SHIKOKU: WHIRLPOOLS, UDON, ART MUSEUMS, CLEAR RAFTING RIVERS AND VINE BRIDGES

SHIKOKU ISLAND

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SHIKOKU ISLAND is the smallest of Japan's four main islands. Home to about 4.2 million people and regarded as backward and primitive by people from Tokyo and Osaka, it has a pleasant climate and slow-paced way of life. The coast of Shikoku is dotted with numerous small ports, fishing villages and salt collecting areas. Inland, you can find small mountains and farms situated on the island's gently-sloping hills and precipitous mountains. The rivers have incredibly clear water.

The four prefectures of Shikoku are Kagawa, Tokushima, Kochi and Ehime. Major attractions include the Circuit of 88 Temples pilgrimage route, Ritsurinkown garden in Takamatsu, the sex museum in Uwa-jima, the long-tailed roosters in Kochi, the old castles in Kochi, Marugame, Matsuyama and Uwa Jima, and the laid-back Shikoku atmosphere. Naruto Strait, connecting Tokushima Prefecture and Awajishima, in Hyogo Prefecture, is well known for its large whirlpools

Shikoku covers 18,800 square kilometers, making it a little smaller than New Jersery or Wales.Various satellite islands associated with Shikoku spread out across the Inland Sea. Steep mountains limit farming and habitation, and there is little large-scale industry. However, new development has been spurred by completion of two chains of bridges (Seto Ohashi) that link Shikoku with Honshu. The climate on the Pacific side of Shikoku is subtropical. Website: Official Shikoku Tourism site shikoku-tourism.com

The two prefecture of Shikoku that you encounter first if arrive from Kobe via the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and Onaruto Bridge are Tokushima and Kagawa Prefectures. Tokushima Prefecture covers 4,147 square kilometers (1,601 square miles), is home to about 756,000 people and has a population density of 182 people per square kilometer. Tokushima is the capital and largest city, with about 260,000 people. It has eight districts and 24 municipalities. Kagawa Prefecture covers 1,877 square kilometers (724 square miles), is home to about 976,000 people and has a population density of 520 people per square kilometer.Takamatsu is the capital and largest city, with about 420,000 people. It has five districts and 17 municipalities.

Getting to Shikoku

Up until 1988, Shikoku could only be reached by ferry. Now there are three road-bridge routes that were built at great expense. Ferries are still the best way to reach many points. Some of them are quite pleasant and scenic. The main ferry ports are Matsuyama and Takamatsu. You can reach to Shikoku by train from Okayama over the Seto Ohashi Bridge.Shikoku is also a good base for exploring islands of the Seto Inland Sea. Megijima island is 20 minutes by ferry from Takamatsu Port. Websites: Shikoku Ferry shikokuferry.com/route; Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

The road-bridge routes to Shikoku are: 1) The Seto-Ohashi Bridge, a 15-mile-long series of island-stepping suspension bridges between Okayama (Honshu) and Takamatsu (Shikoku), opened in 1988. 2) The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and Onaruto Bridge, two suspension bridges between Kobe (Honshu), Awaji Island and Naruto (Shikoku), opened in 1998. 3) The Shimanami Route, a 40-mile-long series of island-stepping bridges, between Kojima (Okayama Prefecture) on Honshu and Sakaide (Kagawa Prefecture) on Shikoku opened in 1999.

null Onaruto Bridge is a suspension bridge on the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway connecting Minamiawaji, Hyogo on Awaji Island with Naruto, Tokushima on Ōge Island, Japan. Completed in 1985, it has a main span of 876 meters (2,874 feet). Although it is one of the largest bridges in the world, it is dwarfed by the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, which is on the same route. In 2004, 6.8 million cars and trucks crossed this bridge, which works out an average of about 18,600 a day. The bridge is complemented by the Konaruto Bridge ("Small Naruto Bridge") and Muya Bridge between Ōge Island and Shikoku. When the bridge was built, space was left for the proposed Shikoku Shinkansen; however, no progress has been made on the train line, so the space intended originally for the bullet trains is used as an observatory to see the whirlpools beneath the bridge. [Source: Wikipedia]

By Train: Trains to Shikoku from Osaka, Hiroshima, Okayama and Kobe pass over the Seto Ohashi Bridge near Okayama. This is the only train crossing to Shikoku. If you come by train from Tokyo or Osaka transfer get off the Shinkansen at Okayama and transfer to a train going to the place in Shikoku you want go. Shinkansen trains run along the mainland (Honshu) coast of the Seto Inland Sea.

By Bus: Highway buses are convenient to cross the bridges into Shikoku without train connection, Such highway buses to Takamatsu, Tokushima and Matsuyama can be found in big cities such as Osaka, Kobe and Hiroshima. From Kobe the buses cross the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge to Awaji and cross the Onaruto Bridge to Tokushima on Shikoku.

By Plane: You can always fly. There are airports in Takamatsu, Tokushima and Matsuyama that receive flights from Tokyo and other cities in Japan. It is a 90-minute flight from Tokyo Haneda to Takamatsu Airport in northeast Shikoku. The central part of Takamatsu is a 40-minute bus ride from the airport. A flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Tokushima takes about 80 minutes. Naruto Station is a 20-minute bus ride from Tokushima Airport, and another 20-minute bus ride will take you to Naruto Strait.

By Ship: Long-distance ferries connect Osaka and Kobe with Matsuyama (Shikoku) and Beppu in Oita (Kyushu). A simple way to cruise the Seto Inland Sea is using the ferries. The regular ferry from Hiroshima to Matsuyama on Shikoku runs about ten times a day. On the comfortable 3 hour ride, you can enjoy the landscape of islands and sea at its best, sitting outside and enjoying the breeze. If you don’t have much time, the high-speed boat (running every hour) will take you there in 75 minutes. for more than double the price. Shikoku Ferry Website: shikokuferry.com/route

Naruto

Naruto (next to Onaruto Bridge, seven kilometers from Tokushima city) is a city of 56,000 people that serves as a gateway to Shikoku. Founded in 1947, it lies on the Shikoku side of the Onaruto Bridge, which connects with Shikoku with Awaji Island, which in turn is connected by the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge — the longest suspension bridge in the world — to Honshu, the main island of Japan, near Kobe. Website: Naruto City Official Tourism Site naruto-tourism.jp Tel: +81 (088) 684-1157.

The main attractions of Naruto are the Naruto whirlpools between Naruto and Awaji Island in Hyogo and the Otsuka Museum of Art, the largest exhibition space in Japan. Ryōzen-ji and Gokuraku-ji, the first two of the 88 temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, are in Naruto, along with Tōrin-in and Ōasahiko Jinja. At Ryozenji Temple, you will see pilgrims dressed from head to toe in white robes praying for divine help and inspiration as they start their long journey around the island. The Naruto German House is a European-style building built in commemoration of the German prisoners of war interned here during World War. There are also some nice baths in Naruto.

On the Otsuka Museum of Art. Koichi Saijo wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The museum displays about 1,000 reproductions of famous works, showcasing the history of art from ancient murals to masterpieces owned by more than 190 museums overseas, including contemporary works. They have been reproduced on ceramic boards by an Otsuka Group company using special techniques. Art textbooks often publish famous works of art with different dimensions from the original, particularly if they are small. However, the reproductions at the museum are the same size as the originals. It may be one of the reasons for the museum’s popularity.[Source: Koichi Saijo, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 24, 2014]

“This museum features many famous works, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and Vincent van Gogh’s ‘sunflowers.’ Pieces here are accurate reproductions of these works not only in colour but also in texture,” said Chihiro Yamagawa, who is in charge of the museum’s public relations. “You can see all the masterpieces of the world art in one day.” Yamagawa also claims the colours on the ceramic panels will not fade even after 2,000 years. The museum has two different versions of Leonardo’s “The Last Supper.” When the museum opened in 1998, it displayed a reproduction of the work before it had undergone restoration work. After the work was completed, the museum reproduced the restored version as well. The two versions are on display in a same room so visitors can compare them.

“The following day, I stepped into the first footsteps of Kukai (774-835), a monk who founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Tokushima Prefecture and the three other prefectures in Shikoku are known for a 1,400-kilometer pilgrimage involving 88 temples associated with Kukai. These temples attract as many as 130,000 people annually. The temples are numbered with the Ryozenji temple in Naruto the first on the pilgrimage, so this is where visitors generally start walking. People who visit these temples are called ohenro-san. Recently, more people take a bus, rather than hike round the temples. Some people are merely sightseeing, while others hold strong religious beliefs and are determined to complete the pilgrimage. “If you visit these temples, you can certainly gain something,” said Kiei Kinoshita, 74, a nun at the Ryozenji temple. “Some people take several years to complete their pilgrimage and then return to this temple to express thanks for what they have achieved. When I talk with these people, I feel they are strong both mentally and physically.” When I visited the temple, it was very cold. However, I saw many pilgrims setting out on foot. I silently wished them good luck.

Naruto Strait Whirlpools

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Naruto Strait (near Tokushima) is famous for the giant whirlpools that form near the Onaruto Bridge. The strait, only 1,340 meters wide, lies between large bodies of waters: the Pacific Ocean and Seto Inland Sea. When the tides run strong, especially in the spring and fall, the difference in water levels can be 1.5 meters and water can rush through the straight as fast as 20 kph, making it the world’s third fastest tidal current. The interface of these fast currents and adjacent still water produces large whirlpools and eddies as much as 30 meters across but usually no more than 10 meters across and generally enduring no more than 20 seconds.

Occasionally there are vortexes with centers more than a meter below the surrounding water. They are most likely to be seen 90 minutes after the listed twice-a-day peak whirlpool activity times. Tourist gather to watch the whirlpools from Narato Park or from boats that leave from both sides of the strait: at Naruto's Kanko Harbor in Shikoku and Kameura on Awaji. There is an observation point on the Shikoku side of the Onaruto Bridge. Trips on a catamaran called Aqua Eddy offers close up views of the whirlpools. Websites: Tidal Whirlpools site discovertokushima.net ; Wikipedia wikipedia

The whirling current in the Naruto Strait are created in part by the unique underwater geography of the Naruto Strait (combination of deep ocean trenches, shallow waters and fast tide flowing from Harima-nada Sea and the Kii Channel). The ebb and flow of the tides, combined with ocean currents from north and south in the narrow strait act in concert with the rough topography of the sea bottom to form large and small whirlpools, some lasting a short time, others longer. During spring tide, the vortexes with a diameter of 20 meters can be observed.

Koichi Saijo wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The tidal whirlpools of the Naruto Strait appear and disappear as if by magic, thrilling visitors and prompting local residents to try to seek UNESCO World Heritage registration for the phenomenon. The Naruto no Uzushio whirlpools are best viewed in spring or autumn, but I made the trip in mid-February. It was a bit early but I was far from disappointed. After arriving in Naruto, I quickly travelled to the Kameura fishing port nearby to board a boat aptly named Uzushio, which took me into the 1,300-meter-wide strait between Naruto and Awajishima island in neighboring Hyogo Prefecture. With seating capacity for 80, the Uzushio was rather small, but I stood entranced on the deck as the boat weaved among the whirlpools. Every time the boat was hit by a wave with a splash, the passengers shouted with surprise and delight.[Source: Koichi Saijo, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 24, 2014]

“The strait is famous in one way, but infamous in another: Countless ships have foundered here after collisions, or run aground due to the rough waters. Skippers say navigating the strait requires high degree of skill. “It’s difficult to read the flow of tides here as they change according to the seasons. Ships can run aground if we forget the locations of rocks in shallow waters,” said Motoyasu Yoshida, who skippered the Uzushio for 25 years. Although navigating the strait requires skill, Yoshida said with a smile: “We want passengers to see the whirlpools when viewing conditions are best. The work is challenging but worth doing.” Yoshida, 63, turned over the helm to his 33-year-old son in 2012, and now teaches navigational skills to young people while serving as an executive of his company.

Tokushima

Tokushima (seven kilometers from Tokushima city and Onaruto Bridge, 24 kilometers south of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge to Kobe on Honshu) is a city with about 260,000 people. The capital of Tokushima Prefecture, it is an important area for the 88 Temple Circuit and the staging area for the famous Awa Odori Festival. Among the attractions are Bizan park, Tokushima-Chuo-koen Park, the Awa Puppet Theater, a puppet museum and a dancing clock with figures that pop up five times day near a city bus stop.

Tokushima Prefectural International Exchange Association (TOPIA) East Gate 1st fl., Terashima-honcho-nishi, Tokushima City, Tokushima Pref., Tel. 088-656-3303, 10:00am-6:00pm Closed during Year End and New Year holidays Website: topia.ne.jp Websites: Tokushima Tourism Site Discover Tokushima Tokushima City site Tokushima City site Map: Tokushima City Map Tokushima University ; Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Tokushima is accessible by air and by bus and by train from other Japanese cities. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Sights Near Tokushima include the Dochu Sand Pillars, eroded sandstone formation that reach 50 feet in height; 1955-meter-high Mt. Tsurugi-san; the Anan coast, with impressive ocean scenery; and Ohama-koen park, where sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in July and August. Kamikatsucho is small town in the middle of Tokushima Prefectures. It is famous for its mountains and maple leaf products, most of which are shipped out of town and used to decorate certain dishes and packaged foods.

Iya Valley

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The Iya Valley is a beautiful and secluded valley in Tokushima in Shikoku where people go to get away from it all. Few places feel as untouched and undisturbed as this sparsely populated region, criss-crossed by rivers and dotted with peaks. Japanese life of the old days is preserved here. Take a deep breath and gather your courage to cross the valley’s double rope bridges, allegedly first constructed by warriors fleeing from a major battle over eight centuries ago. On the other side are stunning views and beautiful natural setting. Make sure to check out Ochiai Village, featuring a precarious mountainside setting and with thatched roof homes designated as important historical structures.

In the Iya Valley, tree-covered cliffs rise hundreds of meters in the air, rocky streams run through ravines and waterfalls flow down smooth cliffs into the winding Iya River. Stop for a relaxing soak in Iyakei Onsen not far from the Manikin Piss, an interesting statue precariously placed on the edge of a monstrous cliff, before crossing the Kazura Bridge, a vine bridge that sways perilously in the air above the river. There are many hot springs and guesthouses and it is a tranquil place to spend a night, before waking up early to the shimmering mist before heading back to Honshu. Website: Nishi-Awa Shangri-La nishi-awa.jp/shokutonou/en , Sora no Sato, 1893-1 Ikeda-cho Sarada, Miyoshi-shi, Tokushima

Iya-kei Gorge is a remote and unspoiled part of Japan, with steep misty slopes, old farm houses ad precariously-situated villages. It is the home of the Kazura-bashi Bridge, one of the last remaining working vine suspension bridges in Japan. It is rebuilt very three years and costs ¥500 to cross. The nearby Yoshino River gorge is traversed by a scenic road and railway. Chiiri in a traditional villages, with thatch roof houses, preserved through the efforts of Alex Kerr, author of Lost Japan and Mason Florence, a contributor to the Lonely Planet guides. Website: Very Japanese veryjapanese.jp

Takamatsu

Takamatsu (15 miles east of the Seto-Ohashi Bridge to Honshu) is one of the busiest tourist cities on Shikoku. Laid out around Takamatsu Castle and rebuilt after it was virtually destroyed by World War II bombing, it is home to 420,000 people and provides access to Ritsurin Park and Yashima. Handicrafts produced in Takamatsu include parasols, fans, and lacquerware.

Takamatsu spreads out over a fairly large area. The main entertainment area is around Chuo-dori. The main shopping district is around Kawaramachi Station. Located next to the sea, Takamatsu Castle was built in 1590, but all that remains of it now are a ruined keep and a couple of other towers and gates. The castle grounds have been turned into a park. The moats are filled with seawater.

Tourist Information Office is at Takamatsu station. For more information by phone, call Takamatsu City’s tourism promotion department at (087) 839-2416.Websites:Takamatsu City site Takamatsu City site ; Visit Kagawa my-kagawa.jp;Takamatsu Access to Art site Takamatsu Access to Art site Map: worldeasyguides.com Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Takamatsu is accessible by air and by bus and by train from other Japanese cities. It is a 90-minute flight from Tokyo Haneda to Takamatsu Airport. The central part of town is a 40-minute bus ride from the airport. Megijima island is 20 minutes by ferry from Takamatsu Port. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Sights in Takamatsu

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Noguchi Museum
Takamatsu Fish Market is a fun, bustling market professional. Although nothing like its counterpart in Tokyo it does have auctions and a variety of live seafood splashing and squirming inside tubs and tanks. In the outer market there are restaurants wehre you can enjoy fresh sashimi. Best to visit the market in early morning when it is most active and have breakfast there. Location: 30-5 Setouchi-cho, Takamatsu-shi, Kagawa; Website: shikoku-guide.com

Shin Usami wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Takamatsu offers other charms like Ritsurin Garden, a Japanese landscape garden that took feudal lords of the Takamatsu domain 100 years to build and where a thousand pine trees are said to grow. Just as worthy a trip is Yashima, one of the battlefields of the medieval war between the Genji and Heike clans, which offers a panoramic view of scattered islands in the Seto Inland Sea. Another must-see sight is Megijima, also known as Onigashima (island of ogres), with a 450-meter-long cavern, which is rumored to have been dug out by ancient pirates, at the top of the mountain. [Source: Shin Usami, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 14, 2014]

Yashima (three miles east of Takamatsu) is a 292-meter-high table land that juts out into the sea. Offering splendid views of the Inland Sea, it features relics from the famous 12th century feud between the Taira and Minamoto clans. On the top of one hill is Yashimadera temple (No. 84 on the temple circuit), which contains some remains of buildings associated with a battle between the two clans. The Pond of Blood is where victorious warriors washed the blood form the swords until the water turned red. A funicular railway and toll road go to the top of the hill. Nearby is Megi-shima Island, known for its stone walls and traditional houses. Website: Places to Feel Places to feel

Shikoku-mura Village (at the bottom of Yashima hill) is open-air museum featuring buildings brought here from all over Shikoku and the neighboring islands. Highlights include a traditional vine bridge (reinforced with steel cables), a kabuki stage from Shodo-shima island, a bark-steaming hut and an old stone warehouse.

Making Sculpted Green Tea Sweets gives to a chance to experience Shikoku food culture in a hands-on way that combines food preparation and crafts. No Japanese sweet is as exquisitely shaped and shaded as wasanbon — a sugar confection originating in Shikoku and is served with green tea. The workshop, in English and guided by the daughter of a master woodworker, sees participants use her father’s painstakinglycrafted wooden molds to create sublimely sweet works of art. It will also shed light on the traditional Japanese tea culture, with which wasanbon is synonymous. Rounding off the class, your host will whisk you up a cup of frothy matcha tea so you can savor multiple varieties of wasanbon as they are meant to be enjoyed. Location: Takamatsu 40 1-9-13 Hanazono-cho, Takamatsu-shi, Kagawa; Website: mamehana-kasikigata.com

Prefectural Government Office East Wing was designed by Kenzo Tange, who incorporated many elements inspired by Le Corbusier. Completed in 1958, the East building was formerly the main hall of the Kagawa Prefectural Government office building. Tange was introduced to the then-governor through artist Genichiro Inokuma, which led to a collaboration of sorts, with Inokuma creating vibrant tile murals installed in the lobby. Location: 4-1-10 Bancho, Takamatsu-shi, Kagawa 760-8570 TeL: +81-87-831-1111 Kagawa

Ritsurin-koen Garden

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Ritsurin-koen Garden (two kilometers from Takamatsu Station) is regarded as one of the best examples of landscape gardening in the country. Located in the former villa of the Matsudaira family, it covers an area of about a half a square mile, and is skillfully laid out to harmonize with the nature and pine forests that surround it. There are fine views of the sea from the garden.

Ritsurin-koen Garden took was started in the mid 17th century and took more than a century to complete. A series of paths leads pasts a series of ponds, teahouses, bridges, islands and manicured bushes and trees. Mt. Shuin has been incorporated into "borrowed view" scenes. Within the garden are the Sanuki Folkcraft Museum and the Chrysanthemum Moon Pavilion.

Kagawa Ritsurin Garden is admired as one of the masterpieces of Japanese landscape gardening. Covering 75 hectares of land, it is skillfully laid out to harmonize with the surrounding pine-covered hills. Visitors can enjoy a variety of scenery throughout the four seasons. Address: 1-20-16, Ritsurincho, Takamatsu, Kagawa Hours Open: 7:00am-5:00pm (December and January), 7:00am-6:30pm (February), 6:30am-6:00pm (March), 5:30am-18:30 (April, May and September), 5:30am-7:00pm (June, July and August), 6:00am-6:30pm (October) 6:30am-5:00pm (November) Admission: ¥400 Website: my-kagawa.jp

Enjoying Udon in Takamatsu

Shin Usami wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “On my first night in Takamatsu, I visited a downtown udon restaurant named Tsurumaru and ordered their house specialty: curry udon noodles. Open until 3 a.m., it was recommended to me by Hiroya Sato, 34, the young owner of the sushi restaurant I was eating at just before. Sato said if I was going to eat udon late at night, that was the place to go. I had already enjoyed Sato’s sushi, which used local fish, including sand borer, butterfish and sardines marinated in salt, vinegar and seaweed. But at the udon shop, I had no trouble finishing off the firm, chewy noodles sitting in a mild curry sauce. [Source: Shin Usami, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 14, 2014]

“The clock read 1 a.m., but the restaurant was still packed with people. The cook was hard at work, kneading udon at this late hour. Every time an order came in, a portion of udon was tossed into simmering water. At this restaurant, udon boiled beforehand is unthinkable. Just what anyone would expect in an “udon kingdom.”I was sharing the table with Takashi Soma, a self-employed 54-year-old who talked about his deep passion for Sanuki udon. Kagawa Prefecture used to be known as Sanuki.

““I could slurp up three helpings at a self-service restaurant,” the udon lover says. Soma is talking about udon joints where diners prepare their own dishes, from pouring the broth to heaping on a variety of toppings. “Many of the good restaurants are now around Zentsuji, to the west of Takamatsu,” explains Soma. “Udon made from sanuki-no-yume [a wheat brand for udon grown in the prefecture] is great, but I prefer the light taste of udon made from Australian wheat.”

“I grabbed a Takamatsu udon map from the tourist information center in front of Takamatsu Station, and saw there are 95 udon restaurants categorized into self-service, general and those that knead their own udon. I was overwhelmed. There were only 42 on the map the first time I visited the city seven years ago. Tiny pieces of paper were painstakingly glued onto the map in places, marking restaurants that had changed the days they were closed and those that had shut their doors. I could feel the profound love that the people of Takamatsu have for udon.

“I made a trip to Shimpei Udon the next day, a restaurant in the Tamachi shopping street that Soma recommended to me the night before. I ordered udon in soy sauce-flavored broth topped with light, crispy chicken tender tempura. The thin, not-so-firm noodles matched the delicious broth made from dried young sardines and round herring.

“There’s lots to see and do in Takamatsu — but udon is the flavor of the city. My belief only grew stronger after I saw how popular Tsurumaru was on my nightly visits, but I’m now starting to think that the locals are actually in love with wheat flour. There’s an okonomiyaki restaurant called Fumiya that has been in business since 1952. It sits near Kikuchi Kan-dori avenue, where several statues stand themed on “The Return,” a literary masterpiece by Kan Kikuchi, a writer native to Takamatsu. My mind started to change after watching the long lines that snake around the restaurant everyday.Men and women of all ages crave Fumiya’s specialty — flour mixed with soup stock, rich with beef tallow cooked with giblets. The popular yet simple dish is enjoyed with nothing but a thick sauce, without the usual okonomiyaki toppings such as green laver, red pickled ginger or even mayonnaise.”

Near Takamatsu

West of Takamatsu you can find Marugame famed for its castle (with a rare wooden donjon) and beautiful Nakazu ansho-en Garden; Zentsu-jim Temple (no. 75 on the circuit), with a hall on Kobo Daishi's birthplace, splendid 5-story pagoda, towering camphor trees and a 100-meter-long pitch-dark tunnel of enlightenment; and Zenigata, which contains a 350-meter-in-diameter outlines of 17th century square-holed coin. Reoma World (Ayautacho, 40 minutes from Takamatsu) is Shikoku's largest theme park. Opened in 1992, it contains a paddle steam and replica of Cambodia's Angkor Wat constructed by 20 Cambodian stone masons.

Goshikidai Plateau (Sakaide City and Takamatsu City) is comprrised of five hills that have outdoor experience-based facilities, historic landmarks and old pilgrimage roads, where visitors can enjoy hiking, nature observation and exploring historical sites. The charming vista of evening landscape over the Bisan-Seto Strait is especially breathtaking. Goshikidai means ("Five-Colored Plateau"). Goshikidai Visitor Center overlooks the Sanuki Plain and Bisan-Seto Archipelago at an elevation of 360 meters. Close to urban areas and nature, it was established as a hub for the collection and dissemination of nature-related information related to the Goshikidai area. There are experiential programs, planned exhibitions and activities. Location: Nishiyama 1733-18, Kisawa, Ogoshi Town, Sakaide City, Kagawa Prefecture, Tel: 0877-47-2479. Hours Open 9:00am-5:00pm.Closed Mondays (if coinciding with a national holiday, the next day), end and beginning of year (December 29-January 3),

Kotoshira (an hour from Takamatsu) is the home of Kompira-san Shrine, one of Shikoku's most famous sights. Near the shrine are a marine museum, sake museum, a wooden covers bridge, a lantern tower, a festival village and Japan's oldest kabuki theater. Website: Japan Guide Japan-Guide Getting There: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Kanonji (60 kilometers southwest of Takamatsu) is the home of Honen-ike Dam. The Umpenji ropeway takes you to the dam, which has stone-lined walls, punctuated by five turretlike protrusions. Spanning 150 meters, it is the oldest multiple arch dam in Japan, Completed in 1929, it is somehow reminiscent of a European castle. Honen-ike Dam Park (in Kanonji) contains a wooden statue of statue of jizo (guardian deity of children) that has been carved into the trunk of a 1,200-year-old camphor tree. The tree is about 30 meters tall and has a girth of 10 meters. A Buddhist ceremony was held to consecrate the sculpted figure in 1837, and since then the statue has grown about 10 centimeters.. It is estimated to be about 5 feet tall now. It is said that an old man worked daily for three months to carve the statue with a single knife to pray for the health of his daughter, an only child who had taken ill. The daughter went on to reach the age of 100, living well into the Taisho era (1912-1926). Near the Seto Inland Sea in Kotohiki Park there is a huge coin-shaped sand drawing. [Source: Shin Usami, Yomiuri Shimbun, May 19, 2013]

Kompira-san Shrine (Kotoshira) is a hilltop Shinto shrine dedicated to a sea kami, who acts as guardian for seafarers. Located on a hill with superb views of the surrounding countryside, it contains a large hall dedicated to the sun goddess (with interesting woodcarvings), the main hall (filled with maritime offerings), and a statue of a Shinto priest flanked by a mannequin on a diving suit.The shrine is reached by climbing a famous 785-step stone stair that has been climbed by millions of pilgrims. Those that don't want to make the climb can be carried up in a palanquin for ¥4,000. At the train station there is an 88-foot-high lantern.

Teshima Art Museum is a concrete shell in the shape of a waterdrop. Two oval openings allow wind, sound, and light to enter the space – a collaborative effort between architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito (her installation “Matrix” is the only work on view).. “It was a structural challenge,” explains Nishizawa. “A space that equals nine tennis courts, has no supporting columns, and is only 4.5 meters high would normally collapse. The minimum is 10 to 15 meters , but then you lose the visual impact!” Nishizawa’s solution was to have the static program rewritten for stability. Location: 607 Karato, Teshima, Tonosho-cho, Shozu-gun, Kagawa 761-4662, Tel: +81-879-68-3555 Kagawa

Marugame Genichiro-inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates the life and work of the artist Genichiro Inokuma (1902-1993), known for his paintings and drawings of animals and people, depicted in bold lines and colors in a style that masterly fuses both the abstract and the figurative. Designed by Yoshio Taniguchi in conversation with Inokuma, the facade of the building features a large mural by the artist that also plays as a backdrop to the outdoor sculptures and the town square. The museum houses 20,000 pieces of work in its permanent collection and a vibrant exhibition program. Location: 80-1 Hama-machi, Marugame-shi, Kagawa 763-0022, Tel: +81-877-24-7755

Noguchi Museum

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Noguchi Museum
Murecho (near Yakuri, 30 minutes by train from Takematsu) is the home of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, devoted to works by the great Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), who spent the last 20 years of his life here because he felt the stone from here best suited is abstract sculptures. Guided tours are given three times a day, three times a week. Reservations are required. If you don’t have a reservation you don’t get in.

Opened in 1999, the museum contains 150 works, many of them unfinished. Visitors often have difficulty discerning which ones are unfinished and which are not (those that are signed are finished).. The tour begins at a reception area with photo albums and newspaper clippings devoted to Noguchi. Visitors then head outdoors to the Stone Circle, a display of 90 stone sculptures surrounded by a wall of piled stones.

Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) first visited Kagawa in 1956 on a trip to source material for a landscape commission from the unesco Headquarters in Paris. Taken by the scenic mountains and the isolation in which he could concentrate on his art-making, he founded a studio in the town, and divided his time between New York and Takamatsu until his death. The museum can only be visited by booking a tour, which allows the visitor to walk inside the artist’s studio (formerly a sake cellar) with his final works just as he had left them, around his home, and up to the sculpture garden which the artist built himself.

Form here they are taken to a 19th century sake house, which contains several pieces, including Energy Void, an impressive 3.6-meter-high, 17-ton granite sculpture that dominates the buildings and seems to sucks everything in. Visitors also get to peek through the windows inside of the 19th century samurai house where Noguchi lived. It contains a number of a smaller pieces and objects that he liked to have around him. Location: 3519 Mure, Mure-cho, Takamatsu-shi, Kagawa 761-0121, Tel: +81-87-870-1500 Kagawa Website: Isamu Noguchi site isamunoguchi.or.jp

Kochi City

Kochi (on the Pacific Coast in southern Shikoku) is a city of 320,000. Worth checking out are Kocho-jo Castle (an original castle not a concrete reconstruction), Godaisan-koen Park, with a famous temple and botanical garden; Katsura-hama Beach, which features an aquarium, demonstration dog fights, and a museum honoring Sakamoto Ryoma. Tosa Dog Center in Kochi City hosts (or used to host) dog fights. In 2013, the Yokoyama Memorial Manga Museum to preserve the work of Ryuichi Yokoyama.

Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden was first opened in 1958 to honor the achievements of Tomitaro Makino (1862-1957), the “father of Japanese Botany” and a Kochi native. The botanical garden sprawls across six hectares on the mountainside of Godaisan. Within it are 3,000 species of plants, many of which Makino himself studied, a conservatory (opened in 2010), an exhibition hall, shops, a café, and a restaurant open to the public. The garden also has a herbarium and a research center with limited access to the public. Address: 4200-6 Godaisan, Kochi-shi, Kochi 781-8125 Tel: +81-88-882-2601

Websites: Official Kochi tourism site: Welcome to Kochi visitkochijapan.com Kochi government site Maps: city.kochi.kochi.jp ; Kochi Tram Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Kochi is accessible by air and by bus and by train from other Japanese cities. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Kochi Prefecture

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Tosa fighting dog
Kochi Prefecture (southern Shikoku) is largest of Shikoku's prefectures. Known to pilgrims as the Realm of Spiritual Practice, Kochi features rushing streams, picturesque mountains, stunning coastline, crashing surf, temples, pilgrims, farms and fishing villages famous and roosters with exceptionally long tails up to 30 feet long and mastiff-like Tosa fighting dogs that are sometimes dressed like sumo wrestlers. The roosters can be seen at the Chobikei Center on Nankoku City. Demonstration fights with the dogs are held at Katsura-hama Beach.

Kochi Prefecture covers 7,104 square kilometers (2,743 square miles), is home to about 730,000 people and has a population density of 102.5 people per square kilometer. Kochi is the capital and largest city, with about 340,000 people. It is on Shikoku island and has six districts and 34 municipalities. Along the spectacular Pacific Coast, outdoor enthusiast enjoy diving, whale watching, and surfing. Inland there are hiking, rafting and camping opportunities. Etsuko in Kochi Shikoku. caves is where it is believed that Kobo Daishi attained enlightenment.

Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park on the southern part of Shikoku features beautiful coastal scenery, an undersea park and Skyline Road. Cape Ashizuri-miskai is a rugged promontory with a lighthouse. Boat trips are done on the Shimanto-gawa River. There is also spectacular scenery around Tatsukushi, where there is a coral museum and boat trips. In September 2011, the Murato area of Shikoku was named a UNESCO-sponsored global geopark Website: Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan

Kaiyodo Hobby Museum Shimanto (in Shimantocho) opened in 2011 and feautures realistic-looking toy figures and models of anime, manga and other characters and creatures, including the martial arts master Kenshiro, protagonist of the manga Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star), a massive sailing ship like the one in the manga One Piece and dinosaur and yokai. Set deep in the mountains, the museum is accessible by car along a mountain road, about 30 minutes from JR Kubokawa Station in Shimantocho. The museum, formerly a primary school gymnasium, was established by Kaiyodo Co., an Osaka toy figure maker and welcomes up to more than 1,600 visitors a day. In the area are clear mountain streams with eel and ayu. The town holds an annual Kappa Figure Contest. It takes about 25 minutes to get from Kochi Ryoma Airport by car to JR Gomen Station. From there, it takes about 90 minutes to Kubokawa Station on the JR Dosan Line express train. For more information, call Shimantocho Tourism Association (Japanese only) at (0880) 29-6004. [Source: Satoshi Tanaka, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 18, 2011]

Kami (35 kilometers east of Kochi) is the home of Yanase Takashi Memorial Hall Anpanman Museum, dedicated to Anpanman, Japan’s most beloved anime hero for little kids. The creator of Anpanman, Takashi Yanase, comes from Kami. Kami sits along the Monobegawa river, which was Yanase’s childhood playground. You can get a room at a riverside inn with an onsen hot spring overlooked the city. [Source: Shingo Masuda: Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2012]

Caving, Rafting and Canyoning in Kochi

On his caving experience near Kami, Shingo Masuda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Stepping into the Ryugado cave, designated as a special national treasure, is an adventure. The standard tour weaves through the cave along a path that narrows and bulges as it goes. A reservation is necessary to sign up for an "adventure course" with a cave tour guide. "Put these on, please," said Mamoru Sakamoto as he handed me a helmet, coveralls, gloves and boots. With small headlamps on our helmets to light the way, we ventured into the darkness. [Source: Shingo Masuda: Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2012]

“The four-kilometer-long cave has many things to see. It is a natural fantasy world formed by calciferous groundwater over 175 million years. Wavy layers of a mineral called phyllite looked like an aurora, while stalactites and stalagmites took the shapes of a rhinoceros, a dolphin and even--if you look from just the right angle--Kochi Prefecture hero Sakamoto Ryoma (1835-1867) in his iconic standing pose.

“The adventure tour branches off from the illuminated main route to a more challenging route. With the help of my headlamp, I fumbled my way along. "There they are," said Sakamoto as he directed the beam of his headlamp to the rock wall. "They" were sleeping bats. Expert guidance is definitely required to clamber through the narrow and convoluted maze of the cave. "Here, twist your shoulder a bit, put your hand on the ground, and then pull one foot up," the veteran cave guide explained. But I misheard the order and almost wound up standing on my head. Sakamoto took me to every corner of the cave, spending more than two hours underground before reaching the exit. Outside, I got a certificate of clearing the cave. It reads, "Be a man undaunted by adventures and young at heart."

Yoshino River (Tosa-Iwahara Station) winds its way 194 kilometers through the heart of Shikoku Island, with places for whitewater rafting and canyoning. Happyraft offers half-and one-day tours, family-friendly rafting experiences at reasonable prices. Located next to Tosa-Iwahara Station, Happyraft is based in central Shikoku, which is bordered by Tokushima to the east and Kochi Prefecture to the south. Ryoma Airport in Kochi Prefecture is just an hour’s drive away. And if you want to stay right next to the action, why not stayover at one of the on-site guest houses? Discount available for tour participants! Trips are available in Dorokyo Gorge. Happyraft Address: 221-1 Ikadagi, Otoyo-cho, Nagaoka-gun, Kochi; website: en.happyraft.com

Shimanto River can be explored with a raft, kayak or SUP (stand-up paddle board). Traveling on this river is more gentle, relaxing experience. Spot dozens of aquatic species in the crystal-clear waters as you negotiate its meandering curves. Check out the Shimanto River’s two dozen chinka bridges; structures without rails that are designed to be easily flooded should the river ever rise. withRIVER Address: 1841 Misato, Shimanto-shi, Kochi Website: withriver.info

Image Sources: 1) map Japanese Guest Houses 2) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 3) Ray Kinnane 4) Takamatsu city site 5) 6) isamunoguchi.or 7) 8) 9) Nocolas Delerue 10) 11) Matsuyama city site 12) 13) Uwa Jima site

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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