In the western part of Kagawa prefecture there is a port town called Utazu that has prospered as a trading base since ancient times. As it used to be surrounded by saltpans, it was once known as the "town of salt".
Even now in "Komachi", the area to the south of Utazu station there are historical shrines, temples and townhouses, which are remnants of the prosperous era.
Located at the crossroads of the former Marugame and Kotohira highways, in April 2014 Co-machi no Ie was born following the renovation of two traditional Japanese houses. Restored under the supervision of Alex Kerr who has worked on projects to restore traditional Japanese houses in Iya in Tokushima prefecture, and Kyoto, Co-machi no Ie is an accommodation complex that can be rented as a whole.
It includes two buildings: Rinsui, a renovated machiya (townhouse) built in 1868, and Sezan, which has a western-style exterior.
In contrast, Sezan features a spacious living room with walnut flooring which was once covered in tatami mats. It's a modern, luxurious space with plenty of sunlight shining in from the large windows on both sides of the room.
At around 30 minutes by train to central Takamatsu city and around 10 minutes by train to central Marugame city, Utazu is conveniently located even if used as a base when staying in Kagawa prefecture.
You can make various plans to tour the islands of Seto Inland Sea or visit art museums, or even go to Kotohira-gu shrine or the sites of the Shikoku pilgrimage. We of course also recommend just taking it easy at Co-machi no Ie and going for walks around the Utazu townscape, which is dotted with shrines, temples and traditional townhouses.
For example, this is the main store of Takahashi Jizo-mochi, a shop established over 100-years ago. It sells ohagi (rice balls covered with for example sweet red bean paste), savory mochi (glutinous rice cakes) as well as mochi with bean flour sprinkled on top, and they're all JPY120 each. Take-out is available, and there is something elegant about buying mochi to go and taking a walk around the area.
If you've come all the way to Kagawa, you'll want to try some local udon noodles, too.
On the edge of Komachi, Ubushina is an udon noodle shop located within the grounds of Ubushina Shrine, a short walk from Gosho-ji Temple.
Apparently a senior priest of the shrine practiced making udon noodles and opened the business. It's one of the udon noodle shops frequented by locals.
In addition to this shop, there are other spots that allow visitors to experience a taste of life in Komachi, such as shops selling fresh local vegetables, traditional candy-stores, and liquor shops where locals enjoy a drink in the evenings.
Both Rinsui and Sezan can be rented as a whole at relatively reasonable prices. Weekday stays start at around JPY6000 per person (for 5-6 people). We recommend it for families and groups, too.
How about experiencing a slightly out-of-the ordinary stay that feels as if you’re living in the old town of Utazu?
Co-machi no Ie
Address: 2126-1 Utazu, Kagawa prefecture
Inquiries: Utazu Co-machi no Ie Office
Setouchi Finder Photo-wrier: Yumi Kobayashi
> A guided tour, including teatime, where you can see the former “Koshien Hotel” – “Frank Lloyd Wright type” architecture by Arata Endo. / Koshien Hall at Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo)
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
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