Even though it is the smallest of the 47 prefectures in Japan, Kagawa, with a population of just under 1 million, is definitely worth a visit. Kagawa is one of the four prefectures found on the island of Shikoku and it’s within easy reach of major cities such as Osaka and Kobe.
With an abundance of delicious food and fascinating history, it’s a great place to get off the beaten track in Japan.
Although public transport is available within Kagawa, in our opinion, having access to a vehicle will allow you to go at your own pace and make your experience much more enjoyable.
We spent 7 days exploring Kagawa in our camper van and will share our top experiences from our time in the region otherwise known as the “udon prefecture”.
1. Udon Noodles
Home to over 600 udon noodle restaurants, Kagawa is known as the home of udon in Japan. If you are a udon fanatic like us, you will thoroughly enjoy making your way around some of the best udon restaurants that Japan has to offer.
Udon noodles are the third most popular type of noodle in Japan after ramen and soba and the type of udon you can find in Kagawa is called “sanuki udon”.
We spoke to many locals during our time in Kagawa and gathered a list of their top recommended noodle shops before setting off on an udon tour where we visited 5 restaurants in the region.
Click here to see our blog post which provides more details about the restaurants we visited.
We also made a video about Kagawa's famous udon, check it out below!
2. Ritsurin Garden
Located in the heart of Takamatsu, the capital of Kagawa prefecture, Ritsurin garden is one of the most famous Japanese gardens in Japan. Even if you are not a garden person like us, you will be blown away by the peace, tranquility and beauty of this 400 year-old garden.
It takes around 2 hours to explore the garden and there is a great souvenir shop which sells many local specialities.
3. Sunset at Chichibugahama Beach
The best time to catch the sunset here is on a sunny day when it’s low tide. It’s one of the most spectacular sunsets we have seen in Japan, however you will not be alone! As the tide goes out, pools of water are left behind which create the image of the famous salt flats in Bolivia.
There is free parking and from around 5pm, the car park starts to fill with many youngsters and couples looking to capture the perfect shot for their instagram. Alongside the beach there are some cool cafes and a burger joint where you can take a rest if you want to get away from the crowds.
4. Konpira San
Konpira san is a beautiful shinto shrine dedicated to sailors and seafaring which is located at the end of a slightly challenging 785 steps. It’s a well known shrine in Japan and attracts hundreds of visitors per day. Once you have reached the top of the 785 steps, which takes around 30-45 minutes, you are half way up Mt Zozu.
There are many dog statues at this shrine since people used to send their dogs to pray for them instead of travelling themselves due to the remote location and difficult ascent. You can continue climbing and complete a total of 1368 steps to reach the inner shrine which is known as a power spot and can provide protection to those who pray there.
At the base of the mountain, there are many shops selling local souvenirs and crafts as well as ice cream vendors and udon restaurants. We highly recommend the udon, spring onion and soya sauce ice cream, it’s more delicious than it sounds!
Check out the video below which we made at Konpira San!
5. Konpira Kabuki Theatre
Kabuki is a traditional form of Japanese theatre and you can find the oldest Kabuki theatre in Japan in Kagawa. The theatre is no longer in operation apart from a few times per year.
However, for only 500 yen, you can explore the entire theatre including the dressing rooms, the cloakrooms, under the stage and the entrance. The theatre is in immaculate condition and is a great insight into the world of Kabuki.
6. Takamatsu Bars
With a population of around 500,000, we were pleasantly surprised with the nightlife in Takamatsu. Home to the longest indoor shopping arcade in Japan, the city felt very modern and full of life.
There are a number of unique bars in Takamatsu such as a magic bar where you watch magic tricks while enjoying a drink and a reggae bar which also serves delicious Jamaican food. Many bars and restaurants seem to have special offers available before 7pm so if you are looking to save a few yen, head out early.
Our favourite bar was a small sake bar run by a friendly couple who were extremely welcoming and knowledgeable about sake.
7. Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail
Many pilgrims set out to complete this famous 1200km pilgrimage in Shikoku each year. When done by foot, it takes an average of 6-8 weeks. Pilgrims can start at any temple but must visit every temple.
It’s a circular route and it is said that by visiting all or some of the temples, especially by foot, one’s worldly desires will start to disappear and reduce frustrations of everyday life by becoming fully aware of one’s true self.
Kagawa is home to 23 of the 88 temples on this pilgrimage route and we really enjoyed temple 84 which is otherwise known as Yashima-ji temple.
Located near Takamatsu city at the top of Mt Yashima, it is accessible by car or foot and there is a viewing platform which provides sweeping views over the city of Takamatsu and all the nearby islands.
While travelling in our van, we often visit onsens or sentos as our means of taking a shower. Our favourite onsen in Kagawa prefecture was Busshozan Onsen, south of Takamatsu.
This onsen has a modern feel and there are both indoor and outdoor baths available. The cost of entry is ¥700 but we felt it was worth it for the tranquil environment and clean facilities.