Our 2015 holiday to Japan was the best one so far, for me. It even outstripped our honeymoon!
We headed off the main island for a week on Shikoku (四国). Our main destination was Matsuyama (松山), but to break up the journey from Kansai Airport, we had a couple of days in Takamatsu (高松).
We travelled by train from Kansai Airport via Okayama (岡山), crossing from Honshu to Shikoku on the Marine Liner (マリンライナ) across a series of bridges over the Seto Inland Sea.
The views across the sea were spectacular. It was difficult to take photographs, because the train was travelling so fast and the camera kept trying to focus on the struts of the bridge, rather than on the view beyond. It felt like a proper adventure was starting.
It was swelteringly hot when we arrived at Takamatsu station. We headed for the tourist information office where a friendly woman gave us a map of the city and advised us to catch the loop bus to the hotel where we were staying. When the bus arrived, it was tiny and we almost filled it with our luggage!
Our hotel was located pretty centrally, not far from the main shopping arcade that runs south from the grounds of the former castle. It was pretty basic as hotel rooms go (no plug for the sink, and the water pressure in the shower was a bit hit and miss) but reasonably spacious for a Japanese hotel room. If we’d been meat eaters, we could have taken advantage of its free pork ramen offer, but that was its main selling point. I wouldn’t stay there again.
After we’d freshened up after our train journey, we headed out to explore the town a little. My husband had downloaded a map that someone had made of veggie-friendly places to eat, but either the map maker had poor Google Maps skills or the places had closed down in the five years since the map was made, because each time we tried to find one, it wasn’t there.
We headed up the main covered shopping arcade to Tamamo Koen, the site of the former Takamatsu Castle. The area is now a garden with a 200円 entrance fee. We had a lovely stroll around in the evening sunshine.
It’s a great spot for azalea viewing, as we discovered.
After wandering among the azaleas for a while, we headed up to the ferry port and sat on some benches, looking out to sea. A couple of big ferries came in, which were an impressive sight.
Takamatsu is very different to Aomori, which had a run down air about it because of the loss of business for the ferries after the railway line under the sea was built. The bridges across to Shikoku for the train cost 1.5tn円 (around £8 million), so perhaps building bridges to the smaller islands between Shikoku and Honshu isn’t cost effective. This must keep Takamatsu’s ferry services in business.
We went back up to the harbour area on our second evening, after the sun had gone down, so that we could see the Red Lighthouse in all its glory. This lighthouse is the first in the world to have been built entirely from glass. The whole structure shines red at night. The walk along the jetty was lovely. It was a warm evening, other people were strolling and cycling along, mostly groups of friends, and there were lots of anglers casting their lines into the sea. The smell of the sea was lovely, too – a proper seaside aroma. The view back towards Takamatsu was also stunning.
We walked almost to the end of the jetty, then strolled back to the hotel. One thing that struck us was the difference in nightlife. If we’d been walking back through Manchester city centre, we would probably have had to dodge pools of vomit and verbal abuse. The people of Takamatsu who were out and about were drunk but not aggressive, enjoying themselves without being obnoxious.
We ate well while we were in Takamatsu, but it was mostly Indian food or noodles! We can recommend Thalispice, which is located in the Tamachi shopping arcade. The restaurant serves Nepali curries, and is very generous with its portions. The vegetarian options are good, and it is really reasonably priced. The other places we ate were a pasta restaurant, where we had spaghetti topped with natto (I suspect the broth might have been chicken, but it was too hard for us to find out, as the staff didn’t have much English and my Japanese was getting us nowhere!), and a branch of Hanamaru, where we tried ontama bukkake (温玉ぶっかけ) – a dish of sanuki udon in a soy sauce broth with a half boiled egg.
While we were in Takamatsu, we also visited its main sight-seeing site, Ritsurin Koen, which I will blog about separately.
I feel like we didn’t do Takamatsu justice, and could happily have spent longer there. We didn’t see everything the city had to offer, for sure. It would have been good to have had time to head out to Yashima. There were references to Nasu no Yoichi dotted around Takamatsu. He was a warrior in the Genpei War and features in the Heike Monogatari. He appears on a eki-stamp at Takamatsu station, on a drain cover and in the roof glazing for Tamachi arcade.
I’ve read different things about him, but the gist of his story is that during the Battle of Yashima, Nasu no Yoichi fought on the side of the Minamoto clan. The Taira had placed fans (or flags) on the masts of their ships to protect them from attack, but Nasu no Yoichi was such a good archer that he was able to strike off a fan with an arrow and break the protection, winning the battle for the Minamoto.
I really enjoyed our stay in Takamatsu, and would definitely go back there again.