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Takamatsu, a city of art facing a jewel of the world: the Seto


Kimono in Ritsurin

2017.03.31 by
How about taking a stroll around Ritsurin Garden dressed in a kimono?
A kimono rental service has recently started up behind the Shoko Shoreikan pictured below.
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You can find it in the annex below which is a Japanese style room that can be rented for tea ceremony and other events.
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The kimono rental service was started by a lovely woman named Chizuru who spent most of her childhood in England. She married a Japanese man from Takamatsu, and they moved here to be near his family. She was helping out with the family business, hairdressing, but as she speaks great English, she wanted to do something for people visiting Japan from other countries. In Japan hairdressers are also professional kimono dressers, so it made sense for her to combine these two skills. Here is Chizuru welcoming guests.
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She calls the service Kimono Dressing FUJI, and rents kimono for men, women and children in all sizes. It takes Chizuru just 15 minutes to dress visitors in a kimono, and you can even wear your jeans under it. Here she is dressing my friend very expertly.
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FUJI also sells accessories and bags made from antique kimono and obi.
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The rental service is open most weekends from 9AM to 4PM except when there is another group borrowing the room. 
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The cost for renting a kimono is 3,000 yen for 2 hours, during which you can enjoy a stroll around the garden. Hair accessories are an extra 300 yen and a kimono jacket is an extra 1,000 yen with a 3,000 yen deposit which is returned when you return the jacket. So watch for the FUJI sign when you visit Ritsurin Garden.
For more about FUJI


Garden Boat

2017.03.31 by
Ritsurin Garden in the center of Takamatsu is nestled around a network of ponds. For a small fee, visitors can take a little trip on those ponds in a Japanese wooden punt. 
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Recently, a new boat was added to the fleet and, although it looks like the others, it's special. Why? Because it was built under the guidance of Douglas Brooks, an American boat builder and researcher who has been rescuing the dying art of wooden boat building in Japan.
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Douglas demonstrating a technique

According to Douglas, Japanese boat builders guarded their skills very carefully. They kept their blueprints in their heads and never explained to their apprentices how to do things, unless their apprentice happened to be their son. 
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Douglas's blueprint

Apprentices had to learn by watching and mimicking their masters, and sometimes the master boat builder would trick them by doing things like making marks on pieces of lumber that were actually meaningless. When fiberglass began to replace wood, however, few young people learned the trade of wooden shipbuilding, and now the old shipwrights in Japan are dying out, taking their unrecorded skills with them. In the 1990s, Douglas began seeking out traditional Japanese boat builders and getting their permission to build along with them while documenting the process so that these skills will not be lost forever. 
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Boat in process

The boat in Ritsurin is not particularly traditional, but Douglas was invited to assist with it because of the local connections he made during the 2013 Setouchi Triennale when he built a traditional wasen boat for the Bengal Island project.
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Getting closer to finished

It was wonderful to see Douglas back in Kagawa again and learn more about Japanese wooden boat building. I really encourage you to check out his website and blog (below). And don't forget to go for a ride in the Ritsurin Garden boats!! (Sorry I didn't manage to get a photo of the new one in time. It wasn't launched yet the last time I went.)
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Douglas's website and blog:


Tamamo Park events

2016.11.21 by
The Setouchi Triennale Art Festival is now over and that's left a small gap in things cultural for, in and around our city. More's the pity however there is still plenty to see and experience for you when you come here. We'll keep you abreast of things as they happen and hopefully beforehand of course.

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Occasionally there are events held for foreign people to experience Japanese culture. The I-Pal Kagawa International Exchange is an office which arranges some of these events, so if you are in Takamatsu for a short period of time it's worth visiting and checking what events are going on. The staff speak English and can assist with helping you register. 


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In early November just such an event was held in the very beautiful Tamamo Park with it's lovely old authentic buildings, tea rooms and concert & exhibition halls. all of which are very near the central JR rail station and well worth a visit in itself.

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At this event and for a very nominal fee, foreign guests were invited to attend a Japanese tea ceremony, taste fermented rice wine and see a flower arrangement demonstration. The local Lions Club members were the hosts and they did an excellent job making this a big success for everyone.

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Tamamo Park is a personal favourite place of mine and if I need to clear my head, this is where I often come. 

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I'll be back with Cathy again next month with information for you about our wonderful garden city. December is almost here. Birds are migrating, the leaves falling and the weather cooling rapidly. Please take care.

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Morning Stroll

2016.06.30 by
Ritsurin Garden provides a peaceful retreat in the center of Takamatsu City. Developed over the span of a century beginning in 1625, it is exquisitely landscaped, and its many trees have been carefully pruned and trained for centuries. What many people don't realize is that the garden is open from sunrise to sunset, which from June through August means it's open from 5:30 AM to 7:30 PM.

I took an early morning stroll there the other day and was delighted to discover the irises in full bloom and the lotuses just starting.
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Iris pond above and irises below
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Lotus flowers just starting
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A heron joined me, no doubt looking for breakfast.
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Perhaps these carp looked tasty.
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A wide variety of flowering shrubs and trees allows visitors to enjoy flowers in almost every season. The iris are finished by the end of June but you can enjoy the lotus all through July. Lotus flowers unfurl in the early morning and close by noon so take advantage of the garden's early hours. Water lilies are at their best from late June through September.
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Getting there so early meant that I also got to see staff getting the garden ready. The Kikugetsutei Teahouse opens at 9:00. When I arrived, the shutters were still closed.
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But as there are 128 shutters in all, and they must be slid around the entire structure to hide them out of sight during the day, the staff began opening them at 8:30. This is a sight worth seeing if you have time to pause and watch. Pay particular attention to how the doors swing around the corner pole. It's just one example of the ingenuity of the carpenters and architects who created the beautiful tea houses in Ritsurin.
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Some gardeners were also busy cleaning the plant debris from the bottom of a pond using a net.
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The ponds must seem like paradise to the fish and turtles inhabiting them!
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I hope this quick tour will encourage you to drop in for your own early morning stroll.
Admission is 410 yen for adults, 170 yen for children. 
For more English information on Ritsurin Garden, see: http://ritsuringarden.jp/en.Top/en.top.html 


Megijima 2

2016.04.30 by
Since the first Setouchi Triennale in 2010, Megijima has accumulated new art sites with each Triennale. Of the new installations for 2016, my hands-down favorite is "feel feel BONSAI" by Masashi Hirao x SETOUCHI COGEIZ.
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Although a native of the mountains of Tokushima, Masashi Hirao studied bonsai in Saitama near Tokyo under a bonsai master. 
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Just like Takamatsu, Saitama has a long history of bonsai cultivation. According to Hirao, however, Kanto-style bonsai is more feminine and artistic while Kansai-style bonsai, into which category Takamatsu falls, is more masculine and stoic. 
In the art site on Megijima, which is located in an abandoned house within a pine grove on the beach, Hirao sought to create a bonsai installation unique to this specific island, one in which visitors could experience the bonsai's energy.
SETOUCHI COGEIZ, a group of about 15 designers who graduated from Takamatsu's technical high school, transformed the building into a perfect venue for showcasing Hirao's exquisite works. The structure retains the simple elegance of Japanese architectural proportion, detail and craftsmanship.
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At the same time, the team introduced such modern touches as resin tubes in the roof and ceilings to introduce natural light.
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The boundaries between "inside" and "outside" have been erased, challenging perceptual assumptions.
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In one secluded room, a lone pine coupled with sand and a soothing sound and video installation create the illusion of sitting on a beach at sunset while waves lap the shore.
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The bath, in contrast, is a profusion of thick, luxuriant moss that pulses with the energy of life and growth.
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Words and photos, however, cannot do this work justice. Although the Triennale Spring Session is over, "feel feel BONSAI" will be back for both the summer and autumn sessions. Hirao said that he will be replacing a number of bonsai with trees suited to each season, but even without that, this site is worth repeated visits. 
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There are also quite a few art sites on Megi that I have not even touched upon. I hope you'll be fortunate enough to come and explore.


Ritsurin Renewal

2015.11.24 by
Ritsurin Garden's stately Shoko Shoreikan (Commerce and Industry Promotion Hall), which was built in 1899, has just undergone extensive renovations and was recently reopened. The original structure, with its intriguing mixture of Western and Japanese elements, remains intact
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but the interior is now wheelchair accessible and equipped with several new features. One of these is a spacious hall in the north wing, which has been redesigned to accommodate banquets, parties and wedding receptions.
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The hall is bounded by a lawn garden on the north for garden parties
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and a courtyard garden on the south. Both provide lovely views.
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Another new feature is the Ritsurin Garden Cafe in the west wing below.
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I dropped in for lunch the other day with a friend and we tried the curry with assorted tempura,
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Italian pasta
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and a vegetarian dish of green tea noodles with fried tofu.
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All delicious with many of the ingredients procured locally. Prices range from 1,200 to 1,700 yen and there is a dessert and drink menu as well.
   My favorite new feature, however, is the George Nakashima room on the second floor of the central building.
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George Nakashima was a Japanese-American architect from Washington. Forcefully relocated to an internment camp in Idaho during WWII, he learned woodworking skills from a carpenter and fellow internee. He later combined these with his architectural design skills to become one of the greatest furniture designers and woodworkers in the world.
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Visitors to Ritsurin Garden can not only sit in Nakashima's signature Conoid Cushion Chairs, but can actually rent the room for meetings at very reasonable rates!! Please note, however, that the superb Minguren dining table and Conoid Chairs in the center are for viewing only, and they are masterpieces well worth viewing!
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For information on Ritsurin Garden and Shoko Shoreikan hours, etc. see http://ritsuringarden.jp/en.Top/en.top.html 


Spotlight on Fall Colors

2014.11.28 by

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fall colors in Takamatsu are currently at their peak, and the city is looking
its finest. One of the best places in town to enjoy the beauty of this season
is Ritsurin Garden. T
park is open from 6:30 AM every morning and, until the end of this week only,
has extended its viewing hours after dark. Until November 30 (Sunday), it will
stay open until 9:00 PM (last entry at 8:30PM) so that you can enjoy the beauty
of these leaves lit at night.

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you have time, I recommend visiting the garden both in the day and at night, because they
are two very different experiences. If you like photography, the morning has
the best light for sunshine falling through the leaves, while evening when the
trees are lit up by spotlights is quite spectacular.

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its popularity (it was awarded 3 stars in the Michelin Green Guide), Ritsurin
Garden is a surprisingly tranquil place that lets you imagine you are the
owner, like the lord for whom it was built over three centuries ago. Five of
the original seven teahouses are still intact, nestled in picturesque spots for
viewing from and for being viewed.

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teahouses can be entered for the fee of tea and sweets such as Higurashitei and Kikugetsutei.
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was designed without an entrance so that it can be approached and entered from
many angles (now there's only one entrance), and the proportions were designed
to mimic a boat floating on the water so that the lord could enjoy viewing it while
punting on the pond. For 600 JPY, you can do that, too.

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I visited last week, a friend who serves as a volunteer guide showed me the
best spots for viewing. She told me they now have guides who speak, English,
Chinese, Korean and French as well.

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November 29 and 30, 2014, visitors will be entertained by the Oidemai (Welcome)

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Caravan features six different characters from local history who not only
perform on the stage but also wander around the park adding atmosphere, like these
two below.

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thanks to my guide, Ogawa-san for the fantastic night photos!

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Other spots for enjoying autumn colors in Takamatsu include the top of Yashima, Shikokumura, and the hills of Shionoe.

Ritsurin Garden Information http://www.pref.kagawa.lg.jp/ritsurin/index_e.html

Located 2
km south of JR Takamatsu Station. Take the JR line from Takamatsu Station to
Ritsurin-koen Kitaguchi Station (5 min. 2 trains/hour). It's a
5-minute walk from the station to the garden's north gate. You will do a lot of
walking in the park so unless you have a lot of time and like walking, I
suggest taking the train or a taxi. A
dmission: JPY 410
(JPY 170 for children). 

For more info on Takamatsu:






Staying Cool in Tamamo

2014.07.30 by Cathy Hirano
Here's a great way to escape the heat on a summer's night in Takamatsu: drop into Tamamo Park, which is just across from the Clement Hotel at Takamatsu Port. Entrance is free from 5PM to 9PM every evening from July 18 to August 31. (Closed on August 13 for the city festival fireworks display.)

Tamamo Park entrance

The paths are atmospherically lit with lanterns and a cooling mist is piped through the garden.

I happened to go during the Gokan Dining event, which was held from July 19 to 27. This creative initiative by talented local artisans and top-class chefs took place in the stately Hiunkaku, a beautiful 90-year-old wooden manor made by the former lord of the prefecture.

A large hall was transformed into a beautiful dining room decorated with locally produced art and bonsai. Guests were served a fusion of Japanese and Italian cuisine presented on table ware by local potters and lacquerware artists, and were entertained with live music.

Looking into the dining area

The other rooms served as galleries for the local artisans works and these were open for free to the public. As the dinner was booked solid in advance, I dropped in to enjoy the free art show and was very impressed. Many of the artisans were on hand to explain their work, which made the event both fun and very personal.

There was exquisite lacquer ware by Takako Goto

And some playful metal and plant sculptures by Koichiro Kishi

The artist

They reminded me of Hayao Miyazaki's Laputa ? robots powered by and gradually being consumed by vegetation.

Aji stone workers were on hand as well. They explained that working with artisans in other fields to prepare for this event gives them the chance to learn and experiment with new materials and techniques. In the foreground, you can see an experiment with lacquer on stone.

And then there was the pottery

Including gracefully refined ceramics by Tomomi Hiraoka

And strong, earthy works by Tsuyoshi Ueno.

Although the gallery and sensory dining experience are over until next year, the park is still open for free every night until the end of August. So next time you want to escape the heat, visit this Tamamo Park for an evening stroll.

For more info on Takamatsu:

Other Takamatsu bloggers:


Ritsurin Garden Events

2014.05.30 by Cathy Hirano
From spring through fall, there are plenty of events to enjoy at Ritsurin Garden. In May, the garden's Folkcraft Museum featured beautiful old kites and banners with themes related to Boys' Day.

Boys' Day (May 5) was renamed "Children's Day" a few decades ago in the interest of gender equality, but the motifs showed that the festival's origins were definitely male-oriented. The kites and banners featured heroes from Japanese folktales and warriors from famous battles, such as the Genpei Wars of the 12th century.

The exhibit was very tastefully done and the regular permanent exhibit surrounding the works really added to the atmosphere. On weekends, the neighboring building hosts craftsmen who demonstrate how their works are made. When I went, I was treated to exhibitions by a lacquer artist and a wood carver.

There was also a bonsai sale taking place just outside, with some lovely specimens.

Takamatsu produces 80% of the pine bonsai in Japan and a walk around Ritsurin Garden demonstrates that it has ancient roots in this town. Many of the pines in the garden have been trained into various shapes over the centuries and are meticulously and lovingly tended by a crew of gardeners.

This visit, I learned that Ritsurin also has a medicinal garden. One of the "medicines" cultivated now is green tea.

A tea-picking event is held annually and local people are invited to come and pick the tea in the garden. I wonder if that is the tea that is served in the two lovely teahouses that grace Ritsurin.

Free tea tasting was also being offered at the new building near the east entrance by some very sweet young ladies. It was not from the garden though.

As I said, there's lots happening at Ritsurin from spring through fall. Even when there are no events, the garden is designed so that something is in bloom in every season. So drop in when you need a break and enjoy.

For more on Ritsurin:

For more info on Takamatsu:

Other Takamatsu bloggers:


Magic Gold

2013.11.28 by Cathy Hirano
If you've read this blog before, you will know that I love Ritsurin, a traditional Japanese garden covering 75 hectares in the middle of Takamatsu. At this time of year, Ritsurin hosts its autumn leaf viewing festival, an event that has continued for the last 12 years.

The garden is illuminated until 9PM, allowing visitors to enjoy the beauty of the colored leaves and deep green evergreens shimmering in the night.

On the weekend, concerts and food stalls add to the festivities. This year the festival runs until Sunday evening, December 1. If you have the chance to go, I highly recommend it. While you're there, take a punt ride on the pond.

As a Ritsurin Garden fan, it is always a delight to discover something new. My latest find is those jagged rocks sticking out of the pond in the far left of the photo below.

Those are no ordinary rocks. Traditional Japanese garden design was heavily influenced by the Chinese, and Ritsurin likewise contains many allusions to Chinese philosophy. Those rocks represent an island located far across the sea, which in ancient Shinxian mythology was believed to house immortals. Twice a year?a month before the winter solstice and a month after?these stones turn to gold.

This phenomenon was first noticed by volunteer guides while taking visitors across the bridge just as the sun was sinking behind the hill. Hearing cries of surprise, they turned to see the rocks shining like gold. Rumors of this phenomenon began spreading about 4 years ago, but not many people manage to be in the right place at the right time. The foot of an ancient tree in the teahouse garden also turns gold.

This little bit of magic is caused by a glass covered building outside the park. At just the right time of year, it catches the rays of the sinking sun and reflects gold light into the garden. I have always thought the few buildings visible from the garden ruin the view. Although I still hope that they will be removed some day, twice a year I will forgive them for being there. This special "light show" lasts only 4 minutes and occurs around November 22 and January 22 between 3:30PM and 4 PM.
(Many thanks to Hiroko who caught the "show" on camera.)

Takamatsu Access:
Takamatsu can be reached by direct flights from Tokyo's Haneda Airport, by express bus from Kansai International Airport (3 hr), and by direct flights from China and Korea. It can also be reached by taking the bullet train to Okayama and changing to the Marine Liner bound for Takamatsu (runs every 1/2 hour; takes 1 hour). For more info see http://wikitravel.org/en/Takamatsu
Discover Scenic Sites and Art around Takamatsu on Bicycle Aji stone and stone art appreciation 1 day course Art, Architecture, Sightseeing in 1 Day Seto Inland Sea Jewel of the World 1 Day Satisfaction Course Learn about Takamatsu  in 1 minute Seto Inland Sea,  Jewel of the World Let’s enjoy learning Bonsai skills Access to major tourist areas

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