Takamatsu (高松)  is the largest city in Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Japan.
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".
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Source: Japan Meteorological Agency .
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.
- Namba Station in Osaka to Takamatsu, 3 hrs 20 min, ¥3800 one-way, 48 round-trips daily.
- San'nomiya Station in Kobe to Takamatsu, 2 hrs 30 min, ¥3600 one-way, 27 round-trips daily.
- Kyoto Station in Kyoto to Takamatsu, 3 hrs 40 min, ¥4800 one-way, 7 round-trips daily.
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.
- Jumbo Ferry. This ferry runs 4 times daily between Kobe and Takamatsu. At both ends of the ferry, buses connect the ferry boarding point to the nearest major station — San'nomiya Station and Takamatsu Station, respectively. The Kobe-side connecting bus costs ¥200 and takes 5 minutes, the Takamatsu-side connecting bus is free and takes 15 minutes. The ferry sails under the Akashi Straits Bridge, and udon is available on board. Kobe to/from Takamatsu one-way ¥1800, round-trip ¥3300; bicycles ¥2140 extra; cars ¥4790 extra.
- Utaka-Kokudō Ferry. This ferry offers regular services between the Uno area of Tamano in Okayama Prefecture and Takamatsu. The trip takes about 55 minutes, and there are 44 round-trips daily. The ferry boarding points at both ends are close to the respective nearest train station. The ferry sails across the Seto Inland Sea between a number of islands. One-way ¥390; bicycles ¥440 extra; cars ¥1610 extra.
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.
Twisting pine trees at Ritsurin Park
- Ritsurin Park (栗林公園 ritsurin kōen), 1-20-16 Ritsurin-cho (5 min walk from Ritsurin Kōen Station (Kotoden), exit station and walk straight along the road. Also, a 3 min walk from Ritsurin Kōen Kitaguchi Station (JR) and also accessible by bus), ☎ +81 087 833-7411, . Sunrise to sunset (varies by month). A beautiful and very large Japanese landscape garden built for the Sanuki and Sasuma lords and has been designated a Japanese National Treasure. It is full of intriguing items and spectacular views; it is likely to cause even those who have lived in Japan long-term to have a "Wow, I'm really in Japan!" moment. Although it is not one of the official top three gardens of Japan, it is undoubtedly one of Japan's most impressive gardens, and it benefits from generally being less crowded than its counterparts which are members of the illustrious top 3. Some of the garden's highlights include the Engetsu-kyo Bridge (primary symbol of the park), the Okedoi-no-Taki Waterfall, the 'Red Wall of Rocks', a lotus pond, a large number of Japanese pine trees including the turle+crane rock, as well as other impressive sights. The park also contains three tea houses, a restaurant, and a folk craft museum. You can experience tea ceremony lite at the tea houses for small additional fee. On the map you receive when you purchase your ticket (and on the website), you'll find a number of walking routes, including one specifically designed for handicap visitors. ¥400 (adults), ¥170 (children). (34.329591,134.043968)
- Tamamo Park (玉藻公園 tamamo kōen), 2-1 Tamamo-cho (5 min walk from Takamatsu Station. Directly behind Takamatsu-Chikkō Station, origin of the Kotoden line), ☎ +81 087 851-1521, . 7AM-6PM Apr-Sep, 8:30AM-5PM Oct-Mar, closed Dec 29-Jan 3. A picturesque park conveniently located very close to the main station area. It is home to the old site of Takamatsu Castle, which played an important role in the city's history. The main tower of the castle, dismantled during the Meiji era, is currently in the process of being rebuilt. There are a number buildings within the complex, and in early April it is a popular place to take in the cherry blossoms. ¥200 adults, ¥100 children.
- The Kagawa Museum (香川県立ミュージアム kagawa kenritsu myūjiam), 5-5 Tamamo-cho, ☎ +81 087 822-0002, . Tu-Su 9AM-5PM, closed Dec 27-Jan 1, closed Golden Week. Contains exhibits on the history, traditions, and people of Kagawa Prefecture, formerly known as Sanuki Province. Much of the information is only available in Japanese, however a free English audio guide is available for the permanent Kagawa history exhibit on the top floor. ¥400. (34.349708,134.053266)
- Takamatsu Symbol Tower (高松シンボールタワー), Sunport 2-1 (200m NE of Takamatsu Station.), ☎ +81 087 811-1676, . This building has several observation decks with views of the sea and nearby peninusulas. There is also a shopping mall with many restaurants in the eastern building. (34.352879,134.046464)
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.
- Yashima Temple (屋島寺 Yashima-ji), Higashimachi 1808, Yashima, ☎ +81 087 841-9418. Free. (34.357945,134.101224)
- New Yashima Aquarium (新屋島水族館 Shin-Yashima Suizokukan), Higashimachi 1785-1, Yashima, ☎ +81 087 841-2678 ([email protected], fax: +81 087 843-9659), . 9AM-5PM, closed Jan 1-3. Adults ¥1200, JHS/HS students ¥700, children ¥300. (34.358587,134.09991)
- Shikokumura (四国村), 91 Nakamachi, Yashima, ☎ +81 0878 43-3111, . Nov-Mar 8:30AM-5:30PM, Apr-Oct 8:30AM-6PM. An interesting open-air museum showing old houses collected from all around Shikoku. Inside the open-air museum there is a small art museum with works of Western artists including Pablo Picasso. The building has a nice garden with a nice panorama and was designed by Tadao Ando. It's about 20 minutes from the center of town. Take a Kotoden train from Takamatsu-Chikko Station to Kawaramachi Station, transfer to the Shido Line, and disembark at Kotoden Yashima. Adults ¥800, high school students ¥500, children ¥300. (34.343799,134.108251)
- Yashima Shrine (屋島神社 Yashima Jinja), 屋島中町140, ☎ +81 087 841-9475. This shrine was originally built in 1652, and has been rebuilt since. (34.345679,134.107771)
- Tamamo Breakwater, (5 mins from Takamatsu station). The breakwater makes for a nice stroll at sunset, with an illuminated red lighthouse at the end.
There are two big festivals in Takamatsu – one in the summer and the other in the winter.
- Sanuki Takamatsu Festival, (In front of Takamatsu Station and near the sea.), . The first day is the opening; the second day is a fireworks festival; the last day is a dance festival. Visitors can enjoy the central park, the shopping arcade, and "Sanport".
- Winter Festival, . See beautiful Christmas displays at the central park for a month.
- Firefly Festival, . Held in June..
- Hyoge Festival. The 2nd Sunday in September..
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:
- Hyōgo-machi (兵庫町)
- Katahara-machi (片原町)
- Marugame-machi (丸亀町)
- Lion Avenue (ライオン通 Raion-dōri)
- South Shinmachi (南新町 Minami-shinmachi)
- Tokiwa-gai (常磐街)
- Tamachi (田町)
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 eat 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:
- Kake udon — (Hot) The most basic variety. The noodles come in a hot dashi and soy-flavored broth and will likely have sliced onions thrown in. Some places may also add a slice of kamaboko (fish sausage) as well. You're likely to have a pinch of ginger added to the broth.
- Kitsune udon — (Hot) Like kake udon, but with a large slab of fried tofu in the bowl.
- Tempura udon — (Hot) Also like kake udon, but with a some tempura thrown in for good measure. Typically the tempura will be shrimp plus a vegetable or two, however at the cheapest places the tempura will be kaki-age, a vegetable-shrimp patty.
- Kama'age udon — (Hot) Identical to zaru udon in manner of eating, however noodles come hot instead of cold. As far as taste is concerned, it's quite similar to kake udon.
- Zaru udon — (Cold) Cold noodles come on a wooden tray. From there, you pick them up, dip them into a soy-based broth that comes with the dish, and then eat.
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.
- Tsurumaru (手打ちうどん 鶴丸), 古馬場町9-34 (About halfway between Kataharamachi Station and Kawaramachi Station on the road running along the Kotoden Line.), ☎ +81 087 821-3780. 11AM-2PM, 8PM-3AM. One of the more noteworthy udon shops in town. Specializes in curry udon. An English menu is available. ¥400-1200 per bowl. (34.342497,134.05237)
- Amazon, ４−２１ Kajiyamachi Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture 760-0028, Japan (Behind the Family Mart convenience store in Marugamemachi shotengai, 3rd floor.), ☎ +81 87-851-4560. 20:00-04:00. This bar has very reasonably priced drinks and has every kind of alcohol you can possibly hope for! The bartender (also the owner) speaks very good English as well. Nearly any night of the week, you can find someone there to talk to, and the crowd there is very diverse. It has become the unofficial foreigner's bar in Takamatsu. (34.34269,134.049315)
There are cheap business hotels around JR Takamatsu Station and Ritsurin-koen.
- Golden Time, 2-1-7 Kawaramachi (Kotoden Kawaramachi Station), ☎ +81 0878-97-3177, . Nice capsule hotel with several varieties of saunas. It's for men only, though. ¥3000.
- Takamatsu Century Hotel (高松センチュリーホテル), 1-4-19 Nishikimachi, ☎ +81 0878-51-0558, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. A short walk from JR Takamatsu Station. All rooms have LAN Internet access. Large Western-style business hotel, well-suited for single travelers or large groups. Rooms from ¥5775 twin, meals ¥500-1200.
- Sanukinoyu Dormy Inn (さぬきの湯 ドーミーイン高松), 1-10-10 Kawaramachi (Kotoden Kawaramachi Station), ☎ +81 0878-32-5489, . A modern Western-style hotel with a pleasant rotemburo (open-air bath) at the top. Rooms from ¥10,000 double.
- Toyoko Inn Takamatsu Hyogomachi (東横INN高松兵庫町), Hyogo-machi 3-1 (Several blocks S/SW of Takamatsu Station, next to Lawson.), ☎ +81 087-821-1045, . checkin: 4PM; checkout: 10AM. This is a branch of the national business hotel chain. The rooms are clean and comfortable, though not large. Japanese-style breakfast is included in the price. There is wired internet in each room and computers for use in the lobby. Reservations can be made online in English, though the clerk is not likely to speak much. Single for ¥5980. (34.346251,134.048071)
- Castle Hotel, 4-8 Tsuruyamachi, Takamatsu (On the left hand side right after crossing the railway when coming from JR station). checkin: 12pm; checkout: 10am. This hotel could easily be your best budget japanese style hotel experience. Japanese style rooms have a tea table, tv, kettle, fridge, a separate sleeping area with futon and a real japanese bath. Every room has yukata (kimono style robe) ready for guests. Friendly owner speaks good english. Don't get confused as the hotel is not marked in English. It's the first building after the railway crossing. The same railway crossing won't let you sleep early or late as it starts beeping every ten minutes from 6am to midnight. Double for ¥3500. (34.346556,134.054706)
Takamatsu is the main entry point for Shikoku and from here the entire island is your oyster.
- Kotohira, site of the famed Kompira Shrine, is an hour away by Kotoden train.
- Marugame, the site of Marugame Castle, one of Japan's few remaining original castles.
- Mount Ishizuchi, the tallest peak in Shikoku, is about two hours away.
- Naoshima, a small island on Seto Inland Sea with superb contemporary art museums, is one hour away by boat.
- Tokushima, capital of Tokushima Prefecture, is most famous for its Awa Odori Festival.
- Kochi, is famous for the beautiful Kochi Castle, which is one of Japan's few remaining original castles.
- Mima — a small city in Tokushima prefecture on the other side of the mountains to the south of Takamatsu. Mostly known for several historic locations, as well as campsites and outdoor activities (kayaking, hiking, fishing, motorcross, paragliding, etc.) etc.
Easy day trips to the mainland:
- Okayama, home to the beautiful Korakuen Garden, one of Japan's top three gardens, as well as the beginning of the Kibiji District Trail
- Kurashiki, famous for the Bikan Historic District, one of Japan's largest and best preserved historic neighborhoods.
- Tsuyama A wonderful little town famous for Kakuzan Park, which contains the ruins of Tsuyama Castle and thousands of cherry blossoms within its precints, the historic Joto Street, and the beautiful Shurakuen Garden.
Also, depending on timing and visa, Shanghai is an option, with Spring Airlines and its typically low fares.