Shikoku-Mura (or “Shikoku Village”) is an open air museum located in Takamatsu, Kagawa, which occupies an interesting space between art and history museum, with its expansive outdoor setting providing authentic traditional Japanese experiences and artefacts (some dating back many centuries) as well as a contemporary art collection and architecture created by famous architect Tadao Ando.
Traditional Japanese life and cultural assets
There are over thirty traditional Japanese buildings on exhibit, ranging from a humble fisherman’s shack, to beautiful family homes and functional tea-rooms with authentic tatami mat flooring. The wonderfully-designed open air museum also provides a first-hand glimpse of not only how Japanese history looked, but how it functioned. Many of the exhibits are still functional, such as the water-driven mortar for hulling rice, which is fully operational.
There are a number of highly-prized national cultural properties at the site, reflecting the authenticity and historical importance of the exhibits. These include the beautiful Shimoki family house and Kohno family house, as well as a historical sugar cane press, furnace hut, and an old brewing house.
A number of original historic artefacts have been transported from nearby islands and locations to Shikoku-Mura, which must have been quite a feat, considering that some of these are old lighthouses from islands such as Shodoshima and Okunoshima (the latter of which is most famous as Japan’s ‘Rabbit Island.’)
Vine bridge experiences in Shikoku
One of the highlights of Shikoku-Mura is its replica of the famous Iya Valley vine bridges – one of the most well-known of Shikoku’s natural attractions. The original bridges are said to have been used as escape routes by defeated warrior clans, and even in the absence of armed pursuers, crossing the bridge is an adrenaline-pumping experience! Rest assured, however, as the bridge (much like its Iya Valley counterparts) has long since been reinforced with steel cables.
Walking around Shikoku-Mura is a pleasure, with a variety of beautiful scenes on display. The village occupies over 50,000 square metres full of nature, and boasts plenty of variety. Near the Museum of History and Folklore building is a small bamboo forest, which is one of the most iconic scenes of Japan, most commonly associated with the Arashiyama area in Kyoto. Around this forest, the sound of rushing water can be heard, and visitors who follow the sound are rewarded with the sight of an impressive waterfall and pond area. The scene takes on different aspects in different seasons, and is especially scenic during autumn times.
On the north side of the village, there are more traditional English-style flower arrangements, which are a pleasure to walk around. This variety of architectural styles and natural environments make for an interesting few hours of exploration, and despite the substantial size of the area, it never becomes tiresome.
Shikoku-Mura does have the occasional hill, and while people of all ages frequent the facility, there are plentiful rest stops for those who require the occasional break. One of the most scenic rest stops is the old kabuki theatre, which is a stunning and immersive look into traditional Japanese entertainment. In an age before television or the internet, theatre shows provided an entertaining escape from the everyday reality of traditional agricultural life.
Contemporary art mixed with Japanese history and nature
After exploring traditional Japanese farmhouses, and gaining one of the most up-close and personal understandings of historical Japanese life, there is also a Tadao Ando-designed art gallery, which features work by a number of renowned artists including Picasso, Monet, and Renoir. While not entirely unsurprising, considering Takamatsu (and the Setouchi area as a whole)’s reputation as an art haven, it is still a remarkable contrast. It is to the credit of the designer(s) that the building integrates itself so seamlessly into surroundings that could be (and often, in fact, are) taken directly from hundreds of years ago.
Getting to Shikoku-Mura is easy, with the nearest train station being Kotoden-Yashima, which is a short walk away from the entrance of the village. However, there is also the option of going to JR Yashima station, which has friendly English-speaking guides who are eagerly waiting to help any foreign visitors, and supply you with as many brochures, pamphlets, and discount coupons as you can hold.
- Shikoku-Mura is accessible in a number of ways. For those who are driving, it is 8 km north of the Takamatsu Chuo Interchange on the Takamatsu Expressway.
- It is also a mere 15 km from Takamatsu Airport, for travelers coming from far away to experience all that the city has to offer.
- As mentioned earlier, Shikoku-Mura is a 5-minute walk from Kotoden Yashima Station, or a 10-minute walk from Yashima Station. Both are easily accessible from central Takamatsu. Kotoden Yashima Station can be reached from Takamatsu-Chikko station for 320 yen (transferring once at Kawaramachi Station), while the slightly further-away Yashima Station can be reached directly from Takamatsu Station for 220 yen.
A travel writer and wildlife enthusiast currently based in Shikoku, Japan. Having previously lived in New Zealand, I'm especially interested in exploring places with a focus on ecotourism and the natural environment. Highlights of my experience in Japan so far include being mobbed by rabbits on Ōkunoshima, sleeping in a beachside Mongolian yurt on the art island of Naoshima, and countless trips around the many natural wonders of Shikoku.
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