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Japan Hour

Road Trip On Kotoku Line - Part 1

Road Trip On Kotoku Line - Part 1

Highlights this week include a tea house loved by feudal lords, a scenic roadside station which sells unique souvenirs made from udon noodles and a "Gaga Special" dish, named after its inventor.

The next two-day journey of enquiry and discovery takes place on the Kotoku Line, which connects Kagawa Prefecture and Tokushima Prefecture. We will start from Takamatsu Station in Kagawa and travel to the goal of Tokushima Station in Tokushima. The line has 29 stations and spans a total distance of 74.5km. 

Our first stop is Ritsurin-Koen-Kitaguchi, two stations away. A gentleman here tells us about Kita Rihei Ware and suggests we visit the lady who makes this type of pottery. We go to her workshop and find out more about the business. It got started more than 370 years ago when the lord of the Takamatsu Domain invited founder Kita Rihei to his mansion and got him to make personal pottery items. An example is a bowl with a hollyhock Matsudaira family crest and a large painted plate from the early Edo period. Rihei Ware is known for its three-dimensional artwork. It sometimes takes more than one month to finish one piece of pottery. The lady owner also shows us a huge wash basin made by the founder more than 300 years ago for the lord of the domain. When it was appraised in the past, it was said to be valued at about 30 million yen.  

The lady from the pottery place recommends we check out Ritsurin Garden and the Kikugetsutei tea house, where the domain lord would take a break. The Japanese garden has been designated as a special scenic spot by the government. The Matsudaira Family of the Takamatsu clan who ruled this area in the Edo period renovated and expanded it for future generations to use it as a suburban residence. The Kikugetsutei tea house within the garden was built in the Edo period. It offers a spectacular view of the garden pond and greenery. It was loved by Takamatsu’s feudal lords for many generations. Inside the tea house, we are served a confectionery called Kenjoguri. A speciality, it is made with Wasanbon sugar from Kagawa and chestnuts.  

After this, we catch the 11.15am train from Ritsurin-Koen-Kitaguchi Station and go to Sanuki-Mure. The next train from here will leave at 1.20pm. A local we speak to tells us about a roadside station called Genpei no Sato Mure. We walk for about half an hour before reaching the place. The park behind the roadside station boasts a panoramic view of Shodo Island and Seto Inland Sea’s Shido Bay. 

Opened in 2007, the roadside station sells more than 500 kinds of products, including crafts from Kagawa Prefecture and unique souvenirs related to udon noodles. Examples are a cute business card holder popular among people from Kagawa Prefecture, and brooches, pin badges and key chains made with coated real udon noodles. 

We go to the neighbouring station of Shido by the 1.20pm train. We ask a passenger about udon noodle restaurants and he mentions Men D. We reach Shido Station in less than five minutes and have until 2.55pm to roam around. We go to Men D, a self-service shop known for its chewy udon noodles made with high-quality flour. For the toppings, it has 17 different kinds of tempura including squid, shrimp and aubergine.

The staff recommends a dish called Gaga Special - regular soy sauce-based udon noodles are served with tuna, grated daikon radish, pickled plums and chopped perilla leaves. We also order another udon dish, which features simmered beef, grated daikon radish and an onsen egg. We are curious about the story behind Gaga Special and find out it was created by one of the employees who is nicknamed Gaga. We even get to meet “Ms Gaga”, whose actual name is Kagamihara.  

Our last stop for the day is Sanuki-Tsuda Station. We ask a local about lodging and the person suggests a place called Quataraso which is known for its beautiful views of the sea. On the way there, we pass by Tsuda no Matsubara, which is a part of the Seto Inland Sea National Park. It is a famous scenic spot on a white sand beach with around 3,000 pine trees. They were planted near the beach in the early Edo period as a windbreak forest for the Iwashimizu Shrine. 

We then walk to Quataraso, which we later find out refers to a facility with hot spring baths and pools. Quataraso Sanuki Tsuda is part of the Kuapark Tsuda, a resort hotel which opened in 1996. Guests staying at the hotel can use the Quataraso facility for free. All the hotel rooms face the sea, offering magnificent views of the Seto Inland Sea and the surrounding islands.

Before dinner, we head to the beach for a stroll. We then go to the hotel’s restaurant, where we order dried sardines from Ibuki Island which are deep fried with seaweed, the sashimi set meal, the boiled whitebait rice bowl set meal and chicken on the bone, one of the local specialities of Kagawa Prefecture. The sashimi set meal comes with amberjack, sea bream and Sanuki salmon from Hiketa, while the whitebait rice bowl set meal is served with sesame oil. 

Tips:

1)    The Kikugetsutei tea house at the scenic Ritsurin Garden is a must-see spot in Takamatsu
2)    Get cute souvenirs made from udon noodles at roadside station Genpei no Sato Mure

Source: CNA

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