Just a short ferry ride from Takamatsu City lies the island of Ogijima in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea. It’s been dubbed Cat Island for its large number of feline residents, as well as hosting contemporary art exhibitions as part of the Setouchi Triennale (also known as the Setouchi International Art Festival). The island clusters around a picturesque port, with its narrow streets winding up a mountain towards the Toyotamahime Shrine. From here there are stunning views across the island and its watery surrounds. In this article, we’ll introduce some of the highlights of Ogijima and how to visit this charming island.
Ride the ferry to Ogijima
JR Takamatsu Station
To reach Ogijima, you first need to get to the JR Takamatsu Station, either by train or a limousine bus from Takamatsu Airport. Once you arrive at the station, it’s a 10-minute walk to the Takamatsu Port from where the Meon ferry departs for the island. Those arriving by car should use the parking lot near JR Takamatsu Station and continue on foot.
The ferry landing is located near the colorful pillars known as Liminal Air -core- and the ferries run six times a day, roughly every two hours. The last ferry returns around 5pm but it’s a good idea to check the current schedule in advance. The journey to Ogijima takes around 40 minutes, with the ferries stopping at the neighboring island of Megijima en route.
Takamatsu to Ogijima: 510 yen for adults, 260 yen for kids
Admire the artistic Ogi Exchange Center
Ogi Exchange Center
As soon as you arrive at the Ogijima Port, you can’t help but notice the Ogi Exchange Center that stands directly in front. It was created by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and has been nicknamed “Ogijima’s Soul”, with its curvaceous roof constructed using the characters of eight different languages to resemble a shell.
Aside from being the architectural symbol of the island, the Ogi Exchange Center serves as Ogijima’s information hub, ferry terminal, and ticket office. It’s here that you can pick up a map before heading out to explore the town, which sprawls along the slope of a mountain and retains the nostalgic atmosphere of times gone by.
Appreciate the island’s contemporary art at the Walking Ark
At the southern end of Ogijima is the Walking Ark, a contemporary artwork that was established for the Setouchi Triennale. It takes around 15 minutes to walk here from the port, which allows you to enjoy the waterfront views and the beauty of the surrounding islands.
Cats can often be seen lazing in the doorways and on the side of the roads and have played a role in bringing the island to the attention of the outside world. Up until around 10 years ago, Ogijima was just a quiet island with a picturesque lighthouse before being dubbed Cat Island by the media. During some periods, more cats have lived on the island than people!
You’ll see the blue and white sculpture, Walking Ark, before you arrive at the stone wall on which it’s built, although it has been designed to blend in naturally with the sea and sky. It was created by Keisuke Yamaguchi (who is renowned for his large scale copperplate prints), with the ark appearing as though it is walking towards Iwaki where the Great East Japan Earthquake took place in 2011.
Soak up the scenic views from the Toyotamahime Shrine
If you follow the road that leads from the harbor through a large torii gate, you’ll begin climbing towards the Toyotamahime Shrine. A steep set of stone steps lead up the hill to this sacred shrine where people come to pray for the safe delivery of their unborn child. It boasts impressive views across Ogijima and its surrounding waters, making it one of the most popular photographic locations in Setouchi. The scene transforms throughout the day, meaning you’ll get some wonderful shots for your social media accounts no matter when you visit.
Adjacent to the Toyotamahime Shrine you’ll see several colorful boards attached to the walls of the houses. This is part of the Ogijima Alley Mural Project Wallalley - a term coined by artist Rikuji Makabe by combining the words “wall” and “alley”. It was created by painting waste material collected across the island and fixing it to the walls along the island’s narrow alleys.
Stop in at the small Ogijima Library
On one of these narrow alleys, you’ll see a sign for the Ogijima Library, which occupies a lovingly renovated old house. The small collection is run by the NPO Ogijima Library, giving residents of Ogijima, Megijima and Oshima the opportunity to not only read books here but also borrow them to take home. Like many libraries around the world, the Ogijima Library is also a place where people can connect and participate in a range of activities.
Next door to the library is a cafe where you can settle in with your book while sipping on a coffee, a locally sourced herbal tea or a drink made using mint grown on the island. The warm and friendly atmosphere is inviting, making it an ideal place to take a break during your sightseeing trip.
Herbal tea made using mint grown on the island
Before leaving Ogijima onboard the Meon ferry, you can pick up locally crafted goods and souvenirs at the Ogi Exchange Center as a memento of your visit.
Take a leisurely island day trip to Ogijima
Combining the natural beauty of the Seto Inland Sea with artistic attractions and an old-world atmosphere, Ogijima is the perfect day trip from Takamatsu. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city while being refreshed by the sea breeze and island charm.