An Walk Through the Ancient Castle Gardens of Takamatsu
We spent most of a sunny day sailing across the Seto Inland Sea before arriving at the port of Takamatsu, the capital of Japan’s smallest prefecture Kagawa. This was a castle town during the Edo period and while the castle itself was destroyed during the Meiji period, its celebrated garden, Ritsurin Koen, remains. The surrounding area is also known for bonsai nurseries, featuring trees that have been cultivated here for centuries.
Upon arrival we were greeted by the Takamatsu Gun Corps who performed a military salute and demonstration pier side. The intricate uniforms and rifle displays were quite impressive.
According to our map, the famous garden was just a couple of miles from our dock so we decided to take a long walk and explore. Situated right in the middle of town, the property comprises 185 acres, including 40 acres of gardens.
Originally built in the middle of the 1620s as a daimyo (feudal lord) garden by Takatoshi Ikoma it was inherited by a successive daimyo in 1642 and then expanded over the ensuing years. Finally completed in 1754, it was used by the Matsudaira Family as their private villa until 1870. In 1875 it was opened to the public and in 1953 designated a “National Place of Special Scenic Beauty”. And it truly is. There are hundreds of pine trees, most of which have been pruned to emphasize unique branch formations, as well bridges, pavilions and a tea house.
The many ponds are filled with multi-colored koi who respond immediately when someone looks into the water. They are especially responsive to the rice cakes fed to them by tourists.
By the time we finished wandering around (and stopping for “soft cream”) it was after 4:00 so we re-traced our steps back to the Ship and prepared for tomorrow’s early morning excursion to the nearby island of Naoshima.