We gorged on udon noodles until we could hardly walk round the gardens in Takamatsu, Japan. This is obviously an excellent way to spend an afternoon.
Takamatsu isn’t somewhere we’d ever heard of. We’ve actually never heard of anyone going there. But it was on our way back from an incredible long weekend on the art island of Naoshima and our friend Tom was in charge of our lives and knew we would like it so off we went.
Takamatsu is the birthplace of sanuki udon noodles. How are they different to normal udon noodles, we hear you cry (possibly). It’s something to do with the wheat used and the fact they have flat edges. Most udon noodles served in Europe tend to have the flat edges, but the wheat seemed to set them apart. It made them a lot more filling.
We had lunch at Ueharayahonten (try saying that after several glasses of sake) and nearly died of overeating in the best possible way.
It’s a sort of self-service affair, where you pop your own noodles in boiling water, choose your toppings and add your tempura-battered sides. This process would be absolutely baffling if you didn’t have a Japanese speaker with you, but someone would definitely come and explain what to do through the medium of mime. And bowing.
Japanese people are world leaders in inhaling their food, especially at lunchtime when it’s a race to get back to the office. The turnaround in this restaurant was insane. Businesspeople had barely sat down before they’d eaten all the solid part of the dish and were onto the drinking of the sauce. Truly a spectacle to behold. We were there longer than anyone, including a few 90-year-old women who could hardly walk.
What really finished us off was the tempura veg, on top of the tempura bits we’d had on our noodles as a topping. You wouldn’t think there was such a thing as too much tempura, but unfortunately it is possible, even when it is this delicious. It’s the oil.
In order to not entirely throw ourselves headfirst into an early grave, we decided to walk off 10 of the 10,000 calories we’d consumed.
Ritsurin Garden, like everything in Japan, has a special title. It’s claimed that it should be one of the top three gardens in the country. Everything is in some kind of top three/five/ten/hundred in Japan, which is both hilarious and brilliant.
The garden is set against a wooded mountain backdrop of ‘borrowed scenery’, which is a big thing in Japanese gardens. Here, it’s designed to trick the eye into believing the garden is much bigger and more rural than it is, when really it’s surrounded by a very built-up city. It does work, too. Of course it does. This is Japan. Everything works.
There are water features, bridges, and bonsai. All the things you’d expect from a Japanese garden. The sun was out and we spent a happy hour or so just wandering around. It was a bit melancholy because our holiday was drawing to a close, so we used the time to plan our final days in Tokyo. More on that later.
After the garden, we hopped on this light rail creature to get back to Takamatsu station to retrieve our luggage and head ‘home’ to Tokyo.
It was a tram really but didn’t run on the streets like most trams, hence tram-train. There was a craft beer shop on the final platform, which is handy. We stood at the front so we could watch the excellent behaviour of the driver. Lots of pointing and hand gestures. It’s a famous safety feature for Japanese train drivers. Look it up on YouTube to be amazed, or don’t, if you want to go to Japan and see for yourself.
So that concludes our brief stop in Takamatsu.
And by hitting publish on this post, it means that we finally have to stop putting off the epic task of writing the next chapter in our Japan series… Tokyo. Do you know how many photos we took in Tokyo? 1,541. That’s how many. How do you even begin to tackle that? And we want to get it all done before we go on our next holiday (Malta) in a few weeks. No pressure then… Watch this space.
Day trip to Takamatsu, Japan: useful information
How to get there (and away)
We arrived from Naoshima art island (our favourite destination of our whole Japan trip) on the ferry, which took about 50 minutes. The views were stunning. We left on a train, the Marine Liner (free with JR Railpass), bound for Okayama.
Where to stay
It’s probably not worth staying over because it’s more of a day trip, but it’s definitely worth staying at nearby Naoshima.
How to get around
Like most places in Japan, you get to see the best of it on foot. But there’s a local tram-train service to enjoy.
When to go
We went in January, which was fine, but the gardens would naturally be a bit more colourful in spring or summer. You might not be able to face eating your own bodyweight in udon noodles in hot weather though, so choose wisely…
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