"World Mobility" is a series that tours the world with a focus on mobility. In this article, we discuss the city of Takamatsu, Japan, the setting of "NTM Report: Takamatsu."
The many different sides of the compact regional city of Takamatsu, facing the Seto Inland Sea, are visible from the seats and windows of its varied conveyances. A taxi ride takes you from the airport to the center of town, and from there you hop on a bicycle to reach the shopping district. Only in a city like Takamatsu, so closely integrated with its transportation systems, can you see "Udon Taxis" touring the city's noodle restaurants and ferries connecting the region to the many islands of the Seto Inland Sea.
Let's follow the transportation workers of Takamatsu, with all its variety and character, on a little trip through some of the spots that they frequent around town.
(c) 663highland Lahar (composition) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Takamatsu (Kagawa Prefecture, Japan)
Population: 419,793 (as of November 1, 2010, City of Takamatsu)
Area: 1,876.53 sq. km.
Location: lat. 35º 20' 25" N, long. 134º 2' 36" E (at the site of the prefectural capital)
Average temperature: 16.9ºC (2009, Takamatsu Local Meteorological Observatory)
Annual rainfall: 986.5 mm (2009, Takamatsu Local Meteorological Observatory)
Annual hours of sunshine: 2012.5 hrs (2009, Takamatsu Local Meteorological Observatory)
Annual average wind speed: 2.4 m/sec (2009, Takamatsu Local Meteorological Observatory)
Major Roads: Route 11, Route 30, Route 32, Route 193, Route 377, Takamatsu Expressway
Major Rail Companies: Shikoku Railway Company (JR Shikoku), Takamatsu-Kotohira Electric Railroad (Kotoden)
Major Bus Services: Kotoden Bus, Okawa Bus
Major Ferries: Utaka Kokudo Ferry, Shikoku Kisen, Shikoku Ferry, Uchinomi Ferry
Other Transport Systems: Takamatsu Airport
The Transportation and Favorite Spots of Takamatsu
Ferries, taxis, bicycles, buses, and trains. We asked the people who work in the various transport systems of Takamatsu to recommend their favorite places in the city.
The Port of Takamatsu, which serves as the gateway to the island of Shikoku, boasts the second highest combined passenger and freight ferry traffic in all of Japan. The port is about five minutes' walking distance from Kotoden Chikko Station. Six routes are available, with ships departing for Shodoshima, Megijima, Ogijima, Teshima, Naoshima, and even the Port of Uno in Okayama Prefecture. As its name (the Utaka Kokudo Ferry, literally "Utaka National Highway Ferry") suggests, the route connecting the Ports of Uno and Takamatsu serves as a marine expressway and has been designated as "Route 30." Making 44 trips per day and running a 24-hour round-the-clock timetable, it was Japan's first ferry service to feature an onboard manga cafe.
A favorite of the ferry crew and the overnight truck drivers, "Yamachan Ramen" sits just across from the landing dock in Takamatsu. It's open all night, from 5:00 PM to 12:00 PM the following day. For more than 50 years, Yamachan has been famous for supporting the port that never sleeps.
There are 873 registered taxis in Kagawa Prefecture. In the compact city of Takamatsu, the ability to maneuver a car through tight twists and turns comes in handy. An experience that should not be missed in Takamatsu is the "Udon Taxi," a service offered by Kotohira Bus (commonly known as "Koto Bus"). Each full-time driver must clear a series of udon-related hurdles - passing both a written test and a field test and learning how to make their own udon - before being allowed to take customers on a special tour of his or her favorite udon spots in the city. And of course customers are welcome to make even the most fanatical of requests, such as "I want my noodles on the stiff side," "I'm in the mood for kamatama (white wheat) udon," or "I'd like to visit shops with quirky owners."
Driver Mr. Itotagawa has some tips for those who wish to master the art of udon touring: "It's best to avoid Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays, as many shops are closed on those days. And you should start no later than 9:00 in the morning, because many shops run out of noodles during lunchtime."
Boasting a mild climate, low annual rainfall, and a relatively flat landscape, Kagawa Prefecture has Japan's fifth-highest rate of bike ownership (behind only Osaka, Saitama, Tokyo, and Chiba Prefectures). It is number one among regional cities, a veritable kingdom of bicycles. Ten years ago, Takamatsu introduced a community cycling program, with 1,100 recycled bicycles in use today. The rental fee is 100 yen for 24 hours, and you can borrow and return your cycle at any one of seven rental ports. The Takamatsu Ekimae Hiroba Rental Port at Takamatsu Station, used by about half of all community cyclists, is right next to the Port of Takamatsu. Therefore, in addition to commuting workers, students, and sightseers, the program is popular among residents of the many nearby islands.
Nearby are the red lighthouse of Sunport Takamatsu and the repurposed old warehouses of Kitahama Alley, which together make up a nice little jaunt from the port.
Takamatsu Station serves as the hub for the local bus routes of the city, serviced by Okawa Bus and Kotoden Bus. Okawa buses run through the center of town and loop around the eastern half of Kagawa Prefecture. With 23 lines and 44 routes, Kotoden buses connect central Takamatsu with its outskirts. Its Rainbow Loop Bus connects Rainbow Street, lined with homes and big-box retailers, to the central shopping district for a maximum fare of 200 yen. In addition, residents use the 100-yen City Bus, which departs every 20 minutes and circles downtown Takamatsu, to get around during visits to the shopping district.
According to Kotoden bus driver Kazuyoshi Manabe, "the views of the Seto Inland Sea are spectacular from the Yashima-Sanjou line in the afternoon." He adds, "you get a great view of the sunset from the Aji line, which runs along the coast. The sight of the afternoon sun sparkling in the water takes your breath away."
Kotoden operates three train lines in Takamatsu: the Nagao and Kotohira lines departing from Takamatsu Chikko Station and the Shido line departing from Kawaramachi Station. Its tracks, all of which pass through Kawaramachi, run a total distance of 60 kilometers. Kotoden runs 2-4 trains per hour, with each train consisting of 2-4 cars, and offers Japan's popular stopover system on certain segments and for limited fare categories.
Kawaramachi station attendant Kazuhiro Sunai has taken a liking to "Tamura," an udon shop 150 meters to the east of Kumonmyo Station on the Nagao line. "It's famous as a place for railroad lovers to get together," he explains.
On the way from Fusazaki to Shioya on the Shido line, views of Mount Gokenzan and the Seto Inland Sea stretch out beyond the train car windows. At night, from the Kotohira line between Hazama and Enai, you can see the beautiful lights of the Great Seto Bridge.