On Tuesday we said goodbye to Kyoto having been here for three days and moved to a new location, so we were up early, suitcases packed and off to the train station to catch our 8:00am train. Our destination was Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku this is the middle island in Japan, we intended to stay for two days. Our reason for visiting was to visit the many pine and bonsai farmers in the districts of Kokobunji and Kinashi. We also planned to visit the Ritsurin Koen gardens in Takamatsu.
The forecast was for heavy rain for traveling our first day, which was very unusual for us as over the years visiting Japan, we`ve only had one rainy day!
To get to Takamatsu we had to get the bullet train to Okayama passing Himeji Castle, which was a fast journey of 1 hour 13 minutes exactly, then changing to a smaller train over the long bridge from the mainland to the island of Shikoku then onto Takamatsu, taking 1 hour 7 minutes. We had a waiting time of around 15minutes between trains. To save time we had collected our reserve seat tickets for both trains the night before.
Our hotel was only a 5-minute walk from the station so as we normally do, we left our bags in the hotel as it was too early to check in. Our plan on our first day was to visit the Ritsurin Koen gardens then on our second day visit the many Pine and Bonsai Farmers in Kokobunji and Kinashi districts, which was a short train journey from the main station in Takamatsu. But, because it was raining and the next day’s forecast was for full sun and as the gardens like the Ritsurin Koen gardens are always best viewed on nice days we decided to visit only the bonsai farmers in the Kokobunji district to salvage something from the day and the rest tomorrow. So, on our second day, the plan was to visit the Ritsurin Koen gardens in the morning then visit the Pine and Bonsai farmers in the Kinashi district in the afternoon.
Ritsurin Koen gardens
So, our second day in Takamatsu and sure enough it was a lovely sunny warm day, as we had so much to pack into today, we were up early and out. The Ritsurin Koen gardens are about a 25minutes walk at our pace and easy to find. It was only 410 Yen to enter the garden, which is a very large garden split in two, South Garden and North Garden. Both are walk round gardens where you follow the guided paths which take you to the best locations around the garden.
Ritsurin is a large strolling-style landscape garden, built in the Edo period by the local feudal lords. The garden’s 6 ponds and 13 landscaped hills are strategically placed in front of the green vista of Mt. Stiun, and together with the great rock arrangements, bridges and trees make the garden fantastic.
The name Risturin means chestnut grove, but the garden has always been well known and famous for it’s many pine trees. There are 1,400 pine trees in the garden, with 1,000 of them being precisely maintained by the gardeners. Some of the pine trees are over 300 years old! The pine trees being Black, Red and White Japanese pines were absolutely fantastic…the best display of Niwaki (garden trees) we have seen!
Overall, the garden was absolutely stunning! It’s one of the best gardens we have visiting in Japan.
But, we’ll let our pictures do the rest of the talking…
In our next Blog (5) we visit the Pine and Bonsai Farmers in Kokobunji and Kinashi districts,
Stephen & Anthony
Sorry but not all the photos are in the correct order!
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