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Matsuyama Castle, Hot Springs, And Ocean Views! Ehime Travel Guide

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Springs, And Ocean Views! Ehime Travel Guide
  • MATCHA
  • Matsuyama Castle, Hot Springs, And Ocean Views! Ehime Travel Guide

Translated by Ken

Written by kazuma takahashi

Ehime 2020.01.12 Bookmark

Nestled in the Shikoku region, Ehime Prefecture is home to a variety of sightseeing locations, notably Matsuyama Castle and therapeutic hot springs. This article will focus on the tourist-favorite Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama City and the scenic Seto Inland Sea islands near Imabari City.

Ehime Prefecture: A Tourist Haven for Sightseeing

Ehime Prefecture is located in the northwestern Shikoku region. Matsuyama Castle, Dogo Onsen, and Shimanami Kaido are highlights of this popular travel destination.

This article will cover the sites of Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama City and the Seto Inland Sea islands near Imabari City.

Matsuyama City's Dogo Onsen Area

Located in central Ehime, Matsuyama City's Dogo Onsen area is home to the prefecture's most noteworthy sightseeing locations. The six following sites should be on the top of your travel itinerary when visiting Ehime.

1. Matsuyama Castle

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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Matsuyama Castle is situated on the peak of Mount Katsuyama (132 meters) in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture. The main tower, or tenshu, was built during the Edo Period—one of only 12 surviving castle towers in Japan.

Alongside this main tenshu, the castle's 21 structures are an Important Cultural Property. There is plenty to see here, from Shikoku's oldest nohara-yagura (*) to the 44.2-meter-deep well within the castle's main enclosure, or "honmaru."

The highlight is the 360-degree views from the top floor of the tenshu. The colorful Matsuyama Plain and the Seto Inland Sea are visible in the panorama.

*Nohara-yagura: A rare castle turret where the beams of the first-floor roof support the second floor. Thus wooden armory is also called "kiba-yagura," or cavalry turret.

Matsuyama Castle

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2. Botchan Train Museum

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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The Botchan Train Museum is run by the Iyo Railway, a local transportation provider of Ehime Prefecture. The museum features a full-size replica of the Botchan train (*), which operated from 1888 for 67 years.

The Botchan Train Museum is a great place to learn about the history of this beloved local transportation company. Free to enter, it is popular among families with kids. The current Botchan train runs between Furumachi and Dogo Onsen. We recommend hopping on when exploring the surrounding city.

*The Botchan train was a steam locomotive that operated from the Meiji Period (1868-1912) to the early Showa Period (1926-1989). With its 18 cars, the locomotive provided reliable transportation for the residents of Matsuyama City.

Botchan Train Museum

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3. Dogo Onsen Main Building

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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The history of Dogo Onsen dates back as far as 3,000 years ago. The main building stands as a stunning symbol of the famed hot spring. It is said to have been the inspiration for the oil store in the acclaimed animated film "Spirited Away."

The influence of Western architecture gives the building a stateliness rarely seen in traditional Japanese buildings. Since you can rent towels and yukatas (light cotton kimonos), there's no need to bring anything to the onsen.

Taking photographs and filming within the main building is prohibited. Please be mindful of the rules before visiting.

*When this article was written (November 2019), the rooms on the second and third floors were closed off due to construction. Only the first floor is open.

Dogo Onsen Main Building

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4. Dogo Onsen Annex (Asuka-no-Yu)

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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Asuka-no-Yu is a public bath that opened in December 2017. The design is inspired by architecture from the Asuka Period (538-710).

Besides the baths, Asuka-no-Yu utilizes state-of-the-art technology—such as project mapping—to retell the stories surrounding Dogo Onsen.

For example, visitors can enjoy a unique painting inspired by a "waka" (*) on the bath's porcelain wall. Spend the day soaking in therapeutic baths and relaxing in the spacious resting room.

*Waka: Traditional Japanese poetry that can either be in short ("tanka") or long ("choka") form.

Dogo Onsen Annex Asuka-no-Yu

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5. Bansuiso

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture
Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

Photo by Pixta

A French Renaissance villa, the Bansuiso is also an Important Cultural Property. It was built in 1922 during the Taisho Period for Earl Sadakoto Hisamatsu, a descendant of the Matsuyama lord. Also called the Guest House of Matsuyama, Bansuiso has even welcomed the late Emperor Showa.

Back when the villa was constructed, it was a popular venue for upper-class social gatherings. Surviving World War II, the building still stands in its original form. Today, Bansuiso is a popular site among visitors eager for a taste of Taisho Romanticism.

Bansuiso

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6. Iyonada Monogatari

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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The Iyonada Monogatari (Japanese) is a sightseeing train operated by the Shikoku Railway Comparny (JR Shikoku). It runs two daily trips from Matsuyama and Yawatahama Station and between Matsuyama and Iyo-Ozu Station, for a total of four trips per day.

Enjoy the coastal scenery of Iyonada Inland Sea from inside this retro-style modern train. The attendants on board provide hospitable service to ensure a comfortable ride. Seats must be reserved ahead of time.

Matsuyama Station

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Imabari City and the Seto Inland Sea Islands

Located in northeastern Ehime Prefecture, Imabari City is famous for the Shimanami Kaido (Nishiseto Expressway) that connects Ehime to Hiroshima's Onomichi City.

A number of beautiful islands dot the Seto Inland Sea between Imabari and Onomichi.

1. Shimanami Kaido

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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The Shimanami Kaido is a 60-kilometer road crossing the Seto Inland Sea. It can be traveled by car or bicycle. In fact, the scenic road is regarded by cyclists as sacred and remains a popular course.

Shimanami Kaido

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2. Imabari Towel Museum

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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Imabari is renowned for its towels. The Towel Museum transforms the city's main product into its own art form. In addition to the art displays, you can tour the towel factory and shop for unique souvenirs.

The museum also has a cafe and an eating space for visitors to grab a snack. Afterward, you can pick up an Imabari towel for either yourself or as a gift.

Towel Museum of Art

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3. Oshima Island

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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Along the Geiyo Archipelago lies Oshima, a small, 42-square-kilometer island. Its main sightseeing location is Kirosan Observatory Park designed by the renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

The view from the observatory is breathtaking. Watch as the sun sets behind the Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge and Seto Inland Sea islands. We highly recommend stopping by to take in the scenery.

Kirosan Observatory Park

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Oshima Island

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4. Aoshima Island

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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Nicknamed "Cat Island," Aoshima has been gaining popularity after the media picked it up as the island of 15 residents and a hundred cats.

While Aoshima is akin to a paradise for cat-lovers, visitors should plan their transportation ahead of time. There are two boat rides per day, with each trip limited to around 30 passengers. Since heavy traffic is to be expected during the holidays, we suggest heading here on a weekday.

You will not find any lodgings, restaurants, or vending machines on the island. Remember to prepare food and drinks before getting on the boat.

Aoshima Island

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Food in Ehime

Matsuyama Castle, Hot Spring Onsen, And Ocean Views! A Guide To Ehime Prefecture

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The staple of Ehime cuisine is taimeshi, or red sea bream and rice. There are two common varities: Uwajima and Imabari style. The Uwajima taimeshi consists of pouring dashi broth onto a bowl of rice topped with sea bream sashimi. The Imabari style is made by cooking the rice together with the sea bream. We recommend trying both types of taimeshi at local restaurants to see which suits your palate.

On the sweet side, Botchan dango (Japanese)—a colorful dango snack—and Poeme—a buttery pastry stuffed with red bean paste—make perfect gifts.

Accessing Ehime

We will go over how to travel from Tokyo to Matsuyama and on to Imabari.

Fly From Haneda Airport to Matsuyama Aiport, Then off to Matsuyama City Station

Flying from Haneda Airport to Matsuyama Airport takes roughly 80 minutes and between 10,000 and 20,000 yen. Take the airport limousine bus from Matsuyama Airport to JR Matsuyama City Station. The ride takes about 15 minutes and costs 560 yen.

Transportation from Matsuyama to Imabari

Take the Iyo Railway train from Matsuyama City Station to Matsuyama Station. The ride is about 10 minutes and costs 160 yen. At Matsuyama Station, transfer onto the Yosan Line headed for Tadotsu and get off at Imabari Station. The ride takes about 75 minutes and costs 970 yen.

Alternatively, you can take the Limited Express Shiokaze from Matsuyama Station for 1,500 yen to get to Imabari in roughly 40 minutes.

Ehime's Unique Culture and Coastal Scenery

From its onsen (hot springs) and panoramic views, to its architecture, Ehime Prefecture sets itself apart from the busy hubs of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

Adored as the "Mediterranean of the East," the Seto Inland Sea is another highlight of the prefecture. We highly recommend visiting Ehime the next time you are in western Japan.
Main image by Pixta

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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