Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu
Shikoku – a region of Japan I’ve not yet mentioned on this site, despite the number of times I’ve explored it (if you’re interested in haikyo, you might have noticed Shikoku in my series of posts). Here’s a burst of colour for starters: Ritsurin in Takamatsu, one of the most beautiful gardens in the country.
So you think a garden isn’t offbeat enough? Maybe not, but this one is a must if you’re visiting Shikoku or Takamatsu city. It’s especially gorgeous in fall – because I’m here of course, but not only that! The colours are superb all year round.
Strolling around this park late at night, I remember a novel that greatly moved me: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. This is the surreal story of a young boy named Kafka who runs away from Tokyo to escape a dire prophecy. He finds shelter in a quiet old library full of mysteries. In Takamatsu, of course.
Kafka relates his adventures in chapters that alternate with another plot, about an elderly man who talks to cats. Everything is curious, silent, just as it is here. A night without end, strewn with stories. Kafka falls eerily in love with the 15-year-old ghost of the mysterious woman who runs the library. This is a minor detail …
The dreamlike aspect of Ritsurin Garden brought the realization that I was in the same city as Kafka. The trip instantly took on a more magical and supernatural dimension.
So here’s my advice on visiting Japan: to add a touch of umami try reading Murakami on the night buses, local trains, during a ramen break … you’ll have an extra pair of eyes.