Second day in Takamatsu stays within Kagawa prefecture. Plan is morning I go to Konpira shrine and afternoon within Takamatsu itself.
Since time is more leisurely today, I decide instead of catching the local train at Ritsurin, to walk to Takamatsu station and touring a vast swath of the shopping district along the way.
The main shopping arcade stretches from that supermarket I went to on the first night, all the way to about a block out from the station, some 1.5 kilometers in length.
Something caught my eye. It’s those banners hung along the arcade. An Evangelion exhibit, a cult hit anime back in the 90s that’s recently being remade as 4 anime films.
My day’s already planned out ahead so other than a intrigued smile, I pays it no further attention.
I catches the express to Kochi, the city in southern Shikoku. I’ll be getting off in just 3 stops at Kotohira, the express being 30 minutes faster and without transfer compared to local commuter trains. Yay JR Pass.
Konpira is a major shrine that for much of its history had been a mix of both shinto and buddhist worship. It was separated to be a shinto shrine by the Meiji government and this history is reflected in many of its architecture. The shrine is dedicated to gods that protects people of the sea, fishermans and sailors, in its grounds there’s a giant propeller, a shrine in remembrance of those who died trying to clear the waterways of mines after the war, and its ema halls (wooden plaques where people write their wishes or prayers) are full of photos of ships and other ocean going vessels.
A stone lantern next to Kotoden (the private rail)’s station is a giant lantern, the tallest in Japan. It acted as a lighthouse and could be seen in the far off harbor.
It’s about 800m from the JR station to the start of the pilgrim steps.
I emphasize the start of the pilgrim steps is because one of the many reasons Konpira is famous is party because how ridiculous it is to get to. Sitting half way up the mountainside, Konpira’s main hall can only be reached by climbing the 785 steps of the pilgrim path.
The effort required to take on the steps is made all that more intimidating by the number of shops along the pilgrim path offering to take care of your bags and lend you a walking stick. There are also kago (litter or sedan chair) for hire that takes you to the main gate (about half way).
After 13 days of traveling, including running 10km in Oirase, biking 9km in Toya and who uncounted km of walking each day, maybe scheduling such physical demanding spot is not that wise.
I reached to the main gate and and to take a breather. Good thing I carried drinks in my bag, far as I could see there are no vendings along the path. The shops sold drinks and bottle water, but as you’d expect at a premium.
Behind the main gate is a long entrance way lined with stone plaques naming major donors.
At the end of the entrance way is of course more steps. Lots and lots and lots more steps.
After the short flight of steps I reach a giant courtyard where the stables, the shrine’s offices and a giant propeller are located.
To reach the main shrine? Keep climbing. I think what earned Konpira’s approach its infamy is the way the steps are paced. 785 steps by themselves are hard but nothing unmanageable. What makes Konpira so devious is the way it lets you climb, then you see a roof in front of you and think you’ve done it, and it turns out to be nothing more than a gate, a courtyard, a small shrine or just a random hall. Whatever energy and strength you’ve gathered is crushed and lost and you’re having summon the will once more to face the steps.
If the prospect of 785 steps excites you, why not take on another 583 to the inner shrine.
I feel like a lemming. There’s a sign with an arrow, promising something at the end and away I go.
The steps to the main shrine took me 30minutes, the steps to the inner shrine will take me another 25.
After praying at the inner shrine, and after a bit of gasping and resting, I walk back down to the main shrine.
It’s late morning and the approach path is full of visitors.
I checked tabelog to see if there’s some place to eat around here, wary that I do not have much time if I wish to catch the next train.
I find a highly rated croquette place near the bottom of the steps. It’s just what I want, something I can bring with me and eat at the station or on the train if time is lacking.
I don’t have croquettes very often so I can’t comment on what’s a good croquette. The stuffing is generous and having been just made there’s no sogginess or oily taste to it.
Afternoon’s plan includes a quick tour of the Takamatsu castle ruins that’s near the station, after that Ritsurin garden.
Before the castle ruins I also took a walk along the dockside but with all the cranes and other factories around, there’s not much to see.
Within the grounds of the castle ruin is a garden and former government building. The garden is of the style of a dry garden, with river beds of pebbles and sand.
The castle ruin and its garden is not very big, easily covered in about 20 minutes.
Next is Ritsurin, once the garden of the local daimyo.
There are many pines in Ritsurin which the garden is famous for.
Ritsurin garden has 4 main ponds. The largest one southern pond can be toured by a small boat.
As this is used to be the private garden of the daimyo, it also served as a duck hunting ground for the lord’s pleasures. There are remains of ponds, ditches and hideouts from those olden days.
A few thoughts by the garden.
It’s about on par with the Korakoen in Okayama. Korakoen has more landscaping and a castle as its backdrop, while Ritsurin has more ponds which make for nice scenery too. One disappointment with Ritsurin is its north side (mostly lotus flower ponds) is much less interesting.
The garden has an audio guide but that is not necessary. Unlike Chusonji where the audio guide is most excellent, the audio guide does not offer much info over what’s written in the pamphlets.
It’s almost sundown by the time I leave the garden. I take a chance to do some window shopping on the way to the supermarket.
At 6pm the arcade is very lively, the junction outside the department store even has a live performance going on.
After dinner I start researching plans for tomorrow.
I have two main options, leave early and do some sightseeing in Osaka or leave late and do some more sightseeing here.
After some researching I find that I cannot fit Osaka in easily. The quickest way to Kansai airport is the Haruka express but that one only stops at Shin-Osaka then Tennoji, bypassing Osaka main station. This means I need to drop my bags off at Tennoji, but even that’s not ideal. Shin-Osaka is on the north side of the city and Tennoji on the south, it takes 20min just to get from Shin-Osaka to Tennoji. Then I suppose I can see Shitennoji temple and the shopping centers.
Alternatively I can stay in Takamatsu and leave around 11:30am, I can either go to the folk village museum about 10 minutes by train out or… go to the Evangelion museum.
Weighing the hassle of transferring at Shin-Osaka to the subway, I decide to sleep in and stay in Takamatsu. As to what I’d do exactly I defer the choice till tomorrow.