By Peter Sidell
Takamatsu is becoming an increasingly popular destination and gateway for many international and Japanese visitors, with its stunning waterfront location, fresh local cuisine like the Sanuki Udon, as well as being the gateway to the Naoshima art islands, set to host the next Setouchi Triennale International Art Festival in 2019. There are also international flights from China and Korea, as well as low cost domestic airlines like Jetstar Japan flying in from Tokyo. For visitors without a Japan Rail Pass or a Kansai wide rail pass, the ferry is an inexpensive option from the city of Takamatsu to Kobe, the gateway to the Kansai region with Osaka and Kyoto being a magnet for tourists from around the world.
There are several day and evening ferries making the four hour trip between Takamatsu and Kobe, with the day trips also stopping at Shodoshima. The overnight ferry departs just at 1 am for a 515 am arrival into Kobe, saving time as well as overnight accommodation costs.
At the ferry terminal, you fill in a simple form and pay for the ticket in either cash or a JCB credit card. There is a waiting area in the terminal with arcade games and TV (in Japanese) but nothing else, not even Wi-Fi. When you are here at night, the outside looks pitch dark, and void of activity associated with urban life. All you can hear are the sounds of a port, machinery, trucks and so forth. The ferry at night appears from nowhere looking like a spaceship, and after a long wait, you can board the ship.
There are some limited entertainment (read arcade games and TV) on the ship, plus a small cafeteria. Takamatsu is famous for their Sanuki noodle with olive topping. The Japanese have been blending other cuisines and ingredients since castella and tempura and this is no exception. During the day there is a pleasant view of the nearby islands as well as the Akashi Bridge, making it a picturesque alternative to the train, bus or plane. The single fare for an adult is ¥2,290 for a non-sleeping seat (like a very hard tatami mat in a public area) plus a ¥2000 single room supplement, if you want your own room with more privacy and the ability to turn off your lights and secure your items. There is some noise from the engine room, so bring some ear plugs if you are a light sleeper. You also have to make your own bed. Bed sheets, a pillow and blanket are provided, which makes a world of difference to comfort. While there are only ten single rooms, reservations are not required in the off peak season. While there are showers as well as bicycle storage it is fairly basic, especially compared with larger ocean ferries from Kyoto to Hokkaido. The inland sea is usually quite calm, and being a large ferry, seasickness should not be a problem.
At Kobe there is a connecting bus which will take you to Sannomiya, with rail connections to Osaka, Kyoto and the rest of the Kansai region. The Kobe terminal is shared with the Miyazaki services. Passengers for the International Cruise Ship Terminal and the Airport should take a taxi or bus/ train from this ferry terminal.
This ferry leaves from a rather inconvenient location at Higashi-Takamatsu several miles away from JR Takamatsu railway station as well as the main ferry terminals going to Naoshima. While you can catch a taxi to the ferry wharf, Jumbo Ferry provides a free bus, which leaves from JR Takamatsu's local (not inter-city) bus terminal's stop number 8, at midnight for the 0100 ferry (with day bus departures at 0600 for the 0615 ferry, 1400 for the 1430 ferry, 1815 for the 1930 ferry, noting that day time departures vary during weekends from March to December and during the Obon holidays in August). The ferry terminal is small so all you have to do is follow the crowds and you will find the ticket office in the main building.
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