Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shikoku Journey: Marugame

Marugame literally means "Round Turtle"

Marugame is the town where I spent my first year in Japan. To be fair, Marugame can look a bit bleak, grey and dated: the shotengai (shopping arcade) looks completely desolate and ghost town-like, the population is mostly elderly as the younger people have fled for the big cities, and the pachinko parlours seem to outnumber the rice fields.

Yet, Marugame is full of hidden gems, which I unearthed in the course of my year there. Marugame is probably one of the most interesting places to live in Shikoku, as it boasts a beautiful castle (one of only remaining 12 castles with original wooden structure), and is famous for producing uchiwa (paper fans). Not to mention a handful of great little cafés and bars that rival the ones found in Tokyo. Marugame is also home to the Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses the works of Genichiro Inokuma and is worth a visit.

I took a long walk through Marugame, soaking in the quaintness and revisiting my favourite spots: the post office, where I sent so many letters. The ichigo daifuku shop (a rice cake with a strawberry in the middle, which was my favourite place to pick up sweets. The udon shop by the station, where my friends and I used to fill up on ¥200 bowls of noodles, on a quasi daily basis. Marugame station, where I met all the people who became my closest friends, and where the most interesting characters hang out (the high school boy with the modified blazer, and a number of old men drinking sake and slurring strong sanuki ben). The police station, where I once burst into tears because my buttercream bike was stolen. The supermarket, where my favourite cashier instantly recognized me. And of course the shotengai, where my friend Mitch taught me how to press a button in order to open the roof, which we'd sneakily do at 2am before slurping on huge bowls of sesame ramen.

I used to complain a lot about living there, but I loved it so much, and I only think fondly of it now. It's so quaint and friendly, and it's my Japanese hometown. This time, I managed to lean up against a SOS button in the shotengai, which set off an alarm, and the police came. Oh, Marugame, I only have love for you.

Here is a little walking tour of where I used to live.

Rice fields and Sanuki Fuji in the backdrop

Rice paddies, they are so beautiful

A farmer burning hay, which is seasonal

I'll never get tired of the rice fields, how lush are they?!

Marugame Post Office
Marugame Castle, perched high up on a hill

I used to go running daily around the castle

The shopping arcade, looking bleak

Many of the shops are closed

The best ichigo daifuku in the world

Rows and rows of sweets

I highly recommend the chocolate kind

The entrance of the shopping arcade.
Don't expect Starbucks or a Top Shop....

My favourite udon shop by the station

Kake udon costs only ¥200

Ace One, my local supermarket.
It always smelled a bit funny, but I loved the jingle.

That aisle greatly contributed to my survival in Marugame

Marugame station, no automated ticket gates.

This is just epic. So many memories.

Willie Winkie Bakery, a Shikoku chain.
They had the best cream pan.
I once solely survived on their pizza toast for a week when I was  heartbroken.

The police station. I think the only crime in Marugame is bike theft.

MIMOCA- worth a visit

Self-portrait oblige! Marugame station.

The Shikoku JR lines.
Notice how it pretty much only lines the coast.

A Marugame-Takamatsu trip

1 comment:

TorontoViewer said...

Hi there! Not sure if you're still checking comments to your posts that are this old but thought I'd give it a try. Your post is very interesting and we thought we'd stop by Marugame for a few hours on our way to Takamatsu in order to see the castle that you mention. However we will have two small but heavy bags with us. Do you perchance remember whether there were lockers in the Marugame JR station? It looks pretty small hence my question. THanks!
Cheers from Canada. ....Margaret