This article appeared in Tokyo Weekender Vol. 2.
To read the entire issue, click here

The beautiful and relatively untouched prefecture of Kagawa is an under-the-radar destination for those seeking solace in the night sky and magnificent turquoise seas. Situated on the resplendent Seto Inland Sea, made famous to an international audience by Donald Richie’s acclaimed 1971 book, The Inland Sea, it’s a relaxed and tranquil getaway, both for domestic tourists and overseas visitors.

As the plane touches down at Takamatsu Airport, you have an immediate feeling that things will be very different in Kagawa, that here, silent, peaceful lives are lived at a very different pace from Tokyo.

urashima village japan

Escape From Time

Arriving at Urashima Village, situated in Kagawa’s pristine Mitoyo city, is like stepping into paradise. With clear jade-green seas and olive and orange trees, the resort is comprised of three stunning villas alongside an array of amenities, including a lounge room, whirlpool bath and sauna — all set on an out-of-this-world beachside with clear and serene white sand and translucent sea.

  There are neither clocks nor televisions at Urashima Village, and this reinforces the concept of being unconstrained by time and needless diversions. As the facility’s website notes, society is experiencing major change; time is in control, pushing people around. “Less and less time remains for ourselves,” Urashima Village asserts, before remarking that the “time kept by nature and the earth are eternal. Nature and the earth have always been fluctuating in a constant rhythm.”

  At the villas, every room faces the sea, and as you sleep with the windows open, the moon shining upon you and the noise of the sea lapping on the shore in the background, you, in some ways, sleep outside of time and distractions, outside of space and outside of this world.

Amenities to Savor

The three villas, called Visionary, Timeless and Silence, are ideal for couples or larger groups of between six and 10. “Turtle” is the name given to the lounge-slash-reception space, which is great for groups eating together or for small seminars for companies.

As you descend some beautiful stone steps, you come to the beachside, where the whirlpool bath, sauna and beach area have views of Ehime and Hiroshima prefectures and the Seto Inland Sea, which is so serene that it at times resembles an idyllic lake. With hills and mountains in the distance that look like alien monuments, it’s replete with scenery both otherworldly and beguiling, a picture-perfect setting for the prefecture’s famous sunsets.

urashima village japan

Kagawa, it’s said, not only receives the most sunlight in Japan but is also home to some of the country’s most stunning sunsets. The hues and light are reminiscent of the work of the great English painter, J. M. W. Turner. Swirling, protean and incandescent, dusk in Kagawa provides observers with a truly indelible experience.

In contrast to the vivid skyscape, the villas are fashionably and simply decorated, with lots of deliberately designed nooks and crannies for kids to play in. Each also has a state-of-the-art kitchen where guests can either cook for themselves with their own ingredients or reserve dishes that are unique to the region, like Urashima’s Tamatebako, a two-tiered steam dish consisting of superb seafood and rice, and an assorted sashimi platter made from locally caught fish.

urashima village japan

Nearby Gems

Just a 10-minute drive away lies the gorgeous Chichibugahama Beach area. (For those who are unable to drive, the area of Mitoyo, where Urashima Village is located, has an excellent Mobi taxi/van service that picks you up and drops you off at certain areas for a flat fee of ¥500 per ride.)

Near the beach, you’ll find the amazing Bake Studio Okazaki, which has to be one of Japan’s top burger shops. A huge cheese and bacon burger with fries and drinks will set you back a very reasonable ¥1,500. Also located nearby are Doughnut Holic, Tranquilo Tacos and its very pleasant Mexican cuisine and the brilliant Soichiro Coffee, which serves an excellently crafted caffè latte.

One of the district’s top sushi restaurants is Sushi Sakaba Minami, in the Nio-cho area, run by ace chef Daichi Imagawa. It’s recommended that you opt for the omakase course where Imagawa and his charming team deliver to your table some of the freshest locally caught seafood. With a fine selection of local sake and some brilliant fried chicken, this bustling and beautifully decorated restaurant is an absolute must when staying in this part of the prefecture.

Serenity Found

Only a five-minute walk from the villas at Urashima Village is the delightful stand-alone Urashima Shrine, which sits on the uninhabited Maruyama Island. It’s accessible for just a few hours each day, as the sandbar connecting the beach and island is covered when the tide comes in. It’s a breathtaking sight, and allows visitors to think more about the well-known Japanese folktale of Urashima Taro, which is said to originate from this area.

In the tale, Taro rescues a turtle and is rewarded with a trip to the Dragon Palace, where, immersed in pleasure, he forgets about time. Upon his return, he discovers that years have gone by, that society has left him behind and that he’s been forgotten. He then opens a forbidden jeweled box given to him by the princess of the Dragon Palace and promptly ages, becoming an old man.

  Though a deceptively simple tale, Urashima Taro has some profound nuances, as it warns us about time and how, perhaps, we should use the rhythms of nature to guide us through life.

urashima village japan

 I ask Keiko Tsuji, the facility’s manager, what she believes to be the main attraction of Urashima Village. Her response — the views — comes with an asterisk. “Lots of places have nice views,” she says. “However, the views here change dramatically from moment to moment and from day to day.”

  Haruki Murakami set portions of his much-loved novel Kafka on the Shore in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture. He writes, “Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.” Until I came to Urashima Village, I thought this was just a figure of speech. But it’s true. The silence I hear in Urashima Village is deafening, beautiful and profound. It’s, ultimately, unlike any other place I’ve ever been.

For more information, visit Urashima Village’s website or Instagram page

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