Formerly known as the Sanuki Province, the prefecture of Kagawa is the smallest of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Despite that, it overflows with scenic beauty, historical interests, natural blessings, artistic inspirations and mouthwatering foods. With numerous small islands in mild weather all year round, Kagawa Prefecture is known as the Mediterranean in Japan.
Island hopping is one of the unique attractions when visiting Kagawa. On the island of Shodo-shima, tourists can visit and explore the eigamura (or “movie village”), where the settings for the popular film adaption of the Japanese novel Nijushi-no-hitomi are currently preserved. Visitors can also go to the popular Olive Park, where they learn more about the island’s rich history of olive cultivation and olive oil production, as the island is known for.
On the island of Naoshima, art lovers can visit the popular Chichu Art Museum, which opened its doors to the public in 2004. In addition to displaying the paintings of the famous Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, the museum itself is actually built underground so that it wouldn’t affect the gorgeous natural scenery of the Seto Inland Sea.
Of the various historical points of interest where you can visit in Kagawa, the Ritsurin Garden, or the chestnut grove garden is recommended. The park, containing six separate ponds and 13 hills, lies in front of Mt. Shiun and utilizes its beautiful greenery in the background to create a gorgeous scene reminiscent of an ancient Japanese painting.
Other historic sites also include, Takamatsu Castle, which is famous for being one of Japan’s three “Water Castles,” because it is built along a waterfront and its moats draw water directly from the sea. Unfortunately, the only sites that can be seen today are actually what little remains of the castle’s original design. And probably the most popular historical tourist destination in Kagawa is the Kotohira-gu Shrine, or as it’s affectionately known as Kompira-san. Located halfway to the top of Mount Zozu, visitors need to walk up about 785 stone steps to its main shrine, which is dedicated to the ancient Japanese god of seafaring. But for the right price contracted porters can carry you up the steps in a palanquin. Both sides of said steps are lined with souvenir shops.
Finally, you cannot leave the region without eating Sanuki Udon, thick, chewy udon noodles that originated in Kagawa. Silky on the surface and having an al-dente like strong resistance to each bite, it is a delicacy known to the world. Eating Sanuki Udon fresh out of the pot is an absolutely blissful experience.
Kompira-gu is known for its 1368 steps from the entrance to the main shrine. It was a huge tourist destination back in Edo Period (1603-1868) among Japanese. Today, it attracts foreign tourists as well.
Crossing Seto-Ohashi Bridge
The Seto-Ohashi Bridge is a collective term for six bridges that form a connection between Shikoku island where Kagawa is situated, and Honshu, the largest of Japan’s four islands. They go across five islands in the Seto Inland Sea. Being 13 kilometers long, it takes about 20 minutes to completely cross the bridge. The whole area is visible from the top of Mt. Washu-zan. Seeing the bridges during sunset is a particularly beautiful sight.
Sanuki Udon Noodles
Named after Sanuki, the previous name of the Kagawa Prefecture, Sanuki udon (wheat noodles) is listed as one of Japan’s most famous type of udon noodles. It is characterized as being firm but pleasantly chewy.
Noodle-goers can enjoy Sanuki Udon in several ways. The Kake udon dish, consisting of noodles served in a hot broth, the Zaru udon, which is a dish of cold noodles served with dipping sauce, or the Kamaage udon served hot along with dipping sauce or dressing sauce. Kamatama udon is a variant of Kamaage udon, which includes raw egg.