3 day Trip in Kagawa: Takamatsu and Shodo Island
On April 6th through 8th, we went to Kagawa Prefecture for a short trip to learn about the culture and experience what it is like to travel there.
Did you know that Kagawa Prefecture is the smallest prefecture of Japan by area? It is famous for its “sanuki-udon” since the production of udon is the highest in the country. Sanuki was the ancient historical name for Kagawa Prefecture therefore in that sense, sanuki-udon was born in the “sanuki” country. There are udon restaurants almost everywhere you go so you can try and hop to another restaurant to try various kinds. You will be suprised by the udon culture here in Kagawa. Besides udon, there are other tourists places to look around.
First Day - Ritsurin Garden (Takamatsu)
When we arrived at the Takamatsu Airport, it was already late afternoon. We rented a car to go to the hotel to drop off our stuff then went straight to the famous Ritsurin Garden known for its beauty and peacefulness in the Takamatsu area.
Ritsurin Garden is a spacious garden where it features many ponds and beautiful pavilions. When we went, it was the perfect timing since most of the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. In addition, there were light-up event that was held for 10 days and we were very lucky to go during that period.
The cherry blossom trees lit up at night have a different view from when we look at them during day time.
You can also try some Japanese sweets while you are there. We tried the “yomeiri soft serve” which is a Japanese sweets of Kagawa. The colorful toppings are called “oiri” which are small tiny fluffy balls made out of rice representing happiness.
At night, we went to eat Kagawa’s specialty food called the “honetsukidori” which is chicken thigh grilled on the bone loved by the local people. The skin is very crispy but the meat is soft and juicy that you can’t help but drink all your beer all at once.
We only had a short amount of time going around the place and did not have time to eat udon which is one thing you definitely need to try when you are in Kagawa so the next day, we went to eat udon at two different places.
Second Day - Tamamo Park (Takamatsu)
On the second day, we visited Tamamo Park in the morning, visited two udon restaurants, and headed towards Shodo Island. First, we went to Tamamo Park, the ruins of Takamatsu Castle to take a stroll and walk around.
Close to the Takamatsu Station, Tamamo Park is a beautiful park where you can see the remnants from the past. The architecture is unique since it has a moat inside the castle directly connected to the sea and you can see the fish swimming inside the moat. From the moat, there are boats which you can go into making you feel like you have time-slipped into the past.
After strolling around, we became hungry and went to eat udon at two different places.
The first restaurant we went to was already lined up with many tourists. The ordering system is quite different from Tokyo and mostly it would be self-service so we had one staff member who was from Kagawa to teach us how to order.
First we lined up and when we came across the front, we took out the tray and ordered what we wanted. When waiting for the udon, we chose our choice of condiments on a plate and we picked a side dish of tempura of our choice before paying.
Their famous udon is the butter udon topped with black pepper, butter, and an egg on the side which is like spaghetti carbonara except the spaghetti is made of udon noodles.
There are also other menus such as Bukkake udon noodles which is served with cold soy-based broth topped with radish and lemon. You can top several kinds of condiments of your choice if you want to.
The second restaurant we went to was also self-service and there were still people lining up in front.
This restaurant’s speciality was the two types of tempura which are half-boiled egg and tube shaped fish cake. When cutting the egg, the yolk comes out slowly and it was a great match when putted inside our mouth.
We also got to try draining the udon into the hot water and cutting the water like how you would see when the chefs are making ramen at some restaurants. The process was to put the noodles inside the strainer, drain it for 10 seconds, cut the water, and then pour it back to your bowl.
It is a fun process when you get the hang of it but do be careful when cutting the water since the steam from the hot water is very hot.
Second Day - Shodoshima OLIVE PARK (Shodo Island)
After we became full, we went straight to the Takamatsu Port to ride the ferry to Shodo Island which is just one hour away.
If you don’t know where Shodo Island is, it is the second largest island in the Seto Island Sea and the largest is Awaji Island. The island is rich in cultural heritage for its olives-growing suitable for its cultivation in warm climate and soy sauce production. It is also one of the 12 islands from the art festival “Setouchi Triennale” in the Seto Inland Sea held once every three years and there are some art works left in the island to visit. There are also many photogenic spots to see.
The first place we visited is Shodoshima OLIVE PARK. The Greek windmill is the symbol and it is also the setting for the movie “Kiki’s Delivery Service”.
When we first went to the top of the hill, the scenery was so magnificent everyone stopped while feeling the fresh wind from the Seto Island Sea and overlooking the olive garden spreading around the park. It was also the best timing since the cherry blossom trees were in full bloom.
You can also borrow a free broom and take jumping pictures in front of the Greek windmill like everyone else does while they are here. When you jump while holding on the broom, it looks like as if you are flying in the sky like a witch.
We all jumped for the picture together but since there are 12 members, it was hard to jump at the same time.
There were other cute places that you would want to take pictures of like for example, an olive colored post box that delivers happiness.
The best highlight from the trip was the famous Angel Road, which is a 500 m long sandbar connected to the small island. It is known as one of the spectacular scenic views in Japan.
The sandbar only appears twice a day when the tide is low. It is said that couples who cross the sandbar together while holding hands will find happiness and their wishes will come true.
Third Day - Other sightseeing spots (Shodo Island)
For our last day of the trip, we went to the soy sauce production factory. There are many soy sauce factories and we went to one of the museums to learn the history and process of soy sauce making. At the facility, we ate soy sauce flavored ice cream. Even though the color looks like light soy sauce, the flavor had a slight sourness and more sweetness.
After that, we saw some artist’s art works that were left from the previous art festival “Setouchi Triennale” in the Seto Inland Sea. Art works are not gathered in one place but placed in different spots making the people visit the various places and the art works itself.
For lunch, we went to eat paella at a restaurant where we could see the view of Seto Inland Sea and the olive garden. The restaurant had two floors, the second floor was the restaurant and the first floor was a souvenir shop where you can buy olive oils and citrus scented soaps since Seto Inland Sea is also famous for its lemons.
Since the ferry’s time was coming up, we went back to the port and headed back to Takamatsu. We were heading to the airport to return our car but we saw one udon restaurant on our way and we could not go back home without eating one last meal.
The trip ended with us eating udon together and we headed to the airport with our full stomach landing in Tokyo safely.
Overall, we all enjoyed the trip and surprisingly we visited many places even though Kagawa is the smallest prefecture in Japan by area. Still there are more islands to go to and more udon restaurants to eat around. Kagawa is a place where you can find new things every time you visit. Once you have been, you would feel you want to go again.