The largest city in Shikoku with the oldest hot spring, a beautiful castle, and the literary tradition. The city's Dogo-onsen Hot Spring with 3,000 year history draws many tourists and residents.
Matsuyama, the largest city in Shikoku, is the capital of Ehime. The city, developed as a castle town, has many places you must visit such as Japan’s noted spa "Dogo-onsen Hot Spring” and Matsuyama Castle.
Matsuyama Castle, standing on a 132 meter hilltop in the center of the city, is the symbol of the town. The castle and its surrounding area including the moated section, constitute a historical site as a whole. A few minutes ride on a ropeway or chair-lift takes you up to the hilltop square. Or you can walk up in less than 30 minutes. The top of the castle tower commands a panoramic view of the whole city, Seto Inland Sea, and further, if the weather permits, Mt. Ishizuchi. The castle site is also well-known as best cherry blossom spots.
Dogo-onsen Hot Spring is the oldest spa in Japan, which is said to have 3,000 year history. A legend says that it healed a deity’s illness in ancient time. Its good quality of the spring, noteworthy tradition, and easy access from downtown have made Dogo-onsen the most popular destination.
The Main Building (Honkan), the symbol of Dogo spa resort, is a communal bathhouse erected in 1894. The magnificent three story castle-like wooden structure is the first public bathhouse designated as an important cultural asset in its 100 years anniversary. It is also known as a model of the bathhouse of gods in Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film “Spirited Away”. It has a watchtower with red glass windows on the roof, where they beat a time-telling drum three times a day, in the morning and the evening, and at noon. Moreover, the Honkan has a special bath called “Yushinden”. It is the bath exclusive to the Imperial Family, which is only one of its kinds in Japan (a sightseeing tour provided). Take a bath, and sit back and relax in cotton yukata in a spacious tatami salon, or a private room with tea and sweets.
Strolling in this neighborhood is another amusement here. Dogo Shopping Arcade with souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants stretches from the front of Honkan. Taking a rickshaw is an idea for an easy and joyful guided tour. Another few minutes walk takes you to sightseeing spots such as Isaniwa-jinja Shrine and Hogon-ji Temple. In 20 minutes walk or five minutes bus-ride, you can reach Ishite-ji Temple, the 51st of 88 temples in Shikoku Pilgrimage.
After visiting the castle and the hot spring, you can enjoy walking down on the retro-flavored street with souvenir shops and cafes, from the ropeway terminal to Okaido street car station. Across the station spreads the downtown with department stores and shopping arcades. You may take a side trip to Sakano Ueno Kumo Museum, the themed museum based on the historical novel by Ryotaro Shiba. It is also famous for its building designed by Tadao Ando, one of the leading architects in the world. Bansuiso Villa, a french-style building, is next to the museum. It was constructed in 1922 as the second home of the former Lord of the Matsuyama Clan.
Literary tradition is another key for Matusyama sightseeing. You may find many items named after “Botchan”, which is the famous novel written by Soseki Natsume, based on his experience in Matsuyama. “Botchan Train” is its good example. The classical style street car, written in the novel and restored in 2001, connects Dogo-onsen Station and the city center. Shiki Masaoka, "Father of Modern Japanese Haiku Poetry" was born in Matsuyama. He and his followers made this city the mecca in haiku, the shortest poem in the world. This city has many haiku posts for residents and tourists. Shiki Memorial Museum introduces his life and work.
From Tokyo :
[Air] 1h 20 min from Haneda to Matsuyama Airport, and 20 min from the airport to Matsuyama Station by bus.
[Rail] 3h 20 min from Tokyo to Okayama Station by JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line, and 2h 40 min from Okayama to Matsuyama Station by JR Seto-ohashi/Yosan Line (limited express).
From Osaka :
[Air] 50 min from Itami to Matsuyama Airport.
[Rail] 45 min from Shin-Osaka to Okayama Station by Shinkansen.