Sitting pretty on Shikoku Island is Kagawa, Japan’s smallest prefecture. Pardon the cliché, but this place bears testimony to the old adage, “Good things come in small packages.” Daintily situated between the mountains of Shikoku and the sea, Kagawa’s location is perfect for the two things it is most famous for: art and architecture.
It is host to The Setouchi Triennale, an international art festival created to celebrate and restore the beauty of the Seto Inland Sea Region. Artists from all across the world collaborate with locals to create artworks that seamlessly blend in with the beauty, culture, and history of the region.
Reasons to visit Kagawa
Udon Noodles. Yes, apart from being a great art and culture hub, that’s honestly a good enough reason to visit Kagawa too! This dish, deceptively simple in its ingredients and preparation, enjoys iconic status in all of Japan.
The ones in Kagawa are particular sought after, as owing to the low rainfall in the region, rice production is not so conducive. Wheat is the main crop here, and that’s what goes into Udon Noodles too. Other must-try dishes include chicken-on-the-bone, roasted olive yume pork, olive yellowtail sashimi, sanuki salmon sashimi, and grilled mitoyo eggplant.
Things to do in Kagawa
1.Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu
This Michelin Green Guide star holder is the epitome of scenic beauty, characterized by the concept of ‘ippo ikkei’, which means that there’s a change of scenery at every step.
Boasting of 6 ponds and 13 landscaped hills, it takes you into one of those places you’ve only read about in storybooks. And it does after all date back to an ancient era. It was completed in the year 1745, artistically constructed over a period of 100 years!
Soak in the surroundings while enjoying a cup of powdered green tea at the Kikugetsu-tei teahouse close by. Do also check out the folk craft museum, and take a calming boat ride post that.
Witness the mélange of art and nature at this beautiful island, which lends it land to some of the best contemporary art museums. If solitude is what you’re seeking, you’re likely to find it here since with a population of 3,117, the chances of encountering too many souls are rather slim!
The Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House Museum, Naoshima Fukutake Art Museum, and the James Bond Museum (Naoshima featured in the Bond novel, The Man with the Red Tattoo) are popular attractions.
A variety of restaurants dot the island, so be sure to gorge on some fresh fish from the Seto Inland Sea. And if you’re here when the sun is out in its glory, take a dip in the sea to cool off. It’s safe and you’re unlikely to find cleaner waters.
3. Kotohira-gu Shrine
This shrine holds special significance in Japan since it is dedicated to the God of the Sea, the protector deity of seafarers. People from all over the country come here to pay their respects, and legend has it that a pilgrimage to this shrine protects one’s health and wards off evil.
The place comes alive during festival time that witnesses elaborate dance rituals in traditional clothes by priests and shrine maidens. The staircase around the shrine comprises 1,368 steps so make sure you’re wearing comfortable footwear, preferably sports shoes.
Several cafes, teahouses, shops, and restaurants surround the area so you can take periodic breaks and relax. If you crave comfort, opt for a ride in a palanquin (kago). Now that’s some royal treatment right there. This place provides a perfect view of the Sanuki plain, and it’s one that you’ll remember for a long time to come.
Commonly referred to as the Mediterranean of Japan due to its warm climate throughout the year, Shodoshima offers some of the most beautiful sightseeing spots in Japan. A sight to witness is the Kankakei Gorge, a breathtaking gorge right in the middle of Shodoshima Island. Commit it to memory by picking up a souvenir from the shop around it.
The region boasts of a 400-year old food culture – dating back to the Edo Period – comprising hand-stretched somen noodles and the production of soy sauce. Learning about the region’s food history is likely to whet your appetite, so tuck into some traditional dishes at one of the restaurants located nearby.
5. Kagawa Museum
Kagawa is all about art and culture and where better to learn all about its history than at a museum dedicated entirely to the region. There is a spacious learning room that takes visitors through the years gone by. No restrictions on photography here, so click away to your heart’s content. Lots to observe for kids as well with the many traditional Japanese toys on display.
Set your Instagram feed on fire by posing in a kimono and traditional armor. Now that’s a display picture that you wouldn’t really want to change in a hurry! Do note that you’re allowed to do this only till 4:30pm, so reach the museum well ahead of the closing time, which is 5pm.
Interesting facts about Kagawa
- Many Japanese believe that Shodoshima is one of the first islands that was ‘born to the gods’ during the creation of Japan.
- Japan is synonymous with Bonsai, and the largest production volume of Pine Bonsai is found in Kagawa Prefecture.
- 11% of the prefecture’s land area comprises national parks.
- The prefecture’s natural beauty has earned it the moniker, ‘Jewel of the World.’
- Mount Yashima, located in capital city Takamasu, was the battlefield for the famous clashes between the Heike and Genji clans.
Staying in Kagawa
You could stay at Kagawa as many tourists do, or you could really experience Kagawa, as many who stay at HomeAways do! To make that happen, HomeAway has partnered with the Destination Management Organization (DMO) to refurnish old historic houses and convert them to holiday homes, which can be rented on HomeAway.
1. Unique villa with a view of the sea
A newly built villa, staying here is unique to all including Japanese! This villa provides two beds and four futons to comfortably house up to 6 people. Built with large and wide windows, the Setouchi Sea is visible from within the apartment. Wait no more! Stay in this vacation home and escape the hectic daily life to enjoy an elegant stay surrounded by the greenery and the best views of Setouchi Sea.
Average price per night: SGD 250
2. Guest house near the sea
Another apartment near the sea, this cosy guest house is located conveniently near the center of Shikoku. Enjoy your meals on a wide wooden table top and have fun barbecuing with your family and friends in this vacation home! If you’re visiting during the winter, you can relax on a rocking chair alongside the fireplace with a gorgeous sea view right in front you.
Average price per night: SGD 250
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