Kotohira is a small town in Kagawa Prefecture. It takes about an hour from the capital city Takamatsu by train. The most famous place in Kotohira is Kompirasan, Shikoku’s most popular shrine. Nearby is the historical Kanamaruza Kabuki theatre. If you want to try the popular Kagawa-style udon noodles, how about making them yourself at Nakano Udon School?
Kotohiragu or Kompirasan Shrine
Kotohiragu or Kompirasan is a Shinto shrine dedicated to seafaring. And is said to have one of the most difficult shrine approaches in Japan. It is located halfway to the top of 521m-high Mount Zōzu. The shrine stands at the end of a long path, with 785 steps to the main shrine. Moreover, it is a total of 1,368 steps to the Okunoin, the innermost sanctuary. Since the 14th-century, pilgrimages to the shrine have been popular. And even today there are often hundreds of visitors in a day who climb the steps of Mount Zōzu. On the way to the shrine are a sake museum, stores, and stones with the names of donors carved in Kanji.
Due to the Honji Suijaku theory which claimed the local Kami were incarnations of Buddhist gods, the Kotohira Shrine was equally a Buddhist and a Shinto sanctuary before the two religions became more separated from the late 19th century. There used to be palanquins that could take you from the bottom to the main shrine, but unfortunately, they stopped operating in 2019 due to the lack of young strong workers.
Kanamaruza Kabuki Theater
Kanamaruza (Kyu-Kompira Oshibai) is Japan’s oldest existing theater and designated as a national important cultural asset. Because the Kotohiragu Shrine attracts a lot of visitors, the town needed entertainment. So this theater was constructed in 1836 together with many other attractions such as a Sumo arena and puppet show theaters.
Once it became a movie theater, but after the decline of the movie industry, it had not been used for a long time. In 1976, they moved the location and restored the building, and started to use it as a Kabuki theater again in 1985. They have performances every spring.
You can visit this old theater from 9 am to 5 pm every day for a 500 yen entrance fee (300 yen for Junior and Senior high school students, 200 yen for elementary students).
Nakano Udon School
Kagawa Prefecture is known as the udon noodle prefecture because it is here that most udon noodles in Japan are produced. Near the Kotohiragu Shrine, there is a famous Nakano Udon School. This is not just a usual cooking school, but a school that is specialized in teaching everyone how to making udon. While some students are kneading dough, other students cheer them on by playing tambourines.
The climax is stepping on the dough with your feet to create a firm texture. When you step on it in time with the bouncy music that is playing, you may feel like you’re dancing. The instructor makes it exciting for students like a kindergarten teacher rather than a cooking instructor. After the stepping, you will stretch the dough and cut it into strips. Of course, it all ends with tasting the delicious udon that you made from scratch.
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Access: From Takamatsu-Chikko station, take Kotoden Line to Kotoden-Kotohira (1 hour).