Kagawa

©Gplusmedia

Kagawa might be the smallest of Shikoku’sfour prefectures, but it packs one diverse sightseeing punch. It’s home to the final 22 temples on the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage, including Zentsu-ji, the largest of all of the temples.

You’ll also find the Shinto sea shrine, Kotohira-gu (also known as Konpira-san), which is reachable via a calf-shredding 1,368 stone steps. Takamatsu is the northern gateway to Shikoku. Here, you can catch a ferry to on of the islands of modern artsuch as Naoshima, Teshima, Inujima, or Shodoshima, an olive making paradise.

Takamatsu and Shodoshima

The spectacular Kankakei Gorge of Shodoshima.

Kagawa’s main sights are clustered close together in the north and northwest. They are connected by the Takamatsu Expressway, which runs through the entire prefecture. The port city of Marugame lies just next to the Seto Ohashi Bridge, linking Shikoku to Okayamain Honshu, and encompasses some of the Shiwaku islands, which make for a great day trip. You can also shop for a traditional paper fan (uchiwa) in Marugame. Around 90 percent of uchiwaare produced here.

Takamatsu is the prefecture’s capital. Pay a visit to Ritsurin-koen, a beautiful Edo-period walking garden. Across from Takamatsu lies Naoshima, an island that has slowly transformed into a live modern art exhibition with a number of interesting museums. You can even stay in one overnight. The spectacular Kankakei Gorge in the center of Shodoshima is nature’s own masterpiece.

Zentsu-ji and Kotohira-gu

The five-storied pagoda of Zentsuji.

Nearby is #75 of the Shikoku 88, Zentsu-ji. An impressive five-story pagoda soars over the large temple complex. It’s also the birthplace of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. Head to Mie-do Hall to see the actual spot where he was born and to experience the incredible kaidan-meguri, a tunnel enveloped in pitch-black darkness. It is said that running your left palm along the left-hand wall brings you closer to Buddha.

Running your left palm along the left-hand wall brings you closer to Buddha.

Zentsu-ji is also the birthplace of the square watermelon. Sadly they are harvested before they are ripe, making them nearly inedible. However, they make for a ridiculously expensive novelty gift. Speaking of food, Udon is Kagawa’s pride and joy. Hop on an udon bus or hire an udon taxi to take you straight to one of 800 udon restaurants spread across the prefecture.

South of Zentsu-ji is the mountain village of Kotohira and Konpira-san, one of Shikoku’s most famous sights. A sweaty number of stairs lead to the shrine. It’s dedicated to the God of Seafarers, and offers some breathtaking views of the ocean.

Plan your trip to Kagawa with the locations below!