Ritsurin Garden is one of the largest gardens in Japan, and it is also one of the most beautiful!
The original garden was constructed by the Lord of the Sanuki (the rulers of northern Shikoku at the time) during the 16th century, but changes were made and features were added over the years. The layout of the current garden dates back to 1745 when the last of the modifications was completed. The teahouse was built in 1640.
The garden features a variety of beautiful landscapes. There are lillies in the ponds, tropical trees, a rock wall with a waterfall, and a variety of flowers throughout the garden. There are also many beautifully trimmed pine trees. I came to the garden in winter, so although I couldn't appreciate the lillies or flowers, the amount of pines in the garden makes it easy to enjoy this garden, even during the worst season.
The Sanuki Folk Craft Museum is located within the garden grounds and is free to enter. Although the artwork is not unique to the area, it has been infused into the local culture. Some of it is historical and others are modern pieces.
To see the entire garden it takes about two hours. They do have a recommended one hour path, but you only get to see half of the garden, so I definitely suggest taking the time to see everything. Some of the most beautiful features of the garden are located outside of the one hour path. There are wheelchair accessible paths, as well.
The entrance fee is 400 yen.
Near Yashima Station there is a small area with a pine tree beside a small shrine. The pine tree is famous, because it is believed to be the spot where Yoshitsune, the leader of the Minamoto clan during the Genpei War, rested prior to the Battle at Yashima. It is said that he rested at this location and placed his saddle on the pine tree.
It is a historical site that a traveller who is interested in the history of the Genpei Wars (or the famous Tales of Heike, which was written about this war) should visit. Because it is near the station, visiting the famous pine tree is also a nice way to pass the time while waiting for the bus that takes you up to Yashima Island and Yashima Shrine.
Yashima Island is famous for two things: Yashima Temple and the Battle of Yashima during the Genpei Wars.
Yashima Temple was built during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) and is number 84 of Shikoku's famous 88 temples (the numbers are not rankings, they mark the order in which they are to be visited on the pilgrimage, although visiting them in reverse order is believed to give one special blessings, and visiting them in random order is also okay). You can enter the temple museum to learn more about the temple, as well as to see famous artifacts from the temple.
Within the temple grounds is the shrine dedicated to the Yashima Badger, who is one of Japan's three famous badgers (along with the Shibaemon Badger of Awaji Island and the Danzaburo Badger of Sado Island). Yashima Badger is believed to have transformed into an old man to guide the priest Kobo to Yashima when he had gotten lost. He served the Sunju Kannon and is believed to have done a lot of great works and is known today as a god of peaceful families/marriages and restaurants.
On the way up to Yashima Temple, if you look to your right, the area that is currently mostly land was once part of the sea, and this is where the famous Battle of Yashima actually took place. Atop the mountain, outside of Yashima Temple, lies the Pond of Blood. This is where the warriors that fought in the battle came to wash the blood off their swords, which turned the pond red, giving rise to its name.
There is also an aquarium, a great lookout point over the city of Takamatsu, the former site of Yashima Castle, and shops that serve Sanuki Udon, the famous dish from Kagawa Prefecture. Yashima Shrine is located at the foot of the mountain.
The ruins of Takamatsu Castle are what form Tamamo Park. The original castle was built in 1590 by Ikoma Chikamasa. This castle is famous in Japan for being one of the few coastal castles in the country. Although the castle itself no longer remains, there are two turrets (Tsukimi-yagura and Ushitora-yagura) remaining. The Tsukimi-yagura (moon-viewing turret) dates back to 1676. There are not so many remains from the walls of the castle, but what is there is nice. Within the grounds there is a nice garden for visitors to view.
The entrance fee is 200 yen. The area is not very large, so it should only take about 20-30 minutes to walk around and see everything.
This is the biggest garden I saw in Japan (I know, it is not the biggest, but I didn't visit all Japan gardens :), it takes more than two hours to walk by (in a hot day). There's also a small museum inside, but please, don't miss the nice views you may find from some spots!!!
The Kagawa Prefectural Museum was built to showcase the rich history of Kagawa Prefecture. The museum starts with a few exhibits of prehistoric objects, such as part of a wooly mammoth tusk. It then moves on to an attractive exhibit of the ancient dwellings and wildlife.
Other artifacts, such as the stone pagoda, are placed nicely in other parts of the museum to make the layout attractive. There are artifacts and information related to the Battle of Yashima, one of the most famous historic events to occur in Takamatsu. There are also exhibits related to the old castle town.
As is sensible, the exhibits are displayed in chronological order with more modern information and displays at the end.
Other floors of the museum are reserved for special exhibits which may add to the appeal if the subject interests you.
Entrance is 400 yen. Special exhibits have separate entrance fees.
Sunport Tower is located just outside Takamatsu Station. Inside there are some good souvenir shops for those who want to buy last minute souvenirs before leaving Shikoku. The souvenirs are from all over the island, not just Takamatsu/Kagawa.
The tower itself is not very attractive, but you can go up for free to see the view of the harbor from the large windows.
For the best view, and probably the best experience in the towers, you'll want to go to one of the restaurants. There are three restaurants here and they are all owned by former Iron Chefs. Chin Kenichi's Chinese restaurant is here, as is the French chef, Yutaka Ishinabe, and the Japanese chef Komei Nakamura. It's a fun experience for fans of the show.
Tamamo Park is place of the ruins of Takamatsu Castle. Not so big park, but it is good to take a time here, especialy on sakura-time.
Entrance fee is 200 yen.