It was Tuesday 8th December when I arrived in Takamatsu (高松), Kagawa Prefecture (香川県). I was immediately hit by what a beautiful, clean city it seemed to be, and thrilled to see the blue sky was following me on my journey.
After a morning of hotel visits and work things, I set off to explore the city (also work, but the part that doesn’t feel like work at all!). Takamatsu’s main highlight is Ritsurin Koen (栗林公園), a landscape garden built by the local feudal lords during the 1620s. Ritsurin Koen became open to the public in 1875, and was designated as a ‘National Place of Scenic Beauty’ in 1953. It was absolutely stunning!
The garden was very well kept, and there were a number of volunteer guides around offering their services. I spoke with a guide for a while, but felt he was rushing me around, so I managed to politely shake him off and go it alone.
The garden is pretty big, and they recommend 60 minutes to explore the south side and a further 40 minutes for the north. I didn’t have the luxury of time on my side, but still managed to enjoy the garden at a fairly leisurely pace. My next stop was Takamatsu Castle (高松城) – or rather the ruins of – which I have to confess I found a little disappointing. Construction of the castle began in 1587 and the castle has been open to the public since 1955. The castle, which stands in Tamamo Park (玉藻公園), is basically just some stone walls and a moat now. There are a couple of buildings and castle-y bits, and certainly the sense of a castle, but having seen a number of Japan’s original castles I wasn’t particularly impressed with this one.
I finished my day with a cheeky visit to Takamatsu Symbol Tower (高松シンボルタワー). Whilst this 151 metre high skyscraper doesn’t have an official observation deck, visitors are allowed to see the view from the observatory lobby on the upper floors, and when the restaurants are closed they let you in to look through the windows there too. The view was spectacular!
My overall impression of Takamatsu was a very good one. It was a lovely city, with an excellent garden if not many other tourist spots. Right now I really wish I could go back to Takamatsu and use it as a base to visit the Setouchi Triennale 2016, a contemporary art festival held every three years on the islands in the Seto Inland Sea, the sea which separates Honshu and Shikoku. Takamatsu would be a fantastic spot from which to visit the islands, as most of them don’t have much accommodation. Sadly I can’t go back to Japan this year for the festival, but the next destination on my schedule was Naoshima, the ‘art island’, which is the main island in the Seto Inland Sea and the main focus of the festival. More to come on that soon!