Posts Tagged ‘takamatsu’

Getting a Japanese driving licence

Friday, March 11th, 2011

I recently got my full Japanese driving licence. I already had a UK driving licence; so much of the information here will be specific for people who have UK driving licences. For example with a UK licence you don’t have to do a physical driving test, whereas I know that if you have an American driving licence you do.

get japan driving licence 1

Also I got my licence in Takamatsu – the procedure will vary in other parts of the country.

Translation of my British driving licence

To start with I needed a translation of my British driving licence. You can get one of these for ¥3000 from your local JAF (Japan automobile federation) office.

The procedure is pretty simple; you turn up – no appointment was necessary, fill in a simple form (name, address, telephone number), and give them your driving licence. They only needed my photocard, they didn’t need the paper counterpart. They then took about 30 minutes to copy the relevant information from the photocard to a standard form on one or two pieces of A4 paper.

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After that you should just check the details on the translation form are correct. One thing I noticed is that the licence expiry date they put on the translation form is the photocard expiry date, which is usually very different from the expiry date of your driving licence.

There is more detailed information on the JAF website.

Japan driving licence interview

This is the stage which could vary a lot depending on where you are from. With my UK driving licence I was only required to be interviewed – I didn’t need to take a driving test.

I had to get the appointment booked in advance at the Kagawa driving licence centre which is a 25 minute walk North of Kozai station (one stop to the West of Takamatsu main station).

The interview was going to be in Japanese so I took a friend along to translate for me. Once at the driving licence centre I was seen by a lady who spent over an hour asking me many question about how I learnt to drive and my driving experience. Here is a selection of questions that my friend and I were asked at both of our interviews.

  • How did you apply for your provisional licence?
  • Where did you apply for your provisional licence?
  • How much did it cost?
  • When did you apply?
  • Did you need to do a test to get the provisional licence?
  • Did you need an eye test?
  • Did you have to see a doctor to get the provisional licence? (They seemed very suspicious about the fact that we can just get a provisional licence with no kind of testing!)
  • How did you learn to drive?
  • Who taught you?
  • Were they qualified instructors?
  • How many lessons did you do? How long were the lessons?
  • What cars did you drive?
  • Did you learn on a manual or automatic?
  • Have you driven an automatic? (in Japan they mainly seem to drive automatics)
  • What side of the road did you drive on?
  • What manouvers did you learn?
  • How did you learn the rules of the road? (theory)
  • Was there a test?
  • How many questions?
  • What was the pass mark? What did you score?
  • When did you do your driving test?
  • When / how did you apply for your driving test?
  • Who tested you?
  • What car did you drive for the test?
  • What did you do on the test?
  • How long was the test?
  • Did you pass? (if not expect similar questioning on your other test attempts)
  • Have you ever been caught speeding?
  • Have you driven in Japan?

I’d left my paper counter part back in the UK, and she did ask about it, but she seemed to accept that the photocard was sufficient. To be safe it is probably best if you bring your paper counterpart along with you as well, in case they insist on it.

And even more questions which I don’t remember! But hopefully this gives you an idea of the style. Once it was finished I was told that they’d phone within a week to tell me if I’d passed. If so I’d have to go back to the driving licence centre for an eye test and to pay. There was no charge to be interviewed.

Getting my Japanese driving licence

A week later I was told that I passed the interview so I was asked to go back to the centre the next week before 2pm.

After I got there and checked in at reception a man collected me. I had to verify my details on another form. And I had to choose two 4 digit pin codes (both could be the same). I’m guessing you might need them one day to prove you are the licence holder so note them down. He also checked my foreigner registration card and UK driving licence. And he took my UK driving licence translation (I didn’t get to keep it).

Then I given two A4 forms and had to go to a counter to buy revenue stamps for them at a cost of ¥5000. The lady behind the counter put the correct stamps on the correct forms. I also had to put my name and address on both of these pieces of paper.

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Next I had to get photos from a photo booth. It printed out a sheet with two large photos and two small photos.

The man found me and we went back into the office. He put one of the small photos on a form, and the other three photos were mine to keep.

Then he took me upstairs for the quickest eye test I’ve ever done. In a small room was an eye testing machine and an operator. There were two types of test. The first was a Landolt C test where you are shown circles with a bit missing. I had to look through a window in the machine at a grid of these circles which were different sizes. The operator would light up one of the circles and I had to say whether the missing bit is on the top, left, bottom, or right. He let me say the answers in English. There were about 5 or 6 of these circles that he lit up. Some are quite small.

The next test was a colour blindness test. Using the same machine he would light up two colours. I had to say what the colours were. E.g. red and green. Orange and red. Again he let me give the answers in English.

The whole sequence of boths test can only have taken about 30 seconds. I got what I believe is a very good score!

The the man who had been acomponying me took me to another counter where I had to hand in the form which my mini-photo on it. He then left me while they processed the form.

About 10 minutes later they gave me a print out which I had to check. The Katakana version of my name was spelt wrong so they had to make a correction (I think the man’s handwriting hadn’t been very clear).

With the corrected form I then had to go to another area where another man took a photo of me using a fixed digital camera.

After this it was back downstairs to the waiting area.

Another 5 minutes later the man who had been making sure I went to the right places came out with my licence. I just had to sign for it and then I could leave with my brand new laminated Japanese driving licence.

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Total time taken – about 3 hours (45mins for translation, 1.25 hours for interview, 1 hour for photos, eye test and getting licence).
Total cost – ¥8000 (¥3000 for translation and ¥5000 for licence application).

Changing the address on your Japanese driving licence

If you move then you have to get the address on your driving licence changed. You have to do this within two weeks. In order to change your driving licence address you will first have to change the address on your alien registration card at your local government office.

Then you will need to go to the driving licence centre at a main police station to change the driving licence address. You may also be able to change the address at a standalone driving license centre (but I’m not certain about this).

You need to go to a proper police station – they can’t change the address at the police koban boxes that you see all over the country. At my local police station there was a separate entrance for the driving licence centre. It was open during office hours 9:30-12:00 and 13:00-16:00. You have to fill in a simple form and show your alien registration card.

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Then they print your new address on the back of your driving licence in the box above (the photo was taken before I changed my address) and your licence is now up to date again.

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.

seto inland sea sunset 3

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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seto inland sea sunset 6

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

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seto inland sea sunset 8

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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takamatsu christmas dream illuminations 02

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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.

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 16

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

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 17

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

ritsurin gardens takamatsu at night 19

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.

Setouchi International Art Festival – Done!

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

After many boat journeys across the Seto Inland sea of Japan I’ve finished the Setouchi International Art Festival circuit. The art festival was a great idea; put art into houses, and outside, on seven islands in the Seto Sea.

seto sea japan 2

The purpose being to encourage people to visit these islands and bring a bit of life back into them (on many of the islands the average age is something like 80!). For 100 days in July, August, September and October special art exhibitions have been on these islands, and also in Takamatsu on Shikoku.

The best way to visit was to buy an ‘Art Passport’ which allowed you to see all the artworks once – they stamped the correct bit of the passport as you visited each artwork.

I’ve many hundreds of photos, too many to put on here, so here is just a small selection of them. I might do additional posts later about some of the individual islands.

Ogijima – 30/07/10

I started off with Ogijima, reachable in 40 minutes by ferry from Takamatsu. The boat first stops at Megijima and then carries onto Ogijima.

ogijima sotouchi art festival 2

The art was easy to walk around as it was mostly in one area. Lovely island with a nice atmosphere.

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Megijima – 30/07/10

On the same day I did Megijima (makes sense as it is reachable using the same boat). Megijima is perhaps most famous for its monster caves, but today I was just there for the art.

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My favourite art piece on the island was this ship/piano hybrid.

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Naoshima – 01/09/10

Naoshima is one of the most popular islands to visit in the Seto Sea, as it has a number of established art facilities, including the Art House Project, Benesse House, and the Chichu Art Museum. Below is inside Benesse House. The flags are made of coloured sand, and ants were allowed to dig through the inter-connected boxes which has produced tunnel patterns in the flags

naoshima sotouchi art festival 2

The Chichu Art Museum was very interesting, an underground art world, that made clever use of natural light. It had five Monet’s amongst its small selection of artworks. Photography wasn’t allowed in here though, so here are some photos of other artworks on the island.

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Oshima – 08/09/10

Oshima is a former leprosy prison island. Until 1996 (yes 1996) leprosy sufferers were sent off to islands like this one and were never allowed to leave. Their families often disowned them and never visited. The law that banished them to these islands has now been repealed but most of them are too old to leave – or have no accepting family to go to.

On arriving at the island we were met by an English speaking Japanese lady who offered to translate for us. This was very useful as unlike the other islands where you walked around yourself, most visitors to this island chose to go with a guide. The guide explained about the history of the island and about the patients who still live here.

oshima sotouchi art festival 2

The artefact above is an autopsy table that was recently recovered from the sea. Staff on this island had been conducting illegal autopsies on deceased patients. Other patients had been made to assist in these autopsies.

There wasn’t much art on the island, it was more of a history place to learn about leprosy and the Japanese attitude to it.

oshima sotouchi art festival 3

Shodoshima – 10/10/10

Visits to the first four islands had been relatively easy. There hadn’t been too many queues. But by the time it came to Shodoshima (in October, just three weeks from the end of the festival) things had gone crazy. People were arriving at the port before 7am to get a place on the ferries (a lot seemed to be queuing for Naoshima). I managed to get the ferry to Shodoshima, and got a bus to the main art site.

There were many outdoor pieces on Shodoshima, such as this one that you could walk inside of.

shodoshima sotouchi art festival 3

The straw elephant proved very popular with families.

shodoshima sotouchi art festival 4

There was good artwork here but the buses weren’t frequent enough. Large queues built up for them as they only arrived every 40 to 50 minutes. They did sometimes send two instead of one, but they needed more. They should have scrapped the bus schedule and gone to a more 15/20 minute frequent service to cope with the peak rush.

Teshima – 17/10/10

Teshima was another island that involved some long queuing. I got to the island ok, but there were big queues for some of the indoor artworks.

teshima sotouchi art festival 5

One of my favourites here was a room that played very loud recordings of human heart beats accompanied by a flashing light.

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Below on the right is the queue to get a ticket for the boat back. People were queuing over an hour in advance!

sotouchi art festival queues 1

Inujima – 24/10/10

Inujima is much closer to the mainland than Kagawa so I decided to visit it via the mainland to avoid the crowds around Takamatsu port. I got a train to Okayama, a bus to Hoden, and then the 10 minute boat to Inujima. Inujima is a very small island, but the art was very nice.

inujima sotouchi art festival 1

There were a number of art installations in easy walking distance of each other, and then there was an abandoned copper refinery that has now been turned into an art project.

inujima sotouchi art festival 3


Overall the Setouchi International Art Festival has been a great success. They’ve had way more visitors than expected, and the artwork, and islands, have been very interesting. Putting art installations on the islands has made it worth visiting them (which was of course the idea of the festival).

seto sea japan 1

The only bad thing was the queuing and overcrowded buses and boats during October. The organisers seem to have been caught off guard by the huge success of the festival, and weren’t able to put on additional services fast enough. The festival is intended to take place every three years, so hopefully by 2013 they will be well prepared.

Despite the queues I’d still very much enjoyed visiting all the islands and seeing the art.

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.

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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

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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.

mure gempei stone lanterns 23

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.

takamatsu airport setouchi 4

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.

takamatsu airport 7