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. 

Ritsurin Koen Park 

From By Time Cost on Average km
Tokyo Shinkansen
(to Okayama)
and Marine Liner Exp.
(to Takamatsu)
4hr 55min ¥18,510 805
Osaka 2hr 45min  ¥7,420 256.2
Fukuoka 4hr 30min ¥13,960 564.2
Nagoya 3hr 16min ¥12,330 439
Tokyo Airplane 1hr 10min ¥22,500 701
Fukuoka 1hr 10min ¥20,000 342.7


A good place to become acquainted with Kagawa is Takamatsu, the prefectural capital, as it was formerly the seat of the feudal lords granted authority to govern the province of Sanuki by the Tokugawa shogunate. Their castle, Tamamo-jo , was one of the three largest in Japan that were protected with water drawn from the sea. Although the donjon of the castle, which was constructed in 1558, no longer exists, a park taking its name now covers the area where it stood. Gazing at the turrets that remain, one can imagine the grandeur of the original structure. To find out how the proud people who once passed through these gates lived, one needs only to go to the Chinretsukan , a museum in the park that displays the armor and treasured possession of the occupants of the castle. Next, a visit to the Takamatsu City Historical Museum will give as idea of what was going on throughout the history of Takamatsu. One of the memorable events was the sea battle of 1185 that took place at Yashima  between the Heike and the Genji, two clans that were fighting for military control over Japan. The story of their rivalry is filled with heroism, romance, and tragedy, and all can be relived at the Heike Monogatari Rekishikan  where 260 wax figures reproduce this tale that has stirred Japanese hearts through the centuries.


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. 

Kanamaruza Theater 

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. 


Marugame-jo Castle 

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,


Kankakei Gorge 

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: 

  1. See the traditional process of producing salt from sea water at the Utazu-cho Sangyokan (Reservation required) 
  2. Experience life on an island of the Inland Sea, a short ferry ride from Marugame to the Shiwaku Islands. 
  3. Explore Shodoshima. Take the rope way or hike up Kankakei Gorge renown for its convoluted scenery, sample the island's famous thin noodles called somen, pick tangerines, cycle, camp at the side of sandy beaches (or stay in a pension, Japanese B&B, or hotel). See rural Kabuki on May 3 and October 10. There's also a festival of the big drums called taiko from October 10 for about 10 days at various shrines. From Shodoshima ferries run regularly to Osaka, Kobe, Okayama, and Himeji. 
  4. Wander through the new open-air museum dedicated to Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese-American sculptor who chose Mure ??, famous for its stone quarry, as his retreat and visit the Ishi no Minzoku Shiryokan, a museum highlighting the art of quarrying and stone cutting. 
  5. Hike the mountainous hiking trail Shikoku no Michi 
  6. Walk along the beach at Tsuda or Kannouji where pine trees planted as wild breaks, some as much as 600 years ago, have been bent into fantastic shapes. 
  7. Visit the bonsai nurseries in Kinashi, which produces 90% of the miniature potted trees in Japan. 


Sanuki Chochin 

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

See World-Renown Art in Kagawa

Kagawa Prefecture boasts numerous art museums containing world - renowned pieces, so come visit us to see some of the world's most famous art.

Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum

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.
The town is famous for its production of expensive and exquisite Aji-ishi grave-stones.
The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum is a realization of Noguchi's dream and includes 150 of his pieces. The garden, comprising these pieces, his residence and exhibition buildings, which were dismantled and moved to the garden, and a sculpture garden designed by Noguchi form an environmental artwork he calls an "earthly sculpture."
Tel: 087-870-1500

The garden view from the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum 

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.
At the museum, visitors can see contemporary art pieces exhibited inside and outside, allowing them to get in touch with nature and art, and by doing so obtain a heart-warming experience.
Tel: 087-892-2030

The Benesse House's white buildings and
the lawn's large green expanse contrast magnificently

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 Station.
A giant mural and an object by Inokuma stands at the museum's Gate Plaza entrance, which was designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi, who is in charge of the renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York .
The museum also hold the exhibitions of internationally renowned artists from time to time to give visitors a stimulating, unforgettable experience.
Tel: 0877-24-7755

The gate plaza at the entrance to the Marugame
Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art

Almost every week on the Kagawa calendar is marked with some festival, or matsuri. Here are a few of the many fascinating seasonal events.(*Dates varying annually)
*February 22/23 Zentsuji Temple, Zentsuji: 1,000 young men clad in loincloths scramble for sacred sticks
May 5 Kotohiragu Shrine, Kotohira: A rare opportunity to see the aristocratic game of kick ball called kemari with participants clothed in 11th century costumes (also on July 7 and late-December)
*May 4/6 Shirotori Shrine, Shirotori: A parade of children enacting Kabuki scenes from Kabuki plays on floats, a festival dating from the feudal era.
Lunar June 14/15 Ajioji Shrine, Aji: Fishing boats decked with lanterns take a sacred portable shrine for a ride on the sea and celebrate with fireworks
August 12-14 Takamatsu Matsuri: Parades featuring folk dance and music, fireworks, concerts--the whole city enjoys a fiesta
August 25 Takinomiya Tenmangu Shrine, Ryonan: Originating in a thanksgiving for rain in the 9th century, this festival features graceful dances accompanied by bells, drums, and flutes
*September 21 Moon Viewing Party, Marugame: Listen to koto music, sip sake, eat "moon-viewing dumplings", and enjoy looking at the full moon on the beach

October 9-11 Kotohiragu Shrine, Kotohira: The festival climaxes on the 10th with a brilliant nighttime parade down the steps from the shrine
*October 13 Kanei Shrine, Konan: A lion dance and parade in ceremonial robes are features of the traditional festivals
October (the 3rd Fri., Sat. and Sun.) Onohara Hachiman Shrine, Onohara: An exciting festival of 20 lavishly decorated floats pulled through the streets to the accompaniment of drums