Shikoku, Japan: Escape to Noodle Island
Takamatsu is on the island of Shikoku, in the Kagawa Prefecture, off the south coast of Japan; in other words, it's not exactly cake to get to. Scenic? Meh—there's a pretty landscaped garden (Ritsurin Park) and nice views of the sea and islands, but there are plenty other far more interesting places to gaze at the water from. With all the marvels a trip to Japan has to offer, why detour 500 miles from Tokyo to visit a smallish city that's mostly just a pass-through port for goods?
Noodles, is why. In a town with roughly the same population as Staten Island, Takamatsu has more than 300 udon shops (there are as many as 800 in larger Kagawa). You could say the city runs on thick, white noodles.
For the most part, Takamatsu's udon-yas are built for efficiency, feeding you in bustling and brightly-lit rooms with a view to the noodle station. Many of the cooks you see here, rolling, slapping and stretching the dough by hand, are second- or third-generation udon lifers. Here, in Kagawa Prefecture, sanuki udon—an especially chewy rendition of the chubby strands—is king.
Try Waraya (91 Yashima-nakamachi, Yashima), a 19th-century farmhouse-turned udon-ya that's popular, or Ichidai (12-3 Nishinomaru-cho, Takamatsu), a bright, bustling lunch spot near the main train station.
Or just flag down an udon taxi—teeny cars zipping around with udon bowls on the roof—and tell the driver you're hungry.