Even before the Seto Ōhashi connected Shikoku’s rail network with Honshū, the port of TAKAMATSU (高松), capital of Kagawa-ken, was a major gateway into the island. Warlord Chikamasa Ikoma built his castle here in 1588, but the city and surrounding area’s history go back a long way before that. The priest and mystic Kōbō Daishi was born in the prefecture, the banished Emperor Sutoku was murdered here in 1164 and, 21 years later, the Taira and Minamoto clans clashed at nearby Yashima. In air raids during World War II, Chikamasa’s castle was virtually destroyed, along with most of the city.

Today, Takamatsu is a sprawling but fairly attractive cosmopolitan city of 420,000 inhabitants, peppered with covered shopping arcades and designer stores. As twenty-first-century as all this is, the city’s star attraction remains Ritsurin-kōen, one of Japan’s most classical, spacious and beautifully designed gardens. The gardens are easily accessible on a day-trip from Honshū, but it’s well worth staying overnight so you can also take in Shikoku Mura, the open-air museum of traditional houses at Yashima, or Kotohira-gū, the ancient shrine an hour’s train ride west of the city. Takamatsu is also a gateway to two of the most appealing islands in the Inland Sea: Shōdo-shima, a mini-Shikoku with its own temple circuit and scenic attractions; and delightful Naoshima, a must for contemporary art and architecture fans with several outstanding galleries designed by Andō Tadao.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert's guide: the best homestays in Japan

An expert's guide: the best homestays in Japan

With a reputation for expensive hotels, Japan is the perfect place to try a homestay. There’s no better way to experience the real Japan than with a stay with…

15 Dec 2017 • Joe Minihane
All aboard: the most incredible sightseeing trains in Japan

All aboard: the most incredible sightseeing trains in Japan

None of this choo-choo stuff – Byun! Shu! are the sounds that a Japanese train makes. And while bullet trains – shinkansen – are one of the symbols of mod…

28 Nov 2017 • Neil McQuillian insert_drive_file Article
Sipping sake: a dispatch from one of Japan's oldest breweries

Sipping sake: a dispatch from one of Japan's oldest breweries

Sake is quickly replacing craft beer as the cool kid on the drinks scene globally – and a number of breweries have recently opened in the UK, USA and Austral…

10 Nov 2017 • Tamara Hinson local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right