Fun fact: Kagawa is actually the smallest prefecture in Japan by land area! However, it is quite unique because of it’s location. Kagawa is separated from the mainland of Japan by the Seto Inland Sea, and along this sea lies many little islands, many of which are administratively part of Kagawa Prefecture. Most of these islands are accessible by boat from Takamatsu Port.
Today’s plan will be to spend the first half of the day on Shōdoshima 小豆島, the largest of all the small islands. This island is most famous for it’s production of olives! It is said that when they first brought olives to Japan and wanted to find the best place to grow them, Shōdoshima turned out to be the most suitable place. This island is now synonymous as being the olive island.
All aboard the Olive Line ferry! This ride will take approximately 1hr to Tonosho Port.
We went straight to the Olive Park, a very popular destination for visitors of Shōdoshima. Yes, they literally grow olives here. Olive trees were everywhere! But of course, they made this place more interesting with whimsical themed decoration. It kind of reminds me of Cingjing in Taichung (but better). The witch brooms are free to borrow for all visitors.
This olive colour postal box is not decoration – it is an actual functioning postal box! Postal boxes are usually red in Japan but this is the one and only green one. On the right is the famous German windmill of the Olive Park and probably where all visitors would want to go to for photos.
This is where you’ll take photos with the broom stick!
They have a gift shop selling all sorts of olive related products. You can find extra virgin olive oil from Shōdoshima here. Olive oil using actual Shōdoshima grown olives are actually a lot more expensive than olive oil from like Spain or Australia, because you know, Japanese agriculture generally have higher standards and also the amount of olives harvested in little Shōdoshima is lesser in quantity compared to other parts of the world. Olives here are grown with upmost care and harvested with the most gentle techniques even if it means more effort.
When I first arrived at the park and saw that they sell olive flavoured soft cream I got super excited! I love trying all sorts of local flavours of soft cream whenever I come to Japan. I’m glad I got try this very unique flavour!! And yes, those little beans in the background are the real olives! It is way too green right now, and will only ripen between the months of September – December. The soft cream was good. I wish I tried the olive soda float as well. I think I need another trip here~
Olive Park 小豆島オリーブ公園
1941-1 Nishimura, Shodoshima-cho, Shodo, Kagawa
The next stop on Shōdoshima is olive related once again – we got to visit Inoue Seikoen 井上誠耕園! You might have seen this brand around in Singapore – they just entered the Singapore scene last year with a booth in Takashimaya, now moved to Tangs L4. Their products have the logo “Olive Oil” and in Singapore they mainly sell their cosmetic range but carry some food products as well. In Japan, this brand is only available at their main shop in Shōdoshima and a branch in Takamatsu city. Everyone else in Japan can only get Inoue Seikoen products by ordering online.
So for people who want to see their full range of products in flesh, you need to visit Kagawa and Shōdoshima.
We were given a crash course about olive oil and it was interesting to learn how the same fruit can produce different quality product via different handling methods. We were given some of their own Shōdoshima grown olive oil for tasting, comparing to a regular supermarket brand, and the difference was so big. The supermarket one tastes pretty much like the olive oil we know in Singapore, those found in our regular supermarkets and has an aftertaste of oil, like just generic oil. Their Shōdoshima grown olive oil had a very different flavour – the aroma was very strong, way more fruity, more green and grassy and and the after taste is slightly bitter and almost like a very concentrated fruit juice. The staff told us that it is important to extract the oil from olives at the right moment when the ripeness is ideal and harvesting is done manually. Commercial olive oil tends to mass harvest with machines and they do not discern between those suitable and non suitable, hence the flavours will not be so strong. For Shōdoshima olive oil, they treat it like a fruit juice – olive is a fruit essentially, and it can even be taken directly for the health benefits!
The variant we sampled today was Ryokka 緑果, made from olives that are greener and younger (less ripe). When the olives are less ripe, they have higher content of polyphenols and this is what gives Ryokka olive oil the slight bitter, fruity taste. This type of olive oil has higher content of Oleic Acid and antioxidants. Extraction of Ryokka olive oil from the young olives requires 1000 olives per 180g bottle, while ripe olive oil only requires 400. This is what makes it more expensive! Only 5-7% of the fruit can be extracted for oil for a young olive, while 13 – 17% can be extracted for a ripe olive. A 180g of Ryokka cost ¥5400 a bottle. Olives from Shōdoshima are limited in quantity, hence it will be expensive. For a less costly alternative, Inoue Seikoen also produces olive oil from olives harvested in Spain or Australia. However, they use the same stringent criteria to extract the oil so the process is Japanese standard.
Inoue Seikoen 井上誠耕園
61-4 Kamojima Ko, Shodoshima cho, Shozu gun, Kagawa
Above the retail area of Inoue Seikoen is a restaurant, Farm Table Chuzaemon 忠左衛門. The view from the restaurant is lovely.
They serve food using a olive oil in their cooking as well as ingredients from the Setouchi area. They had a selection of olive oils from their own brand at the side for us to choose and add to our food at our own discretion. Here I had olive beef hamburg steak – that’s right, Japanese beef that grew up eating olives. Even without heavily flavoured accompanying sauces, the hamburg itself was very flavourful thanks to the good quality of beef used. What was most memorable for me was the roasted pumpkins and potatoes – it was just so good! I believe the secret is simply having good ingredients and that’s only possible in places with good crops.
61-4 Kamojima Ko, Shodoshima cho, Shozu gun, Kagawa
I had my second ice cream of the day from the Inoue Seikoen store. I just cannot give olive oil ice cream a miss!
My back story behind my obsession with olive oil ice cream goes like this: a few years ago I had olive oil gelato in La Strada restaurant, and I loved it so much! It was the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted – it’s unmistakably olive oil flavour but with more floral and fruity notes compared to olive oil I’m familiar with. It must be made with some high quality oil. However, the restaurant closed down. It has now reopened, but they don’t have it on their menu anymore! Olive oil ice cream is almost non existent in Singapore (and most parts of the world), so whenever I come across it when I travel, I MUST have it. I also love the olive oil macaron from Pierre Herme. That’s my favourite macaron ever.
Picture on the right was a souvenir gifted from the Olive Park earlier on – it’s a pressed olive leaf! It grew as into heart shape naturally.
The last olive related sight for today was this 1000 year old olive tree. It was brought over to Shōdoshima from Spain in 2011. It is still producing fruit today!
1000 Year Old Olive Tree
2580-1 Tonosho-cho Shozugun
Besides olives, Shōdoshima actually does produce other things too, like rice. This terraced rice field in Nakayama is called Senmaida and is known as one of the best 100 rice fields in Japan.
Video credits: @hidebowwow
1486 Nakayama, Shōdoshima-chō, Shōzu-gun, Kagawa
A popular photo spot in Shōdoshima is the Angel Road, which becomes like a beach during low tide, and that only happens twice a day. The path you see in the bottom left picture will become submerged during high tide and you won’t be able to walk across it. Legend has it that walking the Angel Road hand in hand with your significant other is supposed to bless that relationship.
Ginpu-cho, Kodo-cho, Tonosho-gun, Kagawa Prefecture
Within to Tonosho port you can find a souvenir shop which also sells local exclusive flaovurs of chips. This is my first time seeing lemon flavour potato chips and prawn crackers!
The ferry brought us back to Takamatsu after an hour and it was time to move on to Mitoyo 三豊 district. This area is westwards of Takamatsu and is near the coast facing the Seto Inland Sea. For today we would be checking out the Nio 仁尾 area within Mitoyo district.
Seto Inland Sea is the water that surrounds Kagawa and this region is known for producing the best lemons in Japan. I first learnt about this during my previous trip to Hiroshima, which is on the other end of the Seto Inland Sea opposite the island of Shikoku. The lemons were extremely fragrant and were the best lemons I’ve ever encountered.
We checked out this little shop, Lollo Rossa ロロロッサ which sells everything lemon related. They make their own products including lemon olive oil, lemon ponzu, lemon salt, lemon curd, lemon marmalade, and even limoncello! I bought a bottle of lemon ponzu because I love ponzu and I love Setouchi lemons! I love visiting little shops in rural areas like this because I feel like I’m buying products straight from the source. The lemons used in Lollo Rossa products are grown locally in Mitoyo City and it is said that even the skin can be eaten.
Lollo Rossa ロロロッサ
477-1 Nio A, Nio-cho, Mitoyo City, Kagawa Prefecture
I had my first taste of Kakigori in April this year, after being curious about it for the longest time. I first noticed Kakigori in my 2015 Tokyo trip (end of summer), where I noticed all local customers were having a bowl for themselves. When I revisited Tokyo in 2017, this time in autumn in a different cafe, I noticed the same trend – it was chilly cold that day (the cafe even provided electric blankets to keep warm), but local customers were ALL having a bowl of Kakigori for themselves, even though it was 10am in the morning.
Kakigori seems to be eaten at all seasons and all times of the day. When I had my first one in April this year in Kyoto, it was cold and it was dinner time when I had it but I wasn’t the only one – other patrons were locals and they all had 1 bowl for themselves. It only took me one mouth of the kakigori and I was sold. I instantly understood what the hype was about. Kakigori isn’t just shaved ice – the texture is basically like soft fluffy snow. I’ve actually written about this in my earlier post, but I want to declare my love for Kakigori again because it is really something you can’t eat in Singapore! I’ve tried Kakigori from a shop in Singapore but was sorely disappointed with the texture.
Anyway, back to the point! It is the peak of summer now in Japan and it was very hot everyday when we were there. The kind of heat is best described as being hotter than a hot yoga room. Yes, hotter than sunny Singapore. That’s summer in Japan. Having ice cream and kakigori seems to be the best thing to do! I’ve had 2 ice creams today but there’s no stopping. When I found out there’s a Kakigori cafe near where we were visiting, I knew we had to try it! Thankfully we were able to slot it in even though it wasn’t planned!
There wasn’t enough time for us to order 1 bowl per person (this requires time to prepare) so we had 2 bowls to share among 6. The texture did not disappoint – it was soft fluffy snow! And the 2 flavours we ordered – Strawberry and Pineapple, were both so good. I liked both of them, but my personal favourite would be strawberry.
This Kakigori cafe is next to the beach and visitors must not miss this!
KAKIGORI cafe Himuro ひむろ
220 Nio B, Nio-cho, Mitoyo City, Kagawa Prefecture
Even though the Kakigori cafe was right next to the beach we were going to, it was too early since we wanted to aim for the golden sunset hour. We made a small detour to visit a rice vinegar factory in Nio Town. This vinegar factory is not open to public visitors so we were the lucky few who could visit!
I like factory visits since I am a foodie. I like to learn how food is made. I’ve visited numerous wineries, sake breweries, beer breweries, shoyu factory, peanut butter factory, Hokkaido biscuit factory etc. Now I can add vinegar factory to my list!
My first impression upon stepping in is that the smell is so familiar! It reminds me of the beer breweries I’ve visited. The fermentation smell is so familiar. The fermentation is happening in these barrels. We were allowed to climb up to take a look inside the barrel and what I saw was a sea of white – that’s a layer floating on top of the liquid that’s being fermented below.
This factory produces vinegar using rice from Kagawa prefecture. Plain vinegar is boring so they also have a wide range of fruity vinegar, using fruits also from Kagawa! Flavours includes Kabosu (ANA’s signature drink!), Mikan Orange, Plum, Loquat, Berry A Grape, Peach, Fig and more.
If you’re interested to buy their vinegar products, I found their products listed on Yahoo.
Nio Su 仁尾酢
944 Nio D, Nio-cho, Mitoyo City, Kagawa Prefecture
The sunset during July happens around 6:40pm so that’s the period to catch the golden hour at 父母ヶ浜 Chichibugahama Beach. This beach is famous for taking beautiful mirror beach pictures.
Follow @akimrn for more beautiful pictures of Chichibugahama and Mitoyo City! He was our driver cum guide cum photographer for that day. The photos I took are still with him so I’ll update this space once I get the pictures! For such pictures you must use a good camera so I didn’t try with my camera.
The sun wasn’t very bright that day so it wasn’t the best case, but we still did have fun trying!
Cafe de Flots, our venue for dinner, even provided us welcome drinks and snacks before we got started. On the right is a behind the scenes picture of my pose. Yes I wore my Lululemons before I planned to do this!
Video credits: @hidebowwow
203-3 Nio B, Nio-cho, Mitoyo City, Kagawa Prefecture
Our dinner venue was very near 父母ヶ浜 beach and right before dinner we were presented with the most beautiful twilight colours ever! The sky was a beautiful blend of pink and purple.
Our dinner was at Cafe de Flots, a small, rustic and very homely cafe by along the coastal road. It was one of those little huts in the middle of no where, where people would swing in their cars to stop for tea break or something. Little did I know that this would be my favourite meal of the whole trip!
First of all, we has the mayor of Mitoyo City, Akashi Yamashita with us for dinner. Chichibugahama beach is within the district governed by Mitoyo City and it was our honour for him to take out time for a meal with us!
Dinner was even more impressive than the colours of the twilight evening sky. It exceeded my expectations by a lot. It was food of restaurant quality, something I did not expect from a little hut by the road side! The chef is very talented! But that aside, a lot of credit also goes to using good local ingredients. Almost everything served tonight was sourced from Kagawa Prefecture and neighbouring areas, like the Seto inland sea.
The talented chef even presented dessert like a performance. The feature for dessert was huge, fresh peaches from Hosokawa Farm, which we would be visiting the following day. Mr Hosokawa himself brought over the peaches for the chef to use for this meal!
Dinners at Cafe de Flots is currently only available with prior arrangement – meaning they do not have a regular dinner service here, only as a cafe in the afternoon, so dinner orders would pretty much be bespoke with whatever is available during the season!
Cafe de Flots
165-1 Niochō, Nio, Mitoyo-shi Kagawa Prefecture
香川県 三豊市 仁尾町仁尾乙 165-1
Wow. Speechless. What a wonderful write-up and experience. The writing style, the photography, and the narrative really bring us into your experience. This is really great. Thank you very much for sharing your experience! Hope you will come to Kagawa again soon in the future!