When we ask people what their favorite Japanese food is, most people would answer Ramen or Sushi, or sashimi. (I'm the latter!) It's seldom that someone would say Soba or Udon, another type of Japanese noodles. Personally, I'm not a big fan of Ramen, and would often choose Soba or Udon when asked what I would like to eat. I've always been told that the best Udon can be found in Shikoku, one of the main four provinces of Japan (the other three being Hokkaido, Honshu (the Main island and where Tokyo is) and Kyushu. Within Shikoku is Takamatsu City, and I happened to go there for a friend's wedding! So based on our travels let me share some things to do in Takamatsu!
Just as I mentioned above, Takamatsu is famous for its Udon, particularly Sanuki Udon. If you are traveling by car, I recommend this Udon shop named Yamagoe Udon. The queue was really long when we were there, but they have an open air seating which was really nice and comfortable, and of course, the Udon was delicious. If you can't go, it's okay! basically most of the Udon shops are really good, whichever you choose.
Eat Udon ice cream
So in case you get hooked and you can't get enough of Udon, how about Udon ice cream? I tried it, and strangely enough, it was good! Didn't imagine ever in my life that I would it ice cream with soy sauce and onion leeks.
Art is big in Takamatsu. There are many art installations within Takamatsu itself, and from Takamatsu, there are regular ferries to several islands nearby.
Isamu Noguchi Museum
There is also a Noguchi Museum in New York, showcasing the works of Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Noguchi was a Japanese American artist and sculptor from the 1920s onward, but if you are not familiar with him, you might have seen his iconic Noguchi table with Herman Miller.
It was his wish to make his former studio into a museum. The access, though, is not as easy, and you have to have a reservation before going (by email or fax. I thought nobody uses fax anymore these days).
The Noguchi Table
Climb up to Konpira Shrine
Kotohira-gu shrine, or Konpira shrine, is one of the most popular shrines in Japan and has been worshipped since the ancient times (said to have been built int the 1st century). It's a high climb though, with the staircase having 785 steps to the main shrine and a total of 1368 steps to the inner shrine! We didn't climb up all the way, but the walk to the main shrine itself was already interesting, with many shops, cafes, and udon restaurants along the way. (This is where we ate Udon ice cream!)
Visit Ritsurin Garden
There are so many beautiful gardens in Japan especially in Kyoto, and if you are a fan of visiting gardens as I am, Risturin Garden is a must-go, especially since it is just in the heart of Takamatsu.
Ritsurin Garden is a daimyo (feudal lord) garden, which was completed in 1745 over a period of one hundred years. Designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty, this spacious garden features 6 ponds and 13 landscaped hills. While strolling you can enjoy the changing landscape, therefore it is said that the variety of scenery has the attraction of "ippo ikkei" or a change in scenery with every step. In the garden there are buildings, such as Kikugetsu-tei teahouse, where you can have matcha (powdered green tea) while viewing the picturesque landscape, and the Sanuki Mingeikan (Folk Craft Museum), where Sanuki folk crafts are exhibited. You can also enjoy a ride on a Japanese boat, the “Senshu maru”. (source: Shikoku tourism website)
Zenigata Sunae: Sand sculpture
This sculpture is within Kotohiki Park, and can be viewed on a deck (which is walkable from the beach) called Kotohiki Hill. We travelled by car, so it was easier to reach, but the adventurous you can always use buses and public transportation too!
What will interest anyone about this sculpture is that they say if you are able to view it, you will not be troubled by money worries! Well I certainly needed that and I have yet to see if it's true!
Here's the description on the viewing deck copied word for word:
It is said that in the 10th year of the Kansei period (1633) the local people completed the "Kansei Currency" Zenigata san sculpture, on Ariake Beach in just one night in order to welcome the Daimyo Lord Ikoma Takatoshi during his tour of the area. The sculpture is made in the shape of an ellipse with a circumference of 345m, running 90m from north to south, and 122 from the east to west, which gives a clean coin shape when viewed from the top of the mountain. Preserved as sand art, every year in spring and fall volunteers arrange the grains of sand back into their original shape. Each evening the sculpture is lit up until 10pm, and it is said that anyone who views the Zenigata will live a long, healthy life and will not be troubled by money worries.
This is one of the many reasons why I find Japan so amazing. Each area has its own specialty, and though Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, or Hokkaido may be one of the most popular destinations, every part of Japan, for me, is worth exploring.
Sunset from our hotel room.