Shionoe

Disclaimer
This is currently a working copy. I am working off my tablet, which makes a few things more difficult. I will add the kanji names of places, links to other pages and pictures at a later date, on my computer. I may create a map of the locations I mention. -Mountain Man

Shionoe (塩江) is the onsen "capital" of Takamatsu—maybe even all of Kagawa! Since the agglomeration in 2005, it has been considered (at least administratively) part of Takamatsu. However, it is still very much apart. The locals still talk of "going to Takamatsu," as opposed to just going downtown. As of the last census before the agglomeration, the population of Shionoe was roughly 3,500, over an area of 80 square kilometres. This puts it roughly on par with Naoshima for total population, but with a much lower population density, since Naoshima crams all those people in 14.22 square kilometres.

Getting there:

By bus:

Bus route 53 goes from Takamatsu Station (高松駅) all the way to Shionoe. It takes about one hour to complete this run. However, it does not follow the 193 all the way. From the station, it will take a different street, going back to Chuou-dori (中央通り) for a few stops around Ritsurin Garden, then back to the side street all the way to the beginning of Shionoe. If you are taking that bus, it is likely that you will want to get off at the last stop, "Shionoe (塩江)," which is across the street from Michi no Eki (道の駅). It should be noted that the bus usually runs once every hour, the last bus TO Shionoe leaves the station at 8:00 p.m., and the last bus FROM Shionoe leaves the bus terminal at 7:00 p.m.

By car:

To get to Shionoe from Central Takamatsu, basically head south. Take Chuou-dori south until it becomes Route 193, and continue south on that road. When you reach a sign that points to the airport, keep going south. The airport is basically downtown compared to Shionoe. Just stay on the road until the Shionoe Michi no Eki (塩江道の駅), and you will have arrived in "downtown Shionoe." At the little store there (closed on Tuesdays), you can buy produce from the area, as well as Shionoe tea and the locally famous soft ice cream from Shionoe Fujikawa Bokujou (しおのえふじかわ牧場). Next to Michi no Eki, there is a bridge that leads to a road going up and west. You will pass a dam and two hotels, and then you will be in Shionoe Kaminishi (塩江上西) [literally "up west"]. It is occasionally referred to as Oku Shionoe (奥塩江).

By bicycle:

A few people every year take the opportunity to cycle to Shionoe. It might be a bit of a long ride for some, but the area is quite beautiful once you get out from the city, and you have more leisure to just stop and take in the sights when you are biking than when you are driving or taking the bus. Basically, just follow the same road as the cars. They have been working on the roads quite a bit this year, widening the shoulders so that bikes can get by more safely in some of the narrow turns. It does get tight, though. Not that much room between mountains.

What to do:

Onsen

If you like onsen, and you have some mode of transportation, then Shionoe is a good place to check out. There are quite a few of them, spread out over the area. If you took the bus to Shionoe, then you likely only have one or two accessible options.

Gyouki no Yu (行基の湯)

The "main" onsen is called "Gyouki no Yu," across the nice wooden bridge from Michi no Eki. It was apparently discovered by the monk Gkyouki hundreds of years ago. This one has a hot indoor bath, a dry sauna downstairs, and an outdoor rocky bath (for each sex). From the outdoor baths, there is not much of a view horizontally, since it's fenced for privacy, but if you look up, you get a nice view of the green mountain at the foot of which you are located. Y470 the last time I went.

Oku Shionoe Pokapoka Onsen (奥塩江ぽかぽか温泉)

This one (and most others) requires some mode of transportation. If you head to the Kaminishi area from the 193, just keep going on that smaller road. You will eventually see it on the left. This one has quite a large parking lot. I presume it also serves as a hotel. It has a very nice indoor bath, with a dry sauna, and both an outdoor hot bath and cold bath.Their Web site doesn't seem to list a price for just the bath. They may have removed that option. TBC. Y630 the last time I went.

Oku no Yu Onsen (奥の湯温泉)

This one is even further out than Pokapoka. Keep going on that same road. You will eventually reach a branch in the road, with the main road continuing left, and if you take a slight right, there's a set of hairpin turns. Take that right. There is a sign in English. If you go up those two hairpins, you will reach Oku no Yu onsen shortly. There is parking on the left shoulder before the building, and more parking just past the building on the right side of the road. (Don't go down that slope under the big Oku no Yu sign.) Y470 the last time I went.

Camp

There are a number of campgrounds within the boundaries of Shionoe. Of the ones I have visited so far, none seemed to have any cabins, so tent camping is the norm. Nearby Miki-cho has a wonderful campground with cabins available. However, it should be noted that those cabins are nothing but tatami floors. You should bring whatever bedding you may need. I will add more detailed information later

Festivals

Shionoe has a few festivals every year, but two stand out.

Shionoe Hotaru Matsuri (Firefly Festival)
This is the big one. It usually takes place in early to mid-June, across the river from Michi no Eki. The mascot character of Shionoe, "Pika-chan," is a firefly. In other words, this is THE Shionoe event. Chances are that over the course of the festival, 50-75% of the locals will make some appearance. There is the typical festival fare, as well as games and other activities. There is an event for children that involves them catching fish with their hands. Quite chaotic. There are also some stage events. The "firefly" part of the festival comes a little bit later. Starting around 6:00 p.m., they grant access to a dark tent filled with fireflies (which, I am told, some of the locals go catch in the neighbouring town of Ayagawa, causing some friction). It is a bit underwhelming, but any reason is good to have a festival, in my opinion.

Shionoe Onsen Matsuri (Hot Spring Festival)
This one is a little less known, but it's the second "big" festival. It usually happens in the fall, in the large field next to the art museum (Yep, we got one of those!), about 10 minutes from Michi no Eki on foot. The highlight of this one was the fireworks. Whereas most fireworks are shot over water, at this one, they are shot from behind a mountain, and they are MUCH lower and MUCH closer than most fireworks tend to be. The effect can be quite unforgettable.

Shionoe Art Museum

There is an art museum in Shionoe, a short distance away from the bus terminal/Michi no Eki. Have yet to visit.

Eat

Tanioka Shokudo

Ikoi Shokudo

Fujikawa Bokujou

Nightlife

This one is more of a gag, but there IS a karaoke room a short distance away from Michi no Eki. It's called Ziggoro (which, I guess, is a weird way to write "gigolo). It's open from 7:00 to 12:00 from Monday to Saturday. From the outside, it looks like a box. May be dodgy. Have yet to check it out, but it could be worth a trip! Obviously, it is not the separate-room style of karaoke.

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