Since a vacation is not a vacation unless you go somewhere, apparently, I took a little road trip to Takamatsu. As a matter of fact, it was further than I'd imagined. I felt like I was driving all day. At last I rolled into town at around 4pm, spent about an hour driving around, getting lost looking for my hotel, but in the end I found it. I crashed for about an hour and then decided to go out and see what was to be seen-- and to get some dinner. Takamatsu (and Kagawa Prefecture in general, I believe) is famous for its sanuki udon noodles.
I hadn't walked far along the covered shop-lined streets (shoutengai) when I came to a curious intersection. On the corners there were shops like Coach, Louis Vuitton, something, and... ahhh... the Gap! I hadn't seen one since the last time I was in Tokyo, so up I went to see what kind of clothes they were selling now.
By the time I came out again, it was around 7:30 and I thought it was high time for dinner. I kept walking along in the direction I had been going, keeping an eye out for a good-looking noodle shop. But alas, many of the shops had begun to close, turn the lights down, and pull melancholy metal shutters down over their entrances. What was this?! quoth I.
There was a shoe store that was still open, and one of the employees was fixing a display near the entrance.
"Excuse me," I said, "but I'm not in town for long, and I wanted to try some udon, but all the stores are closing."
"Yeah," he said, "Takamatsu closes down fairly early."
"Well," I replied, "I was wondering if you could recommend a good local place that's still open."
So the fellow consulted with his coworker and told me about a place called Goemon, and pointed me in the right direction. Still, I'm amazed I found it; if I hadn't turned to look down a side street I'd never have found the place at all. I walked in on what looked like a family party, but the people were very friendly and even recommended a certain kind of udon-- kamatama; which is a nearly raw egg that you mix up with the udon noodles and top with green onions, fish flakes, spicy red pepper, and a wee bit of soy sauce-- no broth. This is what I wrote while waiting for my dinner...
"A homey, family atmosphere tucked away just off the stark, empty shop streets. There are few customers; the tables aren't half filled, but everyone seems to know each other, and a couple of children run around, pausing briefly to inform the smiling old proprietress behind the counter of their opinions or newfound knowledge. Two ladies with long, permed orange hair and pretty, open faces chat at the bar-- they are hair stylists and sisters. One of them is married, and her hip-looking husband holds a baby girl on his knee as he follows the conversation. A widescreen television mounted prominently on the wall blares on, largely ignored. The elderly proprietor stands across from the young husband, pounding out white dough for another batch of noodles. Small groups of hungry customers dash in and out as if on a tight lunch break, despite the late hour. The family is clearly in no hurry."
So much for Goemon. I was so hungry, I forgot to take a picture of my dinner before it was gone.
The next morning I was up early to take a walk in Takamatsu's famous Ritsurin Kouen, a large park that was once the grounds of a castle. There is still a (substantially shortened, I think) moat around it. The entry fee was 400 yen.
On learning that I understand Japanese, a volunteer tour guide asked if I wanted a tour, but I had to be back at the hotel before 10AM, so I politely declined. I had about 30 minutes to do a whirlwind tour of the park, and though I took nearly 40, I don't think I saw more than 1/3 of it. It's quite large and beautiful.
After I found some kamado treats to bring back to my office, I hopped out of there, jumped back in the car, and made it to the hotel just before 10AM. I checked out without a problem, and then it was back to the car and the open road. I decided to take the expressway to save time and energy. It had been a short, but rather exciting, adventure.