If you are visiting Japan and plan on traveling to the island of Shikoku, then Kagawa is a great spot for sightseeing with its many parks, museums, and art. In fact, there is so much art in this part of Japan, that you will be spoilt for choice. From galleries, whole islands dedicted to artistic creations, and museums converted from abandoned houses. Here are the best eight spots:
1. Ritsurin Park
(image by my-kagawa.jp)
The castle took 100 years to complete by generations of feudal lords from the Sanuki Takamatsu clan during the Edo Era, and it was used as a villa. Currently, it has been designated nationally as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty and has received 3 stars on the Michelin Green Guide Japon for its impressive pond garden. With Mt. Shiun in the background, 6 ponds and 13 artificial hills have been skillfully arranged so that the huge 750,000㎡ garden has been said to provide a different view with each step with a beauty that resembles that of a Japanese painting. In spring, there are plum and cherry blossoms, in summer there are irises and water lilies, the maples in autumn, and the camellias in winter, along with other blossoms all throughout the year, in beautiful harmony with the leaves, stones and water.
There are also various facilities within the garden. The Sanuki Folk Craft Hall has the New Folk Craft Pavilion, the Furniture Pavilion, the Tile Pavilion and the Old Folk Craft Pavilion where approximately 1000 exhibits of pottery, woodwork, lacquerware and other items used in daily are on display. At the Commerce and Industry Hall, the traditional craft products of Kagawa Prefecture are on display and on sale, and on the weekends, the production of these items are shown. The largest building within the park, Kikugetsu-tei, is a tea house that was built in the Edo Era where you can view the South Lake at your leisure while enjoying either matcha or sencha tea with some Japanese confections. Engetsukyo Bridge is the largest of 15 bridges in the park, and there the reflection of the crescent moon on the lake surface is lovely; brilliant carp can also be viewed there, too. There is feed that is sold for the fish in the park, so you can enjoy feeding the carp while taking that stroll. Also, you can experience a leisurely boating excursion around the 7,900㎡ South Lake, with the view of the garden from the boat paddled by an oarsman being exceptional. Every month on the 4th Sunday from 10:30, there is a koto recital at Kikugetsu-tei.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 410 / Child: ¥ 170
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Ritsurin Park
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Ritsurin Park
- Tours of Ritsurin Park
(image by flickr.com)
Naoshima is a small island floating on top of the Seto Inland Sea north of Kagawa Prefecture. Everywhere within the lush green interior of the island, there is the unique presence of art scattered about. Naoshima can be reached by boat from the Port of Takamatsu within about 50 minutes or from Uno Port in Okayama Precture within 15 minutes. The area can be toured within half a day to a full day. You can easily navigate on the island on foot, rental bikes or bus. The island is separated into 3 areas and at the Miyanoura area around the harbor, there is Umi-no-Eki with a tourist information center and a souvenir shop, and the objet d’art of the world-famous Yayoi Kusama, the Red Pumpkin. 40 minutes’ walk away in the Gotanji area, there is the Chichu Museum which includes an exhibit of Monet’s “Water Lilies”, the museum/hotel of Benesse House & Museum, and Kusama’s Yellow Pumpkin. Another 30 minutes’ walk away in Honmura Ward, there are facilities such as the Art House Project with its converted old houses as contemporary art and ANDO MUSEUM which profiles the world-famous architect, Tadao Ando.
While enjoying fishing and swimming at the beautiful beach, there is the nearby Tsutsuji-so Beach House which is a popular accommodation where you can stay at a Mongolian yurt, camping trailers or even cottage-style Japanese rooms. You will want to spend a full day leisurely enjoying the beautiful natural landscapes along the Seto Inland Sea. Also, Naoshima is proceeding with its initiatives as an eco-friendly island, and so you can visit interesting facilities such as the KagawaNaoshima Environmental Center which recycles waste with the latest technology and the Valuable Metal Recycling Facility. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes on the island so you will want to partake in the fresh seafood from the Seto Inland Sea.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Naoshima
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Naoshima
- Tours of Naoshima
3. Kotohira-gu Shrine
(image by my-kagawa.jp)
Kotohira-gu Shrine is known by the locals as Konpira-san and is dedicated to the god of the sea. Known for its long sando path of stone stairs to the shrine, it takes 785 steps to the main shrine and a total of 1368 steps to the rear shrine. On the way, there are various Important Cultural Properties and other places of interest before finishing that one-way trip to the top in around 30 minutes. At the 100th step, there is Ichinozaka Torii and two Bizen guardian dogs on either side. At the 168th step, there is Tomyo-do with numerous hanging lanterns lighting your way on the sando at night. At the 351st step, there is the general office for Kotohira-gu, the Bronze Lantern and the Roumon which will inform you of the morning and evening schedules. At Step 365, you will find the main gate, Daimon, for the holy precincts of the shrine, and from Steps 365 to 431, the Sakura-no-Banba is a highlight for the beautiful cherry trees during spring.
During the Edo Era, commoners were forbidden to travel, but they were allowed on religious pilgrimages, and it is said that trips to Ise Jingu Shrine in Mie Prefecture and Kotohira-gu Shrinewere events of a lifetime. There were pet dogs who also went on the trip as substitute pilgrims as they were brought from traveler to traveler. Such dogs were called Konpira Inu. At the 431st step, there is a bronze statue of a konpira inu. At the drawing room by the 477th step, the sliding door paintings are open to the public. At the Haraedo-sha Shrine by the 595th step, a god to sweep away sin and corruption is enshrined. The Asahi Shrine at Step 628 is a sight to behold for its lovely ornaments on the inside of the roof. Sakakimon Gate at Step 642 is known for one of its pillars being mistakenly posted upside down. At the Main Shrine Amulet Place of Conferment, you can obtain the Golden Charm of Happiness and the Mini-Konpira Inu. The charms are woven from silk thread dyed in ukon (turmeric), and are popular for bringing health and happiness against illness and disaster. From the observation point, you can get a panoramic view of the Sanuki Plain and Seto Ohashi Bridge.
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Kotohira-gu Shrine
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Kotohira-gu Shrine
- Tours of Kotohira-gu Shrine
4. Benesse House Museum
(image by upload.wikimedia.org)
Under the concept of “Co-existence of nature, architecture and art”, this facility was built merging a contemporary art museum and a hotel. The hotel is composed of the conceptually different Museum, Oval, Park and Beach buildings, all of which were designed by the world-famous architect Tadao Ando. A beautiful view of the Seto Inland Sea can be seen no matter which suite you are in, and there is a wide variety of rooms available from the reasonable Twin Room to the suite room ideal for families. There is also an art space and exhibits which are only open for guests, and the hotel is popular also with overseas travelers who spend a night in Naoshimaespecially to see the art and the beautiful views at sunrise, sunset and night. At the main dining room, Terrace Restaurant Umi-no-Hoshi, you can enjoy a dinner which serves fresh seafood from the Seto Inland Sea. Also, guests of the hotel can enjoy the art museum for free.
The Museum part of the facility is designed so half of it is situated outdoors, and so you can feel the nature of the outside while also inside. There are art works everywhere within the facility, on the shoreline outdoors and even within the forest so that artists have created site-specific works for outdoor display. Therefore, you can appreciate art while taking that stroll in the midst of the lush nature at Seto Inland Sea. Free gallery tours are given by hotel staff. Also, the lunches served at the in-museum Japanese kaiseki restaurant, Issen, are popular using ingredients from the sea. There is also a café and a museum shop available which have a view of the Seto Inland Sea.
Admission: ¥ 1,030
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Benesse House Museum
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Benesse House Museum
- Tours of Benesse House Museum
5. Ando Museum
(image by flickr.com)
Ando Museum was established by the world-famous architect Tadao Ando in tandem with the opening of the Seto Inland Sea International Art Festival 2013. Ando himself designed the museum within a restored 100-year-old house situated close to his own house project of Minamidera in an old townscape remaining in Honmura District. White its exterior retains its status as a house, the interior is a double-layered inner space framed by bare concrete walls, and while the museum has taken due consideration for the streets of Naoshima, the building is a work in itself incorporating Ando elements down to the last detail such as the slanted walls, the ring-shaped room and the way of introducing light. It not only has taken into mind its formative beauty but it has also been functionally designed to allow light in efficiently to spread out throughout the whole room, at the same time allowing management of the space so that the environment can be controlled through the power of nature.
The models, photographs and sketches for the projects that Ando has tackled on Naoshima such as Benesse House, Chichu Museum, and Lee Ufan Museum are introduced, and furthermore, information regarding his career, and a model and photos of his signature work, The Church of Light, are also exhibited. Also, the change and transfiguration that has made up the recent history of Naoshima are also introduced. At the museum shop, postcards and other stationery related to Ando are sold along with items that have his signature and drawings. If you visit the museum after touring some of his other works on the island, you will get an even deeper understanding. The museum is very small, but the labors of his designs have been condensed so that it is truly a place that will want to be visited by his fans.
Admission: ¥ 510
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Ando Museum
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Ando Museum
- Tours of Ando Museum
6. Chichu Art Museum
(image by flickr.com)
The museum was created in 2004 to represent Naoshima as a place to consider the relationship between nature and people. Inside the museum, only the works of Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter De Maria are on display, and the facility was designed by world-famous architect Tadao Ando to match these works so that the museum itself is an art work. So that Naoshima’s beautiful landscape wouldn’t be harmed, almost all of the museum has been built underground to let in natural light, and throughout the journey of a day and the four seasons, the expressions of the art works and the space change second by second in what is a very unique museum.
The gallery that displays five exhibits of the “Water Lilies” series painted by the Impressionist Claude Monet in his later years doesn’t use any lighting equipment at all, only using natural light to illuminate the room and the works as a sublime expression of direction. It has all been planned to integrate the size of the gallery, the design, the space and Monet’s paintings. Also, by the passageway leading to Monet’s gallery, Monet’s garden by Giverny has been recreated with about 200 kinds of the actual flowers and water lilies cultivated by the artist himself planted there so that it can be enjoyed throughout the four seasons. The gallery devoted to the California-born Walter De Maria is a spherical room with a 2.2-meter diameter containing 27 wooden carvings covered in gold leaf; it’s an art space that resembles a temple and the entire space along with the art works were assembled under the direction of De Maria. As well, the only lighting is the natural light that comes in from the ceiling, and depending on the timing, the lighting of the room will change dramatically to evoke various expressions. For James Turrell, three of his representative works over the decades that actually use light itself are on display, and every Friday and Saturday only at sunset, there is a night program held where visitors can get a taste of a world that is different from that shown during the daytime. You will also want to drop by the café and museum shop from where you can get a beautiful view of the Seto Inland Sea.
Admission: ¥ 2,060
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Chichu Art Museum
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Chichu Art Museum
- Tours of Chichu Art Museum
7. Naoshima Sento
(image by flickr.com)
Located right by Miyanoura Port where the Naoshima ferries arrive and depart, the public bath known as I Love Yu stands out with its exterior. Designed as a place of exchange between the art-loving tourists and island locals who can relax, this is a facility where you can enjoy art while taking a bath. Based on the designs of Shinro Otake who had a hand in the Naoshima House Project of Haisha which involved turning a former residence/dentist’s office into a work of art, the project for I Love Yu got underway thanks to the cooperation between the creative group graf and Japanese company INAX. With an unexpected design when compared to Japanese sento culture, the world of Otake is reflected not just in its exterior and interior but also everywhere among the bathtubs, bath paintings, mosaic tiles and washroom ceramics.
The bathroom mural of “Female Divers in the Sea” is a true mural consisting of unglazed tiles and illustrations on Gosu porcelain with glaze applied to bring out the gloss and then fired. For both the men’s and women’s baths, two types of murals have been designed. Over the doorways of the two baths, there are works of art placed which leave quite an impact. There is even art on the metal fittings for the showers, and different art can be seen on each of the handles. Aside from the bathrooms, there is illustrated pottery by the toilets and sinks, and art exists everywhere within the facility. Not just famous for the design, the sento also makes use of equipment that is easy on the environment such as a smokeless boiler. At the reception post as you enter, you can get original goods such as T-shirts and towels designed by Otake. A bath set is also sold so you can come to I Love Yu without needing to bring anything. Please be aware that taking photographs is not allowed within the building and that visitors cannot enter the bath wearing swimwear.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 510 / Child: ¥ 210
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Naoshima Sento
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Naoshima Sento
- Tours of Naoshima Sento
8. Art House Project
(image by flickr.com)
Within the old-fashioned townscape of Honmura Ward on Naoshima Island, abandoned homes in the area have been converted by artists into works of art themselves. The project was started in 1998, and currently, there are 7 homes on display: Kadoya, Minamidera, Kinza, Go’o Shrine, Ishibashi, Gokaisho and Haisha. Switching the focus from “nature and art” to “people”, this project has become noticed as a new experiment in art.
Kadoya was the first work completed within the project. It is a restored 200-year-old residence displayed as an art exhibit by Tatsuo Miyajima. Minamidera was designed by Tadao Ando to fit the work by James Turrell. Obtaining numbered tickets is necessary due to a limit on the number of people who can enter at one time. In Minamidera, you can get that sense of the out-of-the-ordinary in the darkness under the theme of light. Kinza is a small house that is over a hundred years old and has been converted into an art work through the use of traditional craftsmanship. Advance reservations are necessary and just one person at a time can enter the house for up to 15 minutes. Go’o Shrine is an old shrine from the Edo Era which has been given a makeover. It is now an artistic structure which includes a glass staircase linking a stone hut to the main shrine. Ishibashi is the restored home of a salt merchant who prospered during the Meiji Era. Gokaisho is a site where the island natives gathered to play the Japanese game of I-go. There are camellia flowers on display in the interior. Haisha was the home of a dentist which has been wholly converted into a work of art by Shinro Otake. It is a building that stands out conspicuously for its style that resembles a painting and a sculpture.
Admission: ¥ 1,030