Takamatsu has the claim to fame of being the biggest city in all of Shikoku so for that reason alone it sees more visitors than many other parts of the island. If you plan to visit Shikoku then this can be a good place to start your journey and this is also the capital city of the wider Kagawa Prefecture.
Like many cities in Shikoku, this is a scenic port town and this has made it one of the easiest places to visit, and it often goes by its local nickname which is the ‘Gateway of Shikoku’. As you would expect, the region is full of interesting attractions like parks and museums, and you can also travel to neighboring islands like Naoshima or visit pretty adjacent towns like Yashima.
Takamatsu is also known by another nickname however which is the ‘Udon Kingdom’ and you can slurp on bowls of these chewy noodles all over the city.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Takamatsu…
1. Visit Ritsurin Park
Ritsurin Park is one of the main attractions in Takamatsu and is one of the largest and prettiest gardens in the region.
It would have been built in the days of old so that the Sanuki and Sasuma warlords had a place to relax and unwind and such is its beauty that it has also been declared a Japanese National Treasure in its own right.
As you walk around the park you can take in sights such as the Engetsu-kyo Bridge which the park is most famous for, as well as the iconic ‘Red Wall of Rocks’. There is also a lush lotus pond here and you will find the gushing Okedoi-no-Taki.
If you get tired from walking around, you can also enjoy a spot of tea at one of the many tea houses here which also perform traditional Japanese tea ceremonies for guests.
2. Try the udon
One of the most famous foodstuffs in Takamatsu is the mighty udon noodle which is one of the best loved noodles in Japan.
Udon noodles are known for being thick and chewy and you can get them all over the city, prepared in a number of different ways.
These include Kake Udon which are hot noodles served with dashi and a soy broth and you can also have this topped with a kind of sliced fish sausage.
If you prefer, you can order Kitsune Udon which is served with tofu instead of fish.
There are also other riffs on basic udon dishes such as Tempura Udon which is topped with tempura shrimp, and if you want a cold variety you can go for Zaru Udon, presented on a wooden tray and served with an accompanying dipping sauce.
3. Attend the Sanuki Takamatsu Festival
The Sanuki Takamatsu Festival is held every year in August and is known for its myriad attractions.
There is a fireworks display held on the second day and you can also catch a range of traditional dance performances.
Part of the joy of the festival is that it takes place in a central park in Takamatsu which means that you can spend time strolling around and taking in the performances, and it is also close to the larger Sanport entertainment and shopping complex.
As you would expect, you can also find a range of delicious food stalls here making this the perfect place to sample some delicious local bites from around Shikoku.
4. Visit Takamatsu City Museum of Art
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Takamatsu has a flourishing local arts scene which you can check out firsthand at the Takamatsu City Museum of Art.
Here you will find a range of interesting paintings from all over Japan, and the museum is actually housed in what would have been the Bank of Japan.
There are also a number of rotating galleries here which have visiting works from other parts of Japan and abroad.
5. Walk around Tamamo Park
Tamamo Park is one of the other main parks in the city and would also have been the site of the Takamatsu castle in the days of old.
Nowadays however not much of the castle still remains although there are some out buildings dotted around the complex such as museums and there is talk of a renovation project in the works.
Locals flock here in the spring time to check out the myriad cherry blossom trees that dot the park and burst into bloom around April.
6. Tour the Sanuki Folkcraft Museum
If you want to know more about the local handicrafts and folk traditions in Takamatsu then you need to head to the Sanuki Folkcraft Museum.
The museum is located in the gorgeous Ritsurin Park and you will find galleries that will take you back in time to the Tokugawa Dynasty.
Some of the exhibits include items such as jewelry, textiles and other local arts and crafts.
7. Catch some festivals
If you planning to visit Takamatsu then it is well worth checking out if there are going to be any festivals on when you are in town.
The chances are that there may well be, as Takamatsu has a range of cultural events that take place throughout the year.
If you are in town in December then you can enjoy the aptly named Winter Festival which sees a range of delightful Christmas themed displays, and in June you can also check out the Shionoe Firefly Festival which is an ode to these graceful insects.
8. Travel to Naoshima
If you want to get out of the center of Takamatsu then consider a trip to one of the islands in the neighboring Seto Inland Sea that borders the city.
One of the best known islands in this region is Naoshima which is known for its quirky modern arts installations.
Many of these take the form of large ceramic pumpkins and other oddities, and it only takes around an hour to get to Naoshima from Takamatsu by ferry.
9. Check out Takamatsu Castle
What is left of Takamatsu Castle is located in Tamamo Park or Tamamo-koen as it is known locally.
The castle would have been built in 1588 originally, but unfortunately due to erosion and various conflicts over the years, it fell into disrepair and is now in the process of being lovingly restored.
One of the parts that has remained intact however is the inner moat.
This moat however is worth a look as it is filled with seawater and if you are here in the spring time you can catch a swimming race here where people jump into the cold water as a show of strength.
10. Go shopping
If you want to go shopping when you are in Takamatsu then you are in luck as this part of Shikoku is known for its shotengai which are just long shopping streets which form a kind of arcade.
These arcades sell a whole range of different items such as home furnishings, clothes and kitchenware, and you will also find a wide selection of cafes and restaurants, including Takamatsu’s ubiquitous udon shops.
11. Visit the Kagawa Museum
The Kagawa Museum is a great spot to visit if you want to learn more about wider Kagawa Prefecture of which Takamatsu is a part.
Here you will find a number of galleries and exhibits which tell the story of the prefecture and you can also see items such as weaponry and ancient textiles.
One thing to note however is that much of the signage is in Japanese.
12. Take in the views at the Takamatsu Symbol Tower
The Takamatsu Symbol Tower has the claim to fame of being the tallest building in all of Shikoku and it was built in 2004. It is blessed with a number of observation platforms and from these you can look out over the harbor and out to sea.
Also located within the building is a shopping mall which has a number of restaurants, cafes and shops.
Even though this is a rather touristy attraction, it is still worth visiting as it offers you some of the best vistas around Takamatsu.
13. Take the train to Yashima
If you want to see a little more of the wider region around Takamatsu then head to Yashima which is a ten minute train journey away.
This pretty town was one the site of the great Battle of Yashima in 1185 and so history buffs will find plenty to enjoy on a trip here including the Yashima Shrine which dates from 1652 originally.
Other more modern highlights include the Yashima Aquarium as well as the Tamamo Lighthouse.
14. Visit Shikokumura
Also located in neighboring Yashima, and well worth a visit, is Shikokumura which is an open air museum that is made up of traditional houses built in the signature Shikoku style.
You can stroll around the complex at your leisure and check out how people would have lived here in the days of old.
There is also a small art museum here that even has a few pieces by Pablo Picasso.
15. Try the barbecue
Takamatsu is mostly known for its delicious udon noodles, but if you want to vary the menu a little bit then make sure you also try the toothsome barbecue here.
One of the most famous places to try this is at Yakiniku Jinsuke which is has seen many famous visitors and celebrities, and you can get barbecued meats which pair perfectly with the local beer.
There is also a set menu that comes with grilled meats, soup, rice and a selection of local pickles.