KAGAWA: FACING THE INLAND SEA
One of the four prefectures on the island of Shikoku, Kagawa has always been one of the most accessible. Before the advent of air transportation, the only means of reaching Shikoku was by sea, and Kagawa provided the most practical destination when traveling from the major ports of Osaka and Kobe. Today travelers can still take the breathtakingly beautiful trip by sea (only 2 hours from Kobe by hydrofoil), or they can choose to cross the Island Sea on the new Seto Ohashi, the remarkable bridge linking Kagawa to Okayama for both automobile and rail traffic. Or , of course, they can fly. Because it was at once remote and yet within a reasonable voyage from the cultural and political centers on the main island of Honshu, we see today in Sanuki, as Kagawa Prefecture was called in feudal times, both the sophistication of the mainland as exemplified by the beauty of the former daimyo's private garden (Ritsurin Koen) and the robustness of the rural life of a fascinating variety of the people from fisher folk and farmers to noodle makers and fan makers, quarriers and potters. Although Kagawa now is the home of modern industries, its unique blend of traditional culture and beauty beckons to be discovered.
Today one of the compelling reasons for visiting Yashima is the wonderful
Shikoku Mura, an open-air museum of 23 traditional buildings brought from
all over Shikoku, including folk houses of the 18th century, a sugar mill,
a paper-making workshop, and a rural Kabuki theater where rural Kabuki
is staged in the autumn. If you wish to see a folk house in its original
setting, take an adventurous trip to Okawacho where the oldest farm
house in the prefecture, the former Eri family house , has been
standing since 1699. Or if your interests lie in residence of aristocratic
nature, a one-hour train ride out of Takamatsu towards Tokushima will bring
you to the town of Shirotori and the Shirotori Shrine. The building
was constructed in 1664 by order of the lord of Takamarsu. The resident
of the priest, Inokuma-tei, is now open to the public. Laid out
in the style of a daimyo's residence, it displays many of the important
possessions handed down through the last 300 years of the 71 generations
of the Inokuma family. Speaking of shrines, Kotohiragu, an hour away from
Takamatsu to the southwest, is an experience not to be missed. In ancient
days seafarers came here to pray for protection; today visitors arrive
from all over Japan, some to devoutly pray, some more intent on the thrill
of being transported by palanquin up the 785 steps on the steep mountainside
to the first hall. Further exploration up the mountain will bring you to
one hallowed and hoary hall after another. One of these, the Shoin, deserves
to be seen for its outstanding painted sliding doors. On the approach to
Kotohiragu stands the oldest Kabuki theater in Japan remaining today, the
Kanamaruza Theater. Planning far in advance with a travel agency
may result in obtaining one of the rare tickets for the annual April performance,
but the theater can still be appreciated on the daily guided tours.
To complete a historical tour of Kagawa, a visit to at least one of Shingon temples should be a priority, for the founder of the Shingon Sect of Japanese Buddhism, known by his post-humous name of Kobo Daishi, was born right here in Kagawa in 774. The place is consecrated by the temple of Zentsuji. From every corner of Japan the devout come here to pay their respects, any of them on a pilgrimage of the 88 temples of Shikoku associated with their saint. Groping with them through the pitch-black passageway under the main hall will instill a feeling for the faith that leads them on their journey of devotion, which if done properly on foot takes about two months. There are 22 temples on the pilgrim's route here in Kagawa, and as they often are picturesquely situated, should one be in the vicinity it might well be worth a visit. A case in point is Okuboji, the last destination of the pilgrims, who leave here the staffs and sedge hats that accompanied them on their journey. Nestled in the mountains, the temple is close to the former residence of the Hosokawa family, built in the late 18th century and an important cultural property. Negoroji on the scenic Goshikidai Plateau overlooking the Inland Sea is close to the Seto Inland Sea Folk Museum, and at Unpenji, which is located at the end of the fastest rope way in Japan, you have a magnificent view of the mountains and sea, especially beautiful after a snowfall.
If you mention that you are going to Takamatsu, your Japanese friends will surely say, "You must see Ritsurin Koen!" This park, which once served as a second residence for the lord of this province, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in all of Japan. Noted for its carefully groomed pine trees, it was designed in the 17th century around six ponds so that each turn of the path presents a new and pleasant vista. You can have green tea in the lakeside tea house, which is an architectural joy in itself, view traditional crafts at the Sanuki Folk Art Museum, or see present-day crafts at the100-year-old exhibit hall. Nakazu Banshoen in Marugame is a modern creation in the style of the feudal garden. Even larger than Ritsurin Koen, it covers 496 acres of landscaped grounds. In the town of Marugame you will also find a castle with impressive stone ramparts rising to a height of 60 meters above the moat. Built in 1600, the three-storied donjon of Marugame-jo is small but carefully preserved. If you are interested in crafts, Marugame is famous in particular for the production of the round fans called uchiwa. These formerly were produced by lower-ranking samurai to supplement their meager incomes. Today 90% of uchiwa are produced here in Marugame,
and they are still mainly made by hand. You can see the process as the Uchiwa no Minato Museum, also called POLCA. Need something a bit more exciting? How about a ride up the Gold Tower at Utazu? As the elevator whisks you up the 158 meters to the top in one minutes and 13 seconds, you can watch the world below rapidly receding beneath you. From the top you have a panoramic vista of Kagawa and, across the sea, Okayama. In the simulation theater the tower transforms into a golden dragon that swoops down from heaven to give you a dragon's eye view of the whole prefecture. For those who prefer the outdoors, here is a sampling of other adventure:
Folk art was given the name mingei in the 1920's by the founder of the first folk art museum in Japan, Sotetsu Yanagi. Setting forth his vision of handwork as a spiritual way of life that creates a selfless form of beauty, he succeeded in saving many of the crafts that were fast been lost to industrialization. The pieces on display at the Sanuki Mingeikan, the museum of folk art in Ritsurin Park, reflect his criteria of beauty: made for general use by anonymous hands, based on timeless standards, robust. The museum deserves a visit not only to admire the objects that were an integral part of everyday life in homes in Kagawa Prefecture until the first half of the 20th century but also to discover the mingei philosophy of beauty. A number of the crafts continue to be produced today. Among these are paper lanterns called chochin, lacquer ware, pottery, paper umbrellas, and indigo dyed fabrics. If you are in the town of Kannouji, which is known for its figure of an ancient coin dug into the sand, some say as a symbol to be frugal, stop at the small private museum of local folk art, Sanuki Shuzoku Sankokan.
One of the 20th century's most prestigious sculptors, Isamu Noguchi, built
his atelier and home in Mure town, Kagawa Prefecture, in 1969 and has since
lived there for almost 20 years, creating his magnificent sculptures.
Benesse House (Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum)
World-renowned architect Tadao Ando designed
the combined hotel and art museum called "Benesse House" on Naoshima
island in the Seto Inland Sea.
Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art
The unique Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art,
which exhibits a collection by internationally renowned oil painter Genichiro
Inokuma, who was born in Kagawa Prefecture, lies in front of JR Marugame