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Naruto (鳴門) is best known for the Naruto Whirlpools (鳴門の渦潮 Naruto no uzushio), which form in the narrow Naruto Strait between Awaji Island and Shikoku. The vortexes can be seen up to four times daily, but their size and speed depends the height of the tide, which in turn depends on the alignment of the moon and the sun. In general, the new moon and full moon are the best times to see the whirlpools, which can reach a depth of 2m and a width of 20m. They can be seen from the viewpoints at either end of the Onaruto Bridge or from sightseeing boats in the strait.
Naruto's second claim to fame is as the starting point of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. The first two temples on the trail, Ryōzenji (霊山寺) and Gokurakuji (極楽寺), are both located in Naruto.
- Otsuka Art Museum, Naruto Park, ☎ +81 088-687-3737, . Tu-Su 9:30AM-5PM. The Otsuka family has created a "backup" of the world's painting masterpieces. Their museum displays no original paintings; all works on display are duplicates of originals that have been printed onto ceramic surfaces using the most advanced printing technology available. Buses run to Naruto Park from JR Naruto Station. ¥3150 adults, ¥2100 university students, ¥520 younger students. edit
Naruto claims to be home to the world's best sweet potatoes (kintoki), from which all sorts of products are derived: cakes, cookies, and liquor (Naruto Kintoki Shochu).
Trains to Naruto are sparse, even from other cities in Shikoku. Starting on the JR Kotoku Line from Tokushima, change at Ikenotani to the small JR Naruto Line. Alternately, buses leave from Osaka (3 1/2 hours, ¥3150) and Kobe (2 3/4 hours, ¥2750).
Takamatsu (高松) is the main entry point for Shikoku, and from here the entire island is your oyster. Though long known as the "Gateway to Shikoku", Takamatsu has also come to be celebrated as the "Udon Kingdom".
The Marine Liner (マリンライナー) runs directly between Okayama and Takamatsu. Trains run twice per hour in both directions (¥1470 one-way; 55 minutes). The ride is covered by a JR Pass. Because the Marine Liner is classified as a 'rapid' (快速 kaisoku) train, the Seishun 18 Ticket is also valid.
If you're skipping Chugoku entirely, the Sunrise Seto (サンライズ瀬戸) overnight sleeper train 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.
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. Some examples:
- Namba Station in Osaka, 3 hrs 20 min, ¥3800 one-way, 48 round-trips daily.
- San'nomiya Station in Kobe, 2 hrs 30 min, ¥3600 one-way, 27 round-trips daily.
- Kyoto Station in Kyoto, 3 hrs 40 min, ¥4800 one-way, 7 round-trips daily.
- Hiroshima (via the 'Setouchi' bus), 3 hrs 45 min, ¥4000 one-way, 5 round-trips daily.
Night bus service from Tokyo is also available; the 'Dream-Takamatsu-go' runs twice nightly in both directions (10 hours, ¥10000 one-way, ¥18200 round-trip).
Seven buses make round trip runs each day day (¥3750 one-way; 3.5 hours) between Takamatsu and Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka.
To match the city's bike-friendly design, Takamatsu has one of the best rental cycle systems in Japan. You can rent a bike for just ¥100 per day...and by "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. That means ou 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.
There are four rental cycle stations around town. The easiest to locate is in the basement of the bicycle parking area located in front of JR Takamatsu Station. 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. While it may help to know some Japanese, filling out the application 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) train, officially known as the Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad, is also a viable means of getting around Takamatsu. In particular, the Kotoden is convenient for Ritsurin Park, Kawaramachi, and the Takamatsu Station/Castle area.
- Ritsurin Park (栗林公園 ritsurin kōen), 1-20-16 Ritsurin-cho (Kotoden Ritsurin Kōen Station), ☎ +81 0878-33-7411, . Sunrise to sunset (varies by month). A beautiful and very large Japanese landscape garden built for the Sanuki and Sasuma lords. It's full of intriguing items and spectacular views, and it benefits from being less crowded than its more famous counterparts. Highlights include the Engetsu-kyo bridge, Okedoi-no-Taki waterfall, and the 'Red Wall of Rocks'. The park also contains three tea houses, a restaurant, and a folk craft museum. You can experience the 'lite' version of the famed tea ceremony for a small additional fee. ¥400 adults, ¥170 children. edit
- Tamamo Park (玉藻公園 tamamo kōen), 2-1 Tamamo-cho (Kotoden Takamatsu-Chikkō Station), ☎ +81 0878-51-1521, . 7AM-6PM April-Sept, 8:30AM-5PM Oct-March. A picturesque park conveniently located close to the main station area. It is home to the old site of Takamatsu Castle. The main tower of the castle, dismantled during the Meiji era, is currently 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. edit
- Shikoku Mura, 91 Naka-machi, Yashima, ☎ +81 0878-43-3111, . 8:30-5:30PM, to 6PM April-Oct. An interesting open-air museum with old houses collected from all around Shikoku. There's also a small art museum, designed by Tadao Ando, with works by Western artists such as Picasso. 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. From there, you can explore other sights in the Yashima area, such as the area's namesake temple (below). ¥800. edit
- Takamatsu has five stops on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage: #80 Kokubunji (国分寺) and #82 through #85, Negoroji (根香寺), Ichinomiyaji (一宮寺), Yashimaji (屋島寺), and Yakuriji (八栗寺).
Takamatsu is famed for its udon. Though you'll find it served in cities and villages throughout Japan, Takamatsu does udon better and cheaper than anywhere else. There are hundreds of udon shops within city limits. Because local foods are a driving force in Japanese tourism, many people flock to Takamatsu on "chain-eating" tours of the more famous udon shops.
The average udon shop will have several varieties available. These are some of the standard types:
- Kake udon — 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 also likely to have a pinch of ginger added to the broth.
- Kitsune udon — like the kake variety, but with a large slab of fried tofu in the bowl as well.
- Tempura udon — also like the kake variety, but with some tempura thrown in for good measure. At most places the tempura will be a shrimp plus a vegetable or two; however, at the cheapest places the tempura will be kaki-age, a circular mish-mash of vegetables and shrimp into a kind of tempura cake.
- Zaru udon — cold noodles on a wooden tray. Pick them up, dip them into a soy-based broth, and then eat.
- Kama'age udon — identical to zaru in manner of eating; however, the noodles come hot instead of cold.
It's rare for a bowl 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 around, as people in Takamatsu will almost certainly have a favorite restaurant to recommend. The de-facto "most famous" one is Tsurumaru (鶴丸), located on a road that runs right along the Kotoden Line — almost exactly halfway between Kataharamachi and Kawaramachi Stations.
There are cheap business hotels around JR Takamatsu Station and Ritsurin-koen.
- Golden Time, 2-1-7 Kawara-machi (Kotoden Kawaramachi Station), ☎ +81 0878-97-3177, . Nice capsule hotel with several varieties of saunas. It's for men only, though. ¥3000. edit
- Takamatsu Century Hotel, 1-4-19 Nishiki-machi, ☎ +81 0878-51-0558, . 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, each meal ¥1200 extra. edit
Kōchi (高知), known in ancient times as Tosa (土佐), is the eponymous capital of Kochi prefecture. The JR Dosan Line runs down from Okayama via Takamatsu and the Oboke gorge, passing through Kochi on its way to the terminus at Kubokawa.
The fastest way to get to Kochi from Okayama is to take the Nanpu Limited Express train, which departs every hour. It costs ¥5990 (no cost with the Japan Rail Pass) and takes 2 1/2 hours.
Trams run south from JR Kochi Station and east-west along Route 32. Within the downtown area, the fare is ¥190 per trip. The My-Yu bus (MY遊バス) service runs from the north side of JR Kochi Station. Day passes are ¥900. The bus stops at 3 locations on Mt. Godaisan and continues on to Katsurahama.
- Kochi Castle (高知城 ''Kochi-jo''), 2-1-1 Marunouchi (Tram to Kochi-jo Mae), ☎ +81 0888-24-5701, . 9AM-5PM. Kochi-jo is one of the few remaining original castles in Japan. Access to the castle grounds is free, and the entrance fee for the castle itself (¥400) is well worthwhile. edit
- Kochi Prefectural Museum of Art (高知県立美術館), 353-2 Takasu (Tram to Kenritsu Bijutsukandori), ☎ +81 0888-66-8000, . 9AM-5PM. Art by Japanese and foreign artists, including Marc Chagall. Noh plays are held in the museum hall. ¥:350 adults, ¥250 children. edit
- Mt. Godaisan. Godaisan Park is located near Chikurinji (竹林寺)  (8:30AM-5PM), the 31st temple along the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. The park gives beautiful views of the city, and can be paired with a visit to the Makino Botanical Garden (below). edit
- Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden (高知県立牧野植物園), ☎ +81 0888-82-2601, . 9AM-5PM. Celebrating the life and career of Dr. Makino Tomitarou, this botanical garden covers six acres with more than 1,500 plants. ¥500 adults, students free. edit
- If you've brought your swim trunks or surfboard, Katsurahama (桂浜) is a popular beach on the south coast of the city.
Eat & DrinkEdit
Every Sunday, rain or shine, Kochi's farmers and fisherman flock to the capital to present their goods at Nichi O Ichi (Sunday Market). You'll find friendly vendors offering everything from antiques to zucchini. Look for katsuo bushi (bonito flakes). It's used as a topping for many Japanese dishes, and some Kochi katsuo bushi makes a great omiyage (gift) for a Japanese friend.
Katsuo no tataki is Kochi's specialty dish. Katsuo is a type of tuna fish, and tataki is the style in which it is prepared. The tataki style means that the fish is held over a fire and cooked only on the outside layer (about 3mm to 1cm deep), leaving the inside of the fish red and raw. After the firing it is cut into thick juicy slices that look like oversized sashimi, and served with sliced garlic and onions, shiso (a Japanese leaf with a distinct and delicious taste), and of course some fresh wasabi. Once it is at your table, clutch a slice with your chopsticks along with a generous portion of the garlic, onions, and/or wasabi. Take it all in in one bite.
Denizens of Kochi are famously prolific drinkers. Nevertheless, gokkun-umajimura is a popular non-alcoholic drink with residents of all ages. It's made of yuzu, which is a kind of citrus fruit, and tastes sweet-and-sour. It's fantastic when mixed with shochu on the rocks.
- Kochi Youth Hostel (高知ユースホステル), 4-5 Fukui-higashi-machi, ☎ +81 0888-23-0858, . An excellent place to stay, run by a former sake brewer who will, for ¥500, provide a sake tasting workshop. It's a 5 minute walk from JR Engyoujiguchi Station. ¥2835, meals ¥1050. edit
Kubokawa (窪川) is a small town on the southern coast of Shikoku. It's the terminus of the JR Dosan Line from Kochi, Takamatsu, and Okayama. It's also the starting point of the Tosa Kuroshio private railway, which crosses overland past Cape Ashizuri to Sukumo.
Most of Kubokawa's few visitors are here to see the nearby Shimanto River (四万十川 Shimantogawa), the longest in Shikoku and Japan's last un-dammed river of any size. If just looking at a river seems a little dull, do what the Japanese do and go fishing. With no dams in the way, there are 94 species in the river, the most of any Japanese river.
- Iwamotoji (岩本寺), ☎ +81 0880-22-0376. Almost reason enough to spend the night in town, Iwamotoji is #37 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Run by a friendly bunch of nuns, a night in a classical tatami room inside its pilgrims' lodge will cost you ¥6500. edit
Cape Ashizuri (足摺岬 Ashizuri-misaki) is the southernmost point of Shikoku. The cape is part of the Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park (足摺宇和海国立公園 Ashizuri-Uwakai -kokuritsukōen), and the cliffs here, featuring a sparkling white lighthouse, are a popular sightseeing point. The small town of Ashizuri lies just north of the cape, at the intersection of two highways. The cape itself has been turned into a pleasant park of sorts, with wooded paths winding from point to point. It's only a few kilometers away and easily reached on foot along a seaside walking path. Entry is free.
From the east, there are occasional direct buses from Kochi (4h40m; ¥4000) and the nearest train station Nakamura (1h30m). If heading north towards Sukumo, Uwajima, and Matsuyama, you will have to take a bus to Tosa-Shimizu and transfer there. Hitchhiking is also a viable option.
- Tengu-no-Hana (天狗の鼻, lit. "Devil's Nose") is the main observation point, from which you can contemplate the thousands and thousands of miles of ocean stretching out from here to California.
- The paths are marked with occasional signs for the rather underwhelming Seven Mysteries (七不思議), including supposedly bottomless wells (drop a coin and see!) and such.
- A statue of Nakahama "John" Manjirō stands in front of the park. A small museum dedicated to Manjiro can be found in the village nearby, around 20 min by foot from the statue.
- Kongōfuku-ji (金剛福寺), on the left side of the road right before the park, is one of the largest temples on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage and worth a visit. Reputedly founded by Kobo Daishi himself back in 822, most buildings are in fact rather new.
You can find the usual assemblage of souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes right outside the entrance to the park.
The town of Ashizuri has a number of hotels, ryokan, and minshuku. Kongofukuji also offers lodging for pilgrims, but beds are limited and bona fide pilgrims have priority over scruffy backpackers.
- Ashizuri Youth Hostel (あしずりＹＨ), 1351-3 Ashizuri-misaki, Tosashimizu-shi, ☎ +81 0880-88-0324, . Offers basic accommodation in tatami rooms starting at ¥3360; breakfast is ¥630, dinner ¥1050. Quite small (capacity 13 people) so book ahead. Buses run from Nakamura Station toward Ashizuri-misaki — disembark at Hokuo-jinja. edit
- Ashizuri Resort (あしずりリゾート、), ☎ +81 0880-88-1185. Located on top of the Ashizuri Peninsula and has great views across the ocean. It's about 15 minutes by car to the cape. It is quite isolated so you really need your own transport to get there and it is best to do any shopping in Tosashimizu town before driving up. Accommodation is all self catering and the cottages and apartments are fairly well equipped. Prices depend on the number of people staying but are around ¥3000-4000. There's an outdoor swimming pool which is open in the summer season. "Resort" is bit of a misnomer, but for the price it's a good value, especially if you're traveling in a family or group. edit