Kagawa Prefecture is the smallest prefecture in Japan located on the island of Shikoku. Its capital is Takamatsu. Although relatively undiscovered, Kagawa is becoming an increasingly attractive spot for travelers. The prefecture is well known for Japan’s most recognizable noodle dish, Sanuki udon, which was named after the prefecture’s old name Sanuki. You can find udon shops almost everywhere in the prefecture. Along with udon noodles, Kagawa offers many attractions for you to enjoy. Here are the best places to visit in Kagawa!
Kompirasan, also known as Kotohiragu, is the head shrine of Kompira shrines in Japan and has been worshiped since ancient times as the God of the Sea. Kompira Shrines are dedicated to sailors and seafaring.
Historically, it has been a place of worship as both a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple, however, it was officially declared a shrine at the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) when the government separated the two religions. For this reason, Kompirasan still has elements of both Shinto and Buddhist influences such as its architecture that displays both Shinto and Buddhist elements.
The approach to Kompirasan is a daunting climb of 1,368 steps. Both side of the approach is filled with souvenir shops and Sanuki udon restaurants. From there it is another 785 step climb or about 45 minute climb past a number of auxiliary shrine buildings and museums to the main hall.
From JR Takamatsu Station, take Dosan Line and get off at Kotohira Station (~60 min). Walk about 10 minutes to the start of the long approach to Kompirasan.
Alternatively, a shuttle bus operates between the station and the shrine’s main gate about halfway up to Kompirasan’s main hall.
2. Angel Road
Shodoshima Island is the second largest island on Seto Inland Sea which belongs to Kagawa. The island is the first area in Japan to successfully grow olives, and is often called Olive Island.
The best highlight of the island is Angel Road, which is a 500-meter sandbar that connects small islands and Shodoshima Island and only appear twice a day during low tide. Angel Road is especially popular among couples for it is believed that couples who walk Angel Road hand-in-hand will find happiness together.
From Takamatsu to Shodoshima Island, take a ferry from Takamatsu Port to Tonosho Port on Shodoshima Island (~1 hr). Form Tonosho Port to Angel Road, walk about 25 minutes or take Shodo Olive Bus Nishiura Line, get off at International Hotel bus stop.
It is a flat topped mountain in Takamatsu City. In the 12th century, two groups of samurai, the Genji and the Heike, fought against each other in the Genpei Battle, and Yashima was one of the battle fields.
Yashima offers panoramic views of Takamatsu City and the Seto Inland Sea. Yashimaji Temple, the 84th temple of the Shikoku 88 temples visited by pilgrims, can be found at the summit of Yashima.
From JR Takamatsu Station, take JR Kotoku Line bound for Tokushima, get off at Yashima station (~15 min). Take Yashima Sanjo Shuttle bus which takes you to the summit.
4. Ritsurin Garden
This famous historical garden is one of the top attractions in Takamatsu City completed in 1745. Set against the backdrop of Mount Shuin, the garden features six ponds and 13 landscaped hills. While strolling you can enjoy the changing landscape with every step. Inside the garden, a few buildings can be found such as Kikugetsu-tei teahouse, where you can have green tea while enjoying the picturesque landscape, and the Sanuki Mingeikan, where traditional crafts are exhibited. You can also enjoy a ride on a Japanese boat on the pond.
- Ritsurin Garden is located about 2 km from Takamatsu Station. You can walk or take trains.
- From Takamatsu-Chikko Station, take Kotoden train, get off at Ritsurin Koen Station, and walk for 10 minutes.
- From JR Takamatsu Station, take JR Kotoku Line, get off at Ritsurin Koen Kitaguchi Station, and walk for 5 minutes.
5. Chichibugahama Beach
Located in Mitoyo City in western Kagawa Prefecture, Chichibugahama Beach is known to have one of the most beautiful sunsets in Japan. The tide pools created during the low tide beautifully reflects the sky like mirrors.
Besides enjoying breathtaking sunset views at the beach, you can also engage in activities such as sea kayaking, SUP (stand up paddle boarding) and cycling. Near the beach, there are some souvenir shops along with cafes and restaurants where you can try local foods.
From JR Takuma station, take a local bus Nio Route and get off at Chichibugahama bus stop (~25 min).
Hounenikeentei or Hounenike Dam is a multiple arch-dam, located in the Sanuki Mountain range in Kannonji City. Its construction started in 1926 and completed in 1930, and today it is still in use after several renovation works over the decades.
The dam has been designated as an Important Cultural Property, for the multiple arch-dam is a rare structure and there are only two in Japan: Hounenikeentei and Okura dam in Miyagi Prefecture.
At the foot of the dam, there is a park which allows you to get close to the dam so that you can enjoy dynamic scenery of the dam set against mountains. The park is also a popular spot for picnic.
From JR Takamatsu station, take JR Yosan Line bound for Matsuyama, get off at Kannonji station (~1 hr). Take a taxi for about 30 min. There is a local bus but they operate only twice a day.
7. Marugame Castle
Marugame Castle, also known as Kameyama Castle or Horai Castle, was constructed in 1597 and one of the twelve original castles in Japan that still remain. Located on a hill south of Marugame City, the most impressive features of the castle is its huge stone walls. The castle’s small, three story keep offers great views of the city below and the Seto Inland Sea.
The original castle ground is now a large public park called Kameyama Park. It is one of the region’s most famous cherry blossom spots with approximately 1,000 cherry trees.
15 minute walk from Marugame station.
8. Naoshima Island
Naoshima is an island in the Seto Inland Sea, about an hour on a ferry from Takamatsu Port. This island is known as an art island, with modern art museums, architectures and sculptures. At the center of Naoshima, there is Benesse House, which was constructed in 1992 and integrates hotel and museum functions. The Benesse House along with Chichu Art Museum and Lee Ufan Museum were designed by the world-renowned architect Tadao Ando.
When you arrive at Naoshima, you are welcomed by Yayoi Kusama’s Red Pumpkin, the symbol of the island and one of the several open-air art works on the island. Another popular art work by her is Yellow Pumpkin. To get there, take a bus to Tsutsujiso Bus Stop. Check out these remarkable art works when you visit Naoshima. Some of the vacant houses on Naoshima has been transformed into art spaces by Japanese and international designers, called Art House Projects. Naoshima serves as a main venue of the Setouchi Triennale art festival.
Take a ferry from Takamatsu Port to Miyanoura Port on Naoshima (~60 min).
Read this article for more detailed access information;
9. Shiudeyama Mountain
Shiudeyama Mountain or Mount Shiude is 352 meters in height and located in Shonai peninsula which jots out sharply into the Seto Inland Sea in the western part of Kagawa Prefecture. The mountain offers spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea and nearby islands, and often describes as the best cherry blossom viewing spot in Japan. The contrast of the clear blue ocean and the pastel pink flowers is just breathtaking. Besides cherry blossoms in spring, approximately 20,000 hydrangea flowers attract many visitors in early summer.
During the cherry blossom season (usually from late March to early April), there is a shuttle bus which takes you from Ohama Gyoko to the top of the mountain.
Outside the cherry blossom season, you can take a taxi or rent a car (about 30 minutes) from JR Takuma station.
10. Nakano Udon School
If you go to Kagawa prefecture aka Udon prefecture, you should try some Udon! And to make it more fun, how about taking Udon making class there? At Nakano Udon Gakko (school), you can learn how to make the best Udon starting with kneading the dough and finishing with cutting and boiling them. It is 40-50 minutes class and you can make a reservation from 9am to 3pm. Making Udon will be very special experience and these Udon tastes much more delicious if you make by yourself!
Please make a reservation from here, it is available 2 days prior to the reservation date
Kotohira: 10 minutes walk from Kotohira station
Takamatsu: 15 minutes drive from Kuribayashi Park, 3 minutes drive from Takamatsu Nishi I.C.
Where to stay in Kagawa
My LODGE Naoshima – Close to the port, you can enjoy the ocean view from the room. Clean and simple decor in the room will make your stay very comfortable.
Onyado Shikishima-kan – 1.4 km from Kompirasan, delicious Japanese styled dinner and hot spring Onsen, you can get the nice Ryokan (Japanese Inn) experience.
Super Hotel Takamatsu Tamachi – Located in the central city and easy access to everywhere. Free breakfast buffet is available.
What do you think about Kagawa? Kagawa may be best known for its Sanuki udon among Japanese, but the prefecture offers many interesting spots for tourists which integrates tradition and modern.
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