Matsuyama (20 miles from the Shimanami Route to Honshu and 3 hours from Takamatsu) is the largest city and port on Shikoku. Home to 515,000 people, it lies at the center of Ehime Prefecture, which is famous for its oranges and cultured pearls, and lies on the southern part of the Seto Inland Sea.
Matsuyama is a pleasant city with plenty to see, accomodating the castle located on a hill in the city centre, some of the temples that form the pilgrimage of 88 temples in Shikoku and many smaller attractions. Matsuyama is famous for its hot spring, called Dogo Onsen. You will find many ryokan in the hot spring area and many hotels in the city center. A group of islands close to Takahama Port offer relaxation and nature for those tired of city life and sightseeing. Matsuyama has a tram system which allows you get some places.
Websites: Official Matsuyama City site matsuyama-sightseeing.com; Ehime Prefecture Tourism site visitehimejapan.com Map: thetokyofilesmedia.wordpress.com ; Matsuyama Tram Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net ; Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books
Getting There: Matsuyama is accessible by air and by bus and by train from Tokyo (six hours) and Osaka (four hours) and other Japanese cities. It can be reached by express train from Okayama (3 hours), highway bus or ferry from Osaka or Hiroshima. Matsuyama is linked by ferry to Osaka, Hiroshima, Beppu and other ports on Honshu and Kyushu. Matsuyama can be reached from Honshu mainland via bridges and highway via the Shimanami Kaido (See Imabari Below). Lonely Planet Lonely Planet . By Ferry and Boat: Long-distance ferries connect Osaka and Kobe with Matsuyama (Shikoku) and Beppu in Oita (Kyushu). Hiroshima-Matsuyama Ferry: There is a regular ferry (10 boats per day) from Hiroshima to Matsuyama on Shikoku. On the comfortable 3 hour ride, you can enjoy the landscape of islands and sea at its best, sitting outside and enjoying the breeze. If you don’t have much time, the high-speed boat (running every hour) will take you there in 75 minutes, for more than double the price. Setonaikaikisen is company that runs cruises, ferries and high-speed boats around Hiroshima. Check the site for schedule for the Hiroshima-Matsuyama ferry and Hiroshima-Matsuyama high speed boat Websites: setonaikaikisen.co.jp ;
Sights in Matsuyama
Matsuyama Castle is one of the best preserved castles in Japan. The three-level donjon, which was remodeled in 1642, has been designated as an Important Cultural Property. Much of the castle is occupied by a museum with samurai armor and swords. There is a fine view of the surrounding area from the top of the donjon.
Dogo Onsen Dogo Onsen (near Matsuyama) is the oldest health resort in Japan. Located on the slope of hill northwest of Matsuyama, the main public bath house at Dogo Onsen Honkan features was built in 1894 and features a unique three-story Japanese-style wooden building with a bathing suite built for a visit by the Emperor in 1899 and "Bath of the Gods" changing room.
Asahi Beer Factory offers free tours that last around 90 minutes. The Asahi Brewery Company is one of Japan's four leading beer breweries. The brewery tours pass through a gallery with displays regarding the history of beer and Asahi and winds its way around parts of the factory, offering views from above through observation windows of various parts of the manufacturing process. As you watch, thousands of cans and bottles of beer go shooting through factory machines at incredibly high speeds!
Beer Production involves boiling down barley to make mash and removing the chaff so the wort can be squeezed out. The bitterness and fragrance of the beer comes from adding hops to the wort and boiling it down again. The entire process takes place in a preparation chamber installed with nine boiling kettles, each 12 meters in diameter. Top quality beer are often made using only the first press of the wort. Fermenting takes place inside huge tanks for a period of one or two months. Visitors can try the first and second press of the wort for comparisons as well as up to three glasses of draft beer drawn straight from the fermenting tanks. Guides give a tour of the facility, with an easy-to-understand explanation of the manufacturing processes that employ the latest technology based on rigorous quality control. After the tour, visitors are served freshly-brewed draft beer for 20 minutes, and unlimited refills are offered. Soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages are provided for minors and those who drove to the site. Language Support: Written displays are in English, Korean, and Chinese.
Tour: Reservations required. The tour takes about 90 minutes, including the beer tasting at the end of the tour. Location: 2-6 Hiuchi, Saijyo, Ehime; Tour Hours 9:30am to 3:00om. Closed Year end and New Year’s Day, plus designated holidays; Reservations and inquiries: +81-897-53-7770; Phone hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please reserve by phone to book tours with an English-speaking guide. Website: asahibeer.co.jp/brewery
Seto Inland Sea Islands Near Matsuyama
Gogoshima Island (only two kilometers from Takahama Por) is the nearest island to Matsuyama. Frequent ferries will take you there in no time. There are two distinct mountains on the island: Kofuji (Little Fuji, Little Fuji, 283 meters) and Takado-san Takado-san.. The latter is easier to climb. Turn left from the ferry landing in Yura, and then take a right at the end of the village. The sign for the viewing platform on Takado-san, the viewing platform on Takado-san will show you the way to the top of the hill, from were you can enjoy the view of the surrounding islands.
As for beaches, you should cross to the “back side” of the island: either to Washigasu Washigasu or to Kitaura Kitaura, both about 30 minute walk from Yura Port. To Washigasu, follow the coast to the left from Yura. Walk away from the coast at the shrine in Funagoshi-in summer, ferries stop here sometimes. Cross over the hill and follow the coast to the right. At Washigasu beach there are changing rooms and shades in summer; however, you do have to pay to use them. Unfortunately, being located inside the bay, there is a lot of seaweed around. For Kitaura, cross over the hill directly from Yura; the beach is at the far end of the village. There are many other small beaches on Gogoshima that you can explore if you bring a bicycle or like walking!
Map: anchorage.jp; Getting There: Takahama Port Takahama Port can be reached on the Iyotetsu line from Matsuyama City Station or Otemachi Stop close to Matsuyama JR Station in about 20 min. (trains run every 20 min.).. Also, it takes only about 10 minute walk or 3 min. by bus from Matsuyama Kanko-ko Port Matsuyama Kanko-ko, were the boats from Osaka, Kyushu and Hiroshima arrive. From Takahama Port: there are two ports on Gogoshima, Tomari and Yura (15 min., about 1 boat/hour) ; Yura is more convenient.
Nogutsuna Island is maybe the nicest, definitely the sleepiest island of the Nakajima Island group. In 2005, the town of Nakajima, which consists of several small islands, merged with Matsuyama City. Although all the islands offer beaches, mikan (mandarin oranges), relaxation and fresh fish, Nogutsuna, the smallest of the inhabited six islands, is maybe the most relaxed. Nogutsuna only has about 150 houses. Many islanders are involved in mikan production or fishing. The small elementary school right at the port has been welcoming students from urban areas in a “Seaside Study ” system since 1988; students stay with families on the island for one year. The small mountain behind the school, Sara-yama Sara-yama, is only 73 meters high, but offers good views. Nukaba Beach Nukaba Beach is behind the village on the East coast; you will not only find a fine sandy beach and clear water, but also showers and restrooms. Map: anchorage.jp Getting There: From Takahama Port (s. Gogoshima): 3 ferries/ day (60 min.); three high-speed boats/ day (28 min.) Take the boat to Nakajima, Eastern Line. Be careful, not all boats stop at Nogutsuna.
Sights in Ehime Prefecture
Shinto Shrine in Uwajima Ehime Prefecture covers 5,676 square kilometers (2,191 square miles), is home to about 1.4 million people and has a population density of 244 people per square kilometer. Matsuyama is the capital and largest city, with about 515,000 people. It is on Shikoku island and has seven districts and 20 municipalities.
Sights Near Matsuyama include Yugeshima Island, which features heated seawater baths with lovely views of the sea and the mountains; 1,982-meter-high Mt. Ishizuchi-san, the highest mountain on Shikoku and sacred peak climbed by pilgrims. Less than an hour from Matsuyama it's a different world: mandarin orchards, beaches, small roads, hiking. Ehime Prefectural Science Museum (Niihama) is the world's largest planetarium. Inside the 98½-foot-diameter dome one can see 25,000 stars.
Ehime Prefecture’s Besshi copper mine site is called the historical heritage in the sky because it is located on a high plateau. Mt. Sekizen, situated in the center of the Iwagijima Island is known for the magnificent cherry trees totaling over 3,000 trees. The beautiful landscapes created by the rows of cherry trees on the ridge line and the archipelago seascapes of the Geiyo Islands are simply breathtaking when seen from observatory at the top and from the trails.
Uchiko is a pleasant town known for merchant houses and its hand-rolled wax and washi paper candles. Sada Misaki (western Shikoku) is a finger-like peninsula that reaches out towards Kyushu and can be reached by ferry from Bepphu. Consisting of a spine of mountains toped by the main road, it is a lovely area with green countryside, pleasant fishing villages and views of the ocean from both sides of the road. Seto (on Sada Misaki) is a lovely coastal town reached by a twisting descent from the main road. Often shaded by overcast skies and rarely visited by foreigners, it contains orange groves, fishing boats and around 5,000 people, most of whom are both farmers and fishermen and women. Other towns on Sada Misaki are similar.
Uwajima (100 kilometers south of Matsuyama) is quiet town in Ehime Prefecture with 68,000 residents. It contains small original castle and Shinto Shrine with an attached sex museum. The Date museum near the castle boast 10 beautifully-preserved suits of armor and folk museum with two giant-tatami-mate-size papier mache masks of a moon-faced woman and a tengu goblin. Bull-versus-bull fights are occasionally staged in the city's bullfighting ring. Local specialties include boiled shark flesh served with its skin still attached, “harambo” (small cakes made from mashed small fish) and bream sashimu served with raw egg in a bowl with sake and soy sauce
Websites: Uwajima Tourism site uwajima-tourism.org; Ehime Prefecture Tourism site visitehimejapan.com Castle and Sex Museum Photos Nicolas Delerue Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels (click hostels for good map and description of hostels) Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Uwajima is accessible by air and by bus and by train from and other Japanese cities. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet
Uwajima Sex Museum
Sex Museum (in Uwajima) is a carefully-researched, three- story museum with all sorts of unmentionable stuff gathered from all over the world by a Japanese anthropologist. Among the more interesting exhibits are an amusing collection of shunga woodprints cartoons with a guy whose penis is much too large for his own good.
Most of the museum is filled with artistic pornographic drawings, painting and statues from Japan and different cultures around the globe. The collection includes chastity belts from Indonesia and Europe, a huge array of ticklers and women-pleasing devises, Greek vases and Peruvian pottery with erect penises, Kama Sutra illustrations, Tibetan Tantric sculptures. leather S&M equipments, and anatomically-correct images of Pacific fertility gods.
There is also a statue of a king who is surrounded by a dozen women who are all being satisfied at the same time by different parts of the kings of body, and a collection of pubic hair, with over 1000 different samples, each identified with a name and nationality, assembled by a Japanese gynecologist.
The museum isn't too hard to find. Just look for sculpture garden with large wooden and stone phalluses from the South Seas. The atmosphere inside is a little stuffy, and some the animal pictures are pretty disgusting. The museum is linked with a Shinto Shrine across the street. Website: japantravel.com ;
Imabari (40 kilometer northeast of Matsuyama, 70 kilometers south of Onomichi on the Honshu mainland via bridges and highway) is the terminus of the Shimanami Kaido in Shikoku. The main part of town and Imabari JR train station are a couple kilometers from the bike trail terminus, which in Namikata town, Imabari city, the entrance of the Shimanami Kaido at the Kurushima Bridge, over Kurushima Strait to Oshima Island, There are bicycle rentals and places to stay in Namikata and Imabari City. Imabari city is the hometown of the great Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. Pritzker-prize winning architect designed the Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture: Steel Hut for exhibitions and Silver Hut for workshops. Both overlook the Seto Inland Sea. Ito was offered the opportunity to build a museum using his own name but was hesitant out of modesty. The mayor of Imabari, however, convinced him to do it. Museum Address: 2418 Urado, Omishima-cho, Imabari-shi, Ehime 794-1308, Tel: +81-897-74-7220,
There are two cycling terminals at Imabari Station. There is another large bike terminal at Sunrise Itoyama, which also has places to stay, but is difficult to get to without a bike. There are infrequent buses from Imabari Station to the Sunrise Itoyama terminal. A taxi ride costs about ¥2000. There is a cycling terminal near Habu Port, which is served by a high speed ferry. Bicycles cannot be taken on board of some of the ferries.
Many tourists start from Onomichi. However, considering the wind direction and uphill slopes, it's actually easier to start from Imabari. Strong winds often blow from the southwest. And there are some slopes you have to climb up on the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge and Oshima island, the island from Imabari.
Accommodation in Imabari 1) GH Cyclonoie is a one minute walk from Imabari JR Station. The staff are also cycling guides for the Shimanami Kaido. You can get lots of cycling information and there is a bicycle garage storage room. There is a small cafe, community room. Dormitory rooms (mixed /female) and private rooms start at 2,900 yen. 2) Namito Minato is located in Namikata town, Imabari city, the entrance of the Shimanami Kaido. All dormitory rooms have an ocean view. 3) GH Namito Minato is 10 minutes from the Kurushima-Kaikyo bridge, the Shimanami Kaido by bike. The building is a former Namikata ferry station was remodeled into a guesthouse. Dormitory (mixed/female) bedss start at 2,600 yen. 4) Imabari Kokusai Hotel has an extensive selection of recreational facilities, including restaurants and bars, banquet venues, outdoor baths, a pool and a gym. Rooms start at 8,000 yen per person.
Getting to and from Imabari 1) There are buses to Oshima, Hakatajima and Omishima islands running from JR Imabari Station and Imabari Port, so you can access them without using bicycles. 2) JR Imabari Station is reached by JR trains on Shikoku. Trains to Shikoku from Osaka, Hiroshima, Okayama and Kobe pass over the Seto Ohashi Bridge near Okayama. If you come by train from Tokyo or Osaka Transfer from the Shinkansen to "Express Shiokaze" at Okayama Station. Get off at Imabari Station on the Yosan Line. 4) There are highway buses from Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima and Fukuoka to Imabari. 5) You can take the Sanyo Shinkansen to Fukuyama station and take a bus or train to Onomichi. There are probably buses between Fukuyama and Imabari. 6) Drive to Onomichi, take a bus to Imabari and bike back to Onomichi.
By Boat: Imabari is served by Imabari Port, Tomoura Port, Kinoura Port and Habu Port: There is a cycling terminal near Habu Port. The line is served by a high speed ferry. Bicycles cannot be taken on board of some of the ferries. There are fast boats from Habu port to Innoshima, run by Geiyo Kanko Ferry (nine a day, 70 minutes, 1,700 yen, stops at Tomoura, Kinoura and so on). There are also ferries and fast boats to: 1) Shitadami port on Oshima; 2) Miyaura port on Omishima; 3) Okamura port on Okamurajima. See Japan Travel for details. japantravel.com/ehime/imabari-ferry-terminal
Ozu (35 minutes by train from Matsuyama) is a laid-back small city of 40,000 with cormorant fishing on the Hiji River from June 1 to September 20. To get close to action you need to take a viewing excursion on a boat. These cost ¥3,000 per adult. For information call ☎ (0893)-24-2664. Other attractions include old houses. Getting There: About 1½ hours from Haneda Airport to Matsuyama Airport. Take a bus to JR Matsuyama Station, then take a 30-to 40-minute trip by express train to Iyo-Ozu Station.
Ozu Castle stands on the banks of the Hijikawa river, which runs through the center of the town. Makiko Tatebayashi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Ozu was a castle town in the Ozu domain, which held a fief of 60,000 koku (10.8 million liters) of rice and thrived in the Hijikawa basin. An old townscape called “Iyo’s little Kyoto” remains, centered on Ozu Castle two kilometers down the Hijikawa river from the shrine. (Iyo is the old name of Ehime Prefecture.) The tenshu castle tower of Ozu Castle was also restored in 2004 after 10 years of planning. About one-third of the total construction costs were covered by donations from Ozu citizens and people who grew up here,” said Toru Inoue, a 58-year-old city official responsible for the restoration of the castle. The four-story tower was rebuilt with a traditional construction method in which no nails were used. It seemed like a natural fit with the townscape of the “little Kyoto.”[Source: Makiko Tatebayashi, Yomiuri Shimbun, April 15, 2017]
“Ozu Machi no Eki Asamoya tourist complex, located in the central part of the city, has a free parking lot for tourists. Many people rent a car at Matsuyama Airport, visit the facility and stroll the streets preserved since the Edo period (1603-1867) and the Meiji era. Wherever you go, you reach places where you can see the Hijikawa river gently flowing by. Perhaps because of that, people in the city are often described as being easygoing. In the summer — from June to September — cormorant fishing is held. I heard that you can see cormorants catching ayu sweetfish up close if you take a yakatabune traditional boat.”
Sukunahikona Shrine in Ozu
Sanroden hall of Sukunahikona Shrine (about 15 minutes from Iyo-Ozu station in Ozu by taxi) is an impressive structure. The highest pillar is be 13 meters tall. Makiko Tatebayashi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “As I walked up the gravel path, a building that looked like Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto suddenly appeared” with trestle-like architecture called kakezukuri. I was overwhelmed by the height of the pillars on which the shrine stood....This was the Sanroden hall at Sukunahikona Shrine.” I decided to visit “Ozu after hearing that the shrine had received the Award of Excellence in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in September 2016, giving recognition to the grassroots efforts of local people that had led to the restoration of this sacred place. [Source: Makiko Tatebayashi, Yomiuri Shimbun, April 15, 2017]
“A local legend says the deity Sukunahikona no Mikoto is buried in Yanaseyama mountain, where the shrine is located. For that reason, for a long time it was known as a “forbidden mountain.” It is said that Sukunahikona no Mikoto built the country of Japan together with Okuninushi no Mikoto. Because of his small size, Sukunahikona no Mikoto is also said to be the model of Issun Boshi, a Tom Thumb-like character in Japanese folklore.
“The shrine was constructed across a period from the Meiji era (1868-1912) until the early Showa era (1926-1989), with facilities including a main hall, worship hall and the Sanroden hall. However, the shrine fell into disrepair after the end of World War II as there were no parishioners maintaining it. The land surrounding Sanroden became dense with trees, and its roof and floor collapsed. As a result, demolition was even considered. The Osukuna Shachu group became concerned about the situation and launched a committee to restore the shrine in 2012, thinking, “We’ll undertake the reconstruction if nobody else will.” This initiative drew attention from the World Monuments Fund, a U.S.-based architects’ network, and was registered on the World Monuments Watch, the fund’s list of cultural heritage sites facing challenges or imminent threats. After that, the shrine received donations from inside Japan and abroad, and the restoration work was completed the following year.
“The pillars supporting the shrine were made with hinoki cypress contributed by locals who owned mountain land. The members of Osukuna Shachu went into the mountains and selected trees that were growing straight. Children also took part in the log-peeling work. “We were able to complete the reconstruction because we brought together whatever each person could contribute,” said Yutaka Kano, the 64-year-old representative of the group. Climbing the hill to the Sanroden hall, I saw the shining surface of the Hijikawa river below me, running through the mountains of Shikoku.”
Mt. Ishizuchi (40 kilometers west of Matsuyama at the crow flies) is the highest mountain on Shikoku (1,982 meters, 6,500 feet) and is sacred peak climbed by pilgrims. The Kobo-Daishi (A.D. 774-835), the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and a high-ranking priest credited with established the 88 temple Shikoku pilgrimage route, trained there. Ascetics wearing white robes come to mountain in early July, when rituals are held during a ceremonial opening of the year’s climbing season. The mountain’s climbing route has several sections with sets of heavy metal chains dangling down a rocky cliff path leading up to the summit.
Takashi Oki wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “I decided to reach the summit myself, hoping to find a different self there...I visited Saijo, Ehime Prefecture, at the foot of the mountain. To build up stamina for climbing the next day, I ate a popular pasta dish called Teppan Napolitan, a local specialty that is served on a hot iron plate. At 8am the next morning, I took the day’s first ropeway service to Ishizuchi Shrine’s Chugu Jojusha, one of the shrine’s worship facilities, located 4,750 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, clouds hid the summit from view. I began climbing from there, my mind on the weather. After climbing for about 90 minutes through a beech forest, I reached the Yoakashi-toge mountain pass about halfway up the mountain. The forest ended here, and my field of vision suddenly expanded. [Source: Takashi Oki, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 12, 2014]
“Climbing a little farther, we reached Ichi no Kusari, and the first set of chains running down the side of a cliff came into view. The thick chains run 108 ft. down the cliff. Each link in the chain consists of a short iron rod with a ring a little larger than four inches in diameter at each end. Gripping the rings one by one while groping around for toeholds, I climbed up the cliff little by little. It was tough for my arms to support the weight of my backpack and my own body, which has a little too much extra fat. During the climb, I looked down and was seized by fear. It felt like I was dangling from the cliff. If I lost my grip and my feet slipped, I would fall straight down. The thought made me so frightened that I held fast to the chains with both arms. It is said that even grade school children can make the climb, but it felt almost impossible for me. I managed to finish, but when I reached the top of the cliff, I felt dazed. I might have pushed myself too hard.
“After a while, we reached Ni no Kusari, the second set of chains. These run as long as 213 feet. “The part we can’t see down here is difficult to climb,” my guide said. I gave up on climbing this part. Fortunately, however, there is a detour route for those like me. San no Kusari, the final set of chains, was under repair. I was relieved to hear it and continued going on the detour route.
About two hours and 45 minutes after climbing from Jojusha, we finally reached the summit. Although it was not clear and sunny, I could see a foggy range of mountains in the distance. At the shrine’s Okunomiya Chojosha worship facility in the summit area, I saw Atsuki Yamashita, 60, and his wife Riemi, 59, being given an incantation. Yamashita told me that he had turned 60 that day. “I wanted to start a new life at Ishizuchi,” he said.
“However, I had farther to go in seeking my new self — Tengudake peak, which is the highest point of Mt. Ishizuchi, which can be seen just across the summit area. It projected sharply through the fog like a fang. The route from the summit area to Tengudake was rocky, but I had no alternative other than to just keep going. I slithered forward little by little on my stomach on the rocky path. I knew it was pathetic for me to be so full of fear while climbing, but I couldn’t help it. After a while, however, I finally reached Tengudake. When I stood at the highest point of western Japan’s tallest mountain, my surroundings became enshrouded in mist, enveloping me in what felt like a divine cloud. I realized I can’t change myself so easily, but I found myself fully enjoying a sense of accomplishment all the same.
Getting There: The closest train station is Iyo-Saijo on the JR Yosan Line from Matsuyama to Takamatsu. From Okayama, the Shiokaze Limited Express train makes hourly runs to Iyo-Saijo station (1 hour 50 minutes).. The ride from Takamatsu is 90 minutes using the Ishizuchi Limited Express. From Iyo-Saijo, there are only four buses daily connecting to the start of the ropeway (1 hour, information at 0898-23-3450).. The 10:23am bus is the last that will get you to Ishizuchi in time to make the climb and catch the last bus back at 5:22pm For more information, call the Saijo City Tourism Association at 0897-56-2605.
Image Sources: 1) map Japanese Guest Houses 2) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 3) Ray Kinnane 4) Takamatsu city site 5) 6) isamunoguchi.or 7) 8) 9) Nocolas Delerue 10) 11) Matsuyama city site 12) 13) Uwa Jima site
Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020