Here are my top three things to do in Takamatsu, Japan, if you have a brief visit to the city. We only spent one afternoon in Takamatsu, but it was an afternoon well spent. We gorged on udon noodles until we could hardly walk. How else would you rather spend an afternoon? I can’t think of anything.
Takamatsu isn’t somewhere we’d ever heard of, to be honest. Nor had we 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. He knew we would like it so off we went.
Takamatsu is the capital of Kagawa, Japan’s tiniest prefecture. Here’s the (brief) lowdown things to do in Takamatsu and its charms…
Eat the best sanuki udon noodles in Japan/the world
Takamatsu is the birthplace of sanuki udon noodles.
But are they different to normal udon noodles, I 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 move.
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.
Visit the beautiful Ritsurin Garden
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.
Ride the Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad
It was a tram in appearance but didn’t run on the streets like most trams, so I’m hereby nicknaming it a tram-train.
There was a craft beer shop on the final platform, which is handy isn’t it? (Regular readers of this blog will understand – yes all 3 of you).
We stood at the front so we could watch the excellent behaviour of the driver. Lots of pointing and hand gestures ensured. It’s a famous safety feature for Japanese train drivers to learn all these elaborate gestures and wear white gloves and quite simply provide the best entertainment money can buy. Seriously – it’s incredible. Look it up on YouTube to be amazed, or don’t, if you want to go to Japan and see for yourself.
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 for the average Japan itinerary unless you have plenty of time or have been to Japan before. But it’s definitely worth staying at nearby Naoshima and you can combine a trip to Takamatsu with that.
How to get around
Like most places in Japan, you get to see the best of it on foot. But there’s the tram-train service to enjoy so don’t forget that (craft beer optional).
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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If you enjoyed this post, you may also like my other Japan blog posts:
- Planning your first trip to Japan: what you need to know
- Tokyo – 20 unique things to do
- Tokyo – off the beaten track
- Himeji Castle
- Naoshima art island
- Kobe – one day in the floral city
- Tokyo – train-themed things to do
- Tokyo – how to watch sumo
- Nara – home of the tame deer.
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