (we’d booked via the Japanese KNT travel agent), confirm our seats, and the tickets came out. As this was a Japanese domestic flight there was no need to show anyone our passports, or alien registration cards.

takamatsu airport check in 8

Note – The ANA check-in machines have an English option, but the JAL ones don’t!

We still had over an hour before our flight so we explored the airport. In the lounge we found this artwork which is part of the Setouchi International Art Festival.

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On the way to the plane viewing platform you can see the airport shops from above.

takamatsu airport shops 5

If you want to go into the plane viewing area you need to pay ¥100, but it hardly seems worth it as there are so few planes at this airport!

takamatsu airport viewing area 6

Here is another shot of the viewing area, and you can see the large Takamatsu sign from the back. No planes though!

takamatsu airport viewing platform 2

Security was very simple. There was no queue, they just put the bags through the X-ray, and we walked though the metal detector. At the time we flew (August 2010) there were no restrictions on bringing liquids onto domestic Japanese flights. This is much more civilised than the usual Western system of only allowing 100ml containers onto the flights, and making you give up your water before you go air-side.

On the left is what it looks air-side. Just rows of seats, and a few tiny shops. They also have phones on the windows so that you can say good bye to any relatives who are on the other side.

takamatsu airport air side 9

Right on time we were able to get onto the plane and fly off to Naha, Okinawa.

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Kotohira Shrine, Shikoku

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

The Kotohira Shrine in Kagawa on Shikoku Island is famous for its steps. Its 1368 steps! It isn’t as bad as it sounds though, and if you are visiting Takamatsu and have seen the obvious sites (Ritsurin Park, Tamamo Castle), then consider going to the Kotohira Shrine (also known as Konpira-San) next. It is one of Japan’s most famous Shinto shrines.

Get the Kotoden train (the right one!) from Kawaramachi station in Takamatsu’s Tenmaya department store and go to the end of the line. Outside the station you’ll see this imposing wood and stone building.

kotohira shrine konpira san 01

Head towards the mountain and you’ll find the beginning of the steps. At this early stage of the climb there are loads of shops and food places on either side. You can buy snacks, udon, ice cream, and even imitation samurai swords and air pistols! Many people will buy a stick from here to help them with the climb.

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You can pay (for a hefty price) to be carried up the steps by two tired looking locals on a chair.

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Don’t let the step count intimidate you though – it isn’t that bad. There were plenty of elderly people, and children making their way up when I was there. There are loads of areas to stop off on the way so you can take lots of breaks. Just don’t try it on a really hot day – you’ll suffer!

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As you go up there are a variety of statues, shrines, and other buildings for you to look at.

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Part way up and the view is starting to look good.

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Through a torri gate, and towards another flight of steps.

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There are some interesting items to look at. Including a large gold coloured propeller.

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And a wood covered area housing some kind of boat, and a man performing some kind of ceremony.

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More steps – can’t be long to go now.

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And finally – the highest point you can go.

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Here’s the view from near the top of the stairs.

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And then of course I have to go back down the steps. There are a lot of steps, but all the interesting stops on the way up, and the views take your mind off it. If elderly people and school children can manage it, then as long as you have a basic level of fitness you should have no trouble.

Megijima Island Takamatsu

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Megijima Island is a small island visible from the Sunport harbour area of Takamatsu. It is just 4km away, has an area of 2.66km and a population of about 200 people. The island is also known as ‘Monster’s Island’ or ‘Devil’s Island’!

megijima island kagawa 02

There is a legend that the mythical character Momotaro made an appearance on the island many years ago. This conveniently has allowed the people of Megijima to create a monster themed tourist attraction in its caves!

To get there you’ll need to take the ferry from Takamatsu harbour. The ferry is every hour or two from 8am until 19:15pm and takes just 20 minutes to get there.

megijima island kagawa 01

Once on Megijima it became clear that we hadn’t done our research because we didn’t have a clue where to go, and there were no signs in English. But somehow we ended up paying money to a man, and got into his people carrier car with another Japanese family. He was going to take us up to the caves and back.

We drove up the hill, and when we reached the caves had to buy entry tickets from a ticket machine there. The man then took us all into the caves.

megijima island kagawa 03

He proceeded to give us a tour of the caves – all in Japanese. The Japanese family were able to understand it, but we weren’t. I’m sure he was explaining about the legend and the monsters. Inside the cave are many plastic model monsters in various poses.

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Some of them I recognised from elsewhere around Kagawa.

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In total I think we spent about 15-20 minutes in the caves taking photos of the monsters.

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Once out he took us on a short walk up to Washigamine Summit which has a 360 degree viewing platform. From there you can see the Seto Inland Sea, Takamatsu, and many of the other Seto Sea islands.

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He then drove us back down the hill, and we stopped off at the coast, where we could get another view of the Seto Inland sea.

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We could also see the next boat which we were hoping to get! Just in time we all got back inside the car and he drove us back to the port. If it had been a warmer day we could have spent a few hours walking around the island (the coastline is only 8.9km). But it was cold, so we got onto this ferry and headed back to Takamatsu. From Megijima there are ferries going to both Takamatsu and Ogijima so make sure you get the right one.