Kotohira (琴平) is a one-horse town known solely as the site of Kompira-san, a large shrine complex.
From Okayama, Kotohira can be reached in one hour by taking the hourly Nanpu limited express (¥3160), or occasional local trains (105 minutes). Another option is the Marine Liner rapid train, which leaves at approx. 44 minutes past the hour, to Sakaide and then a change for the local to Kotohira (80-90 minutes, ¥1300).
For a taste of medieval luxury, porters can carry you up the hill in a palanquin for even steeper prices (¥6000 and up).
Kompira-sanThe sights below are listed in order as you ascend the steps.
Great GateThe Great Gate, halfway up the hill, marks your entry into the shrine complex.
Asahi ShrineThis shrine, which dates back to 1837, is the largest, oldest, and most impressive of Kompira's many shrine halls, in ornately decorated unpainted wood.
Main ShrineThe centerpiece of the temple complex, with a large square in front and many buildings packed in a cluster.
Izutama ShrineFar fewer visitors make it all the way up here, and you'll be rewarded with nice views over the city. Also known as the Inner Shrine.
address: 623 Kotohira-choThis museum describes the various stages in sake production. The exhibits are mostly in Japanese, but there are leaflets in other languages at the entrance to explain the process.
address: 953 Kotohira-choHighlights include a restored vessel from the Edo period along with all sorts of radio-controlled boats, bridges, and musings about man's relationship with the sea.
Museum of Historyaddress: 758-1 Kotohira-choA good match with a visit to Kanamaru-za (see below), this museum showcases local folkcraft, including plenty of kabuki costumes and props.
phone: +81 877-73-3846address: 241 Otsu, Kotohira-choBuilt in 1835, this kabuki playhouse is the oldest remaining in Japan. It was designated an Important Cultural National Property in 1970. You can get a surprising amount of access to almost the entire theater, including the elevated walkway, trapdoor, revolving stage, and actors' changing rooms. English pamphlets are available.
address: 685-11 Kotohira-choStop in if you need a soak after the walk up to Kompira-san — or, if you're really sore, switch your accommodations to one of the several hotels that comprise this hot spring "village".
address: 457-3 EnaiNice sushi restaurant. Conger eels are a specialty.
Naniwa Cake Shopaddress: 586-4 Kotohira-choEstablished in 1866 and run by five generations of the same family, Naniwa bakes fresh sweets daily. Bean cakes and rice cakes are specialties, but there are several varieties to try.
Most people choose to day-trip from Takamatsu or Okayama, but there are plenty of options in town. If you don't have any other arrangements (and you're not on a tight budget), head for the cluster of hotels around the Konpira Onsen.
Kotobuki Ryokanphone: +81 877-73-3872address: 245-5 Shinmachi, Kotohira-choA traditional inn with excellent service, a premium kaiseki dinner (¥2500), and natural hot springs drawn from the Konpira Onsen.
address: 1241-5 Kotohira-choEstablished in 1627, this inn was re-opened in 2008 and features a mix of Japanese-style rooms and Western-style suites, views over the river, public and private hot springs, and meals ranging from gourmet seafood to the obligatory Sanuki udon.
phone: +81 877-75-3730address: 162-1 Kotohira-choDecent business hotel with apartment-style rooms. Bike rentals, Internet access available.