Kagawa : Takamatsu
The city developed over many years as a port town and is located at one of the primary entry points into Shikoku and is therefore known as the "Gateway to Shikoku". In recent years, it has also come to be known as the "Udon Kingdom".
July and August can get quite warm. The winter months of January and February are the coldest, with occasional nighttime freezing temperatures.
Before the completion of the Honshū-Shikoku bridges, access between Japan's main island and Takamatsu was limited to sea and air transportation. However, with the bridges in place, convenient train and automobile travel is now possible as well and many more people now travel to and from.
The closest major airport to Takamatsu is Kansai International Airport in Osaka. There is a curiously-named bus called the "Airport Limousine" which runs directly between Kansai Airport and Takamatsu that makes seven round trip runs per day (¥3750 one-way; 3.5 hours). Not actually a limo.
Takamatsu has a tiny airport as well but there's only a few places you can get to from it. Service from the Takamatsu Airport to Tokyo's Haneda Airport is offered by both JAL and ANA, Japan's two major airlines. JAL also offers service to Kagoshima, and ANA also offers service to Okinawa. Asiana Airlines offers international service to Seoul Incheon Airport. But cheapest of all is Spring Airlines from Shanghai (twice a week, Tuesday/Friday), with fares starting at just ¥3000 each way. Time schedule for all of these flights (in Japanese) .
Buses connect the Takamatsu Airport and Takamatsu Station roughly twice per hour (¥740 one-way; 40 minutes).
Train service between Okayama, on Japan's main island of Honshū, and Takamatsu began operation in 1988 after construction of the Great Seto Bridge, allowing the train line to cross the Seto Inland Sea. It is the only railway link between Honshū and Shikoku.
For getting to Takamatsu, the ideal train to ride is the Marine Liner (マリンライナー), which runs directly between Okayama Station and Takamatsu Station. Trains run twice per hour in both directions (¥1,470 one-way; 55 minutes). Like all JR trains, the ride is free for those with a Japan Rail Pass. It is also important to note that because the Marine Liner is classified as a 'rapid' (快速 kaisoku) train, the Seishun 18 Ticket is valid on this train.
A limited express train (特急 tokkyū) called the Uzushio (うずしお) runs hourly to Takamatsu from Tokushima (One hour, ¥3070). A few Uzushio trains run between Takamatsu and Okayama on the exact same route as the Marine Liner; you have the option of using those trains if you have a Japan Rail Pass, but generally you should use the cheaper and more frequent Marine Liner.
Okayama Station, being a primary station on the bullet train line (shinkansen), is a convenient place to connect to and from other parts of Japan: Hiroshima, 1 hr 40 min; Osaka, 2 hrs; Tokyo, 4.5 hrs; and more...
An overnight sleeper train called the Sunrise Seto (サンライズ瀬戸) makes daily runs between Takamatsu and Tokyo Station. The train ride lasts about 9 1/2 hours. One-way prices vary, but a regular seat will cost at least ¥15,000, and a sleeper car will cost at least ¥20,000. Tickets and exact pricing are available from a JR ticket office or Japanese travel agency.
If you're interested in overnight travel, you'll be better off taking a bus (see below). But if you already have a Japan Rail Pass you can consider splitting up your journey, spending the night at a hotel along the way. For example, for a trip from Tokyo you could stay overnight in Okayama and then leave for Takamatsu on the first Marine Liner the next morning. If you are lucky to find a cheap business hotel you are likely to save money on your overall lodging costs.
A number of bus companies, including JR Bus and Takamatsu Express, operate buses to and from major cities in the Kansai area. Prices may very slightly from company to company but in general the prices and trip times are nearly identical. Buses can be booked online.
Depending on the bus company, names of the above buses may include 'Foot Bus', 'Taka-nan bus', 'Takamatsu-Express Osaka-go', 'Takamatsu-Express Kobe-go', 'Takamatsu-Express Kyoto-go', and more.
Bus service is also available to and from Hiroshima on a bus named 'Setouchi'. (3 hrs 45 min, ¥4000 one-way, 5 round-trips daily).
Night bus service to Tokyo is also available from JR Bus. The 'Dream-Takamatsu-go' runs twice nightly in both directions between Tokyo Station and Takamatsu Station; one bus stops at Shinjuku en route. The ride takes approximately 10 hours and costs ¥10,000 one-way, ¥18,200 round-trip.
For a cheaper overnight trip, you can travel on discount bus operator Willer Express  between Tokyo and Okayama starting from ¥6000, then pay ¥1470 to travel to Takamatsu on the Marine Liner train.
Takamatsu is a fairly walkable city and the downtown is pretty easy to navigate on foot, though a bicycle can improve things quite a bit; the city is just big enough where a bike is really the ideal mode of getting around. Luckily, it is extremely bike-friendly was designed with bike travel in mind. After even a short time in the city center it's hard to not notice the higher rate of people on bikes in Takamatsu compared to most cities in Japan of comparable size.
To match the city's bike-friendly design, Takamatsu has one of the best rental cycle systems in Japan; you can keep your rental bike overnight and it is extremely inexpensive overall. The system is so good and there are so many bikes available that many locals use the system as well, unlike most rental cycles in Japan which are designed exclusively for tourists. You can rent a bike for just ¥100 per day ... and by "day" they don't mean until the end of said day, they mean a full 24-hour period from the moment you rent the bike. So, if you arrive in the afternoon, stay one night, and then leave in the morning; that only requires one "day" of bicycle rental and ¥100. Even better, you can keep your bike overnight, so there are no problems biking to a hotel in the evening and then returning the bike in the morning. It is possible to rent the same cycle for up to 72 hours – all you have to do is inform the staff when you rent the bike that you want it for more than 24 hours. With this extended option, the price of the bike is ¥100 per 24-hour period, so it isn't any more expensive than normal.
There are four rental cycle stations around town and the easiest to locate is in the basement of the bicycle parking area located in front of Takamatsu Station. If you walk out of the station, just look for some stairways leading underground with bike signs above. One key aspect of the rental process is that you will need a photo ID to rent a bike for the first time. Before your first rental you'll be asked to fill out a short application and submit some kind of official photo ID. A few minutes later you'll be issued a renter ID card and for future rentals you will only need this card. Travelers are unlikely to need a card for subsequent rentals, but the few minutes spent filling out the application to get a Takamatsu rental cycle will without a doubt pay off big time when it comes to exploring the city. While it may help to know some Japanese, filling out the application and renting a bike in general with no Japanese should not be a challenge as the staff will understand what you want and at least one of them should be able to manage basic English.
The Kotoden (琴電), officially known as the Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad, is also a viable means of getting around parts of downtown Takamatsu. In particular, the Kotoden is convenient for going between Ritsurin Park, Kawaramachi, and the Takamatsu Station/Castle area. The JR lines, utilized more for inter-city travel, don't run terribly often and are not very well-suited for getting around town, particularly the city center.
Ten minutes by train to the east is Yashima (屋島), a peninsula famous as the site of the Battle of Yashima in the Genpei Wars. There are many sites to see for those interested in the local history. To get to Yashima, take either the local train, from Takamatsu-Chikkō Station with one transfer, or the JR train, from Takamatsu Station. Either one takes about 15 minutes.
There are two big festivals in Takamatsu – one in the summer and the other in the winter.
Takamatsu has a number of long arcade-style shopping streets, called shotengai (商店街), giving the city's shopping a more traditional feel. You'll find shops of all sorts on these streets, much as you would at a mall, as well as lots of udon shops. They are concentrated in the portion of the city between Takamatsu Station and Kawaramachi. By name, they are:
Takamatsu is extremely well-known throughout Japan for its udon, one of the three major types of Japanese noodle dishes. Udon noodles are distinctive in that they are white, fairly thick, and chewy.
Kagawa Prefecture is famous for this food, and the type made within the prefecture is sometimes called Sanuki udon, 'Sanuki' being Kagawa's name before the modern era. While this can be considered a regional specialty of Kagawa, the Sanuki variety is so widely-loved throughout Japan that it is often thought of as the 'normal' type, and is what most people imagine when they hear the word 'udon'. Despite udon being so widespread, Takamatsu does it better and cheaper than anywhere else in the country. There are literally hundreds of udon shops within the city limits. Because local foods are often a driving force in Japanese tourism, many people flock to the city for the udon, often doing "chain-eating" tours around the city to famous shops.
Udon is an extremely budget-friendly food, and it's a simple but tasty item that is easy to eat even for those who don't especially take to Japanese food, so travelers should make an effort to at udon at least once while in Takamatsu.
The average Takamatsu udon shop has a variety of udon dishes available. These are some of the standard types:
There are many more types – different toppings (raw egg, for example) lead to different names. It's rare for a typical bowl of udon to exceed ¥1000, and not uncommon for the simpler types to hover around ¥400. ¥100 bowls are even available at some places. Feel free to ask locals about good udon shops – they are sure to know some.
There are cheap business hotels around JR Takamatsu Station and Ritsurin-koen.
Takamatsu is the main entry point for Shikoku and from here the entire island is your oyster.
Easy day trips to the mainland:
Also, depending on timing and visa, Shanghai is an option, with Spring Airlines and its typically low fares.