Favourite Places in Japan: Takamatsu and Ritsurin Park

Continuing with my posts about my favourite places in Japan, I’m going to write a bit about another – Takamatsu (高松). I’ve only ever been there twice (I think) – once in 1992 and then again in 2020. Thanks to the improvements in cameras, the pictures in this post will be from the 2020 visit, but I’m not sure all of them – as that visit was in January – show Takamatsu at its best.

When I visited in summer 1992 I was going by car from Kyoto and went across the recently opened Seto Ohashi Bridge. This had the advantage of making it easier to get around, so was able to take in Yashima, site of an important battle in the 12th century, also. In 2020, I was only in Japan for 6 days and was rushing around the country – mostly conducting a pastoral care trip related to my job at Cardiff University. I also managed to get some research done – visiting the peace museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On the Sunday I had a few hours free, so, using my JR Pass to the full, I went to Takamatsu.

This wasn’t as random a visit as is perhaps implied above. Although I was doing the final editing jobs to my second novel, Tokyo 20/20 Vision, around that time, the planning for the next novel was already at an advanced stage. I had decided that I wanted the book to be in four parts and feature stories on four of the Japanese islands – with the final part being in Shikoku. I have discussed some of this in other posts about the number of parts and also the choice of title, which ties particularly to Shikoku.

So it was that one January afternoon I got to Takamatsu, transferring to a train to Ritsurin-Koen-Kitaguchi and then going for a walk around the wonderful park, Ritsurin Koen. At the time I had no idea what scene would take place in the park when it came to the book, but I hoped that something I would see would inspire me. I was not disappointed. Here are just a selection of the pictures that I took that day.

The walk in the park did indeed inspire me into be able to set a scene in the park itself in FOUR and it fitted with an idea I had about setting the scene there when it had snowed in the year that I wanted to set it.

Although there was no snow in 2020, it was still very cold as I walked around the park and Takamatsu. I was glad that some shops have now taken to selling bottles of hot Earl Grey. They don’t taste as good as it could, but it’s better than nothing. Hopefully Earl Grey will make it to the drinks machines too soon (if they haven’t already).

As I walked around the city, one of my favourite things to do when in Japan, I took in the various sights and sounds – including some very noisy motorbikes and cars, which also ended up in FOUR.

Finally I got back to the station area and found that I had enough time to go to Tamamo Park (hidden next to Takamatsu Chikko station on the map at the top of this post) and the old castle grounds. At that stage I had no idea – or plans – that this is where the final scene of FOUR would be played out.

Coincidentally, soon after my visit to Takamatsu I was listening to Murakami’s Kafka on Shore – which turned out also to be partly set in Takamatsu.

Why do I include Takamatsu as one of my favourite places in Japan? Largely because it’s a very beautiful city to walk around and because in 2020 it did what I needed/wanted it to do – provide the perfect locations for my third novel.

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