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Region
Shikoku
Island
Shikoku
Largest City
Takamatsu
Population
1,022,843

Kagawa

No rest for the wicked

For pilgrims on the Shikoku 88 this is the end of the road. But that doesn’t mean you should stop exploring - Kagawa's array of attractions won’t let you anyway.

Kagawa might be the smallest of Shikoku’s four 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, as well as the Shinto sea shrine, Kompira-san, reachable via a calf-shredding 1,368 stone steps. Takamatsu is the northern gateway to Shikoku and also where you can catch the ferry to the island of modern art, Naoshima, or the olive-producing paradise of Shodoshima. Udon is Kagawa’s pride and soy; hop on an udon bus or hire an udon taxi to take you to one of the 800 specialty restaurants across the prefecture.

Naoshima Pumpkin

Discover the fascinating cluster of contemporary art islands on the Seto Inland Sea: Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima.

Kagawa’s main sights are clustered close together in the north and northwest, 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 Okayama in Honshu and encompasses some of the Shiwaku islands which make for an interesting day trip. Shop for a traditional paper fan as this is where 90% of them are produced.

Nearby is no. 75 of the Shikoku 88; Zentsu-ji. An impressive five-storey pagoda soars over the large temple complex, said to be the birthplace of famed monk Kobo Daishi. Head to Mie-do Hall to see the actual spot where he was born and to experience the incredible kaidan-meguri; walking to the end of the path in pitch-black darkness running your left palm along the left-hand wall puts you closer to Buddah.

Head to Shodoshima for stunning vistas and olives galore. Photo by hitoyama.

Zentsu-ji is also the birthplace of the square watermelon, sadly inedible but always good for a ridiculously expensive novelty gift. South of Zentsu-ji is the mountain village of Kotohira and Kompira-san, one of Shikoku’s most famous sights. A sweaty number of stairs lead to the shrine, dedicated to the God of Seafarers, and some breathtaking views of the ocean.

Takamatsu is the prefectural 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.

Places to visit

Naoshima Pumpkin

Naoshima

Good design for a better life on this world-class art island.

Teshima

Where the boundaries between worlds start to blur.


Top Museums to Visit on Teshima Island

A guide to the main museums on Teshima Art Island.

Naoshima Pumpkin

Top Museums to Visit on Naoshima

A guide to the main museums on Naoshima Art Island.


Shodoshima

Also known as "Shodo Isalnd" — with olives groves and jutting cliffs — is one of the most surprising mixes of culture in Japan.

Other Destinations in Shikoku

Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama, Ehime prefecture

Ehime

Pilgrim paths and ancient baths; Ehime is as much about the journey as it is the destination.

Cape Ashizuri in Kochi Prefecture

Kochi

Wild and rebellious, Kochi is one of Japan’s most rewarding off-the-beaten-track destinations.

Iya valley and Kazurabashi vine bridge, Tokushima Prefecture

Tokushima

Bordered by rugged mountain cliffs on one side and ocean whirlpools on the other, travelling through Tokushima feels like an Indiana Jones adventure.