- For other places with the same name, see Matsuyama (disambiguation).
Quite provincial yet hospitable to travelers, and a hub of business and shopping amongst the lazy calm of the countryside, Matsuyama has much to offer in the way of curious literary and cultural assets.
With a population of 510,000 (2019), Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku, though still noticeably sleepier than cities of comparable size on the Japanese mainland. The city is in a river basin formed by the flow of the Ishite and Shigenobu rivers, and nestled between the Ishizuchi mountain range to the south and Takanawa Mountains to the north. The center of town is Matsuyama-shi Station (松山市駅, "Shieki" for short), south of Matsuyama Castle, which serves as a hub for local trams, buses, and the private Iyotetsu train line. JR Matsuyama Station is a short walk west.
The climate of Matsuyama is overall mild and temperate — somewhat balmy in summer, with most rainfall occurring in late spring, and almost no snow in winter. However, the city's star attraction — Dōgo Onsen (道後温泉) — is a good time in any season, drawing serious hot spring enthusiasts and newcomers alike to its steamy waters. This public bathhouse is thought to be the oldest in Japan, a claim reinforced by its mention in the second oldest book of Japanese history, Nihon Shoki (720 AD).
But Dōgo and its surroundings are better known for their place in another classic Japanese book, Botchan (1906). Renowned novelist Natsume Sōseki (夏目漱石) wrote Botchan while living and working in Matsuyama as a teacher. Although the area does not come off well in the Edo-phile's description, the town nevertheless celebrates the connection with a variety of events and displays.
Sōseki’s friend and mentor, Masaoka Shiki (正岡子規), was a native of Matsuyama and one of the four great masters of haiku. Born to a lower class samurai family, Shiki had a modest childhood. Thanks to his education and an uncle in public office, Shiki was able to enter Tokyo Imperial University to study philosophy and politics, and later became a journalist covering the Russo-Japanese War. His literary career began when he started criticizing the Edo period's iconic haiku artist Matsuo Bashō and praising Yosa Buson, whose work he felt was brief yet refined. Shiki is credited with revitalizing Japanese poetry and modernizing its themes, thus making the short verse once again relevant to modern Japanese culture.
Matsuyama's bastions of literary pride span centuries, and many of the city's attractions celebrate that heritage with unabashed cheer. In the words of one native, referring the character from Botchan (not the pop star): "We don't have geisha — we have Madonna!"
Tourist information edit
- Ehime Prefectural Information Center (EPIC) (愛媛県国際交流センター), 1-1 Dogo Ichiman (Iyotetsu tram or bus to Minamimachi/Kenminbunka Kaikan Mae), ☏ . M-Sa 08:30-17:00. Internet access, study rooms, and bike rentals. It's behind the Ehime Prefectural Cultural Hall.
- JR Matsuyama Station, ☏ . 08:30-17:15.
- Matsuyama Convention & Visitors Bureau, 3-2-46 Okaido, Matsuyama Castle Ropeway Station Bldg 2F, ☏ . M-F.
- Free English volunteer guides are available email@example.com. http://matsuyamavolunteerguide.jimdo.com
There are also information desks at the ferry terminal and Dōgo Onsen.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Matsuyama is hottest in July and August. January and February are the coldest months, with temperatures rarely getting below freezing.
Get in edit
By plane edit
- 1 Matsuyama Airport (MYJ IATA), ☏ . Nonstop service from major airports such as Tokyo Haneda, Nagoya Komaki, Osaka Itami, Fukuoka, and Okinawa. There are also direct flights to and from Seoul and Shanghai.
The Limousine Bus connects the airport to Dōgo Onsen, running at 20-minute intervals (¥450) via JR Matsuyama Sta (¥300).
By train edit
Matsuyama is on the JR Yosan Line. From the mainland, take the San'yo Shinkansen to Okayama, and transfer to the Shiokaze Limited Express, which will get you to Matsuyama in about three hours (¥6630).
The Ishizuchi Limited Express connects Matsuyama with Takamatsu on the eastern end of Shikoku (2½ hours, ¥6010). The Uwakai and a few other limited express services run to Uwajima (75 minutes, ¥3410). (Many limited express trains in Shikoku combine or divide with others at certain stations, so be sure you're in the correct part of the train.)
The Sunrise Seto overnight train from Tokyo departs at 22:00. It goes to Sakaide (坂出) station, the first stop after crossing the long Seto-Ohashi bridge, and the station before Takamatsu. After a 40-minute wait (during which you can get a bite to eat), take the Ishizuchi limited express to Matsuyama, arriving at 10:00. The Sunrise Seto is one of the few overnight trains in Japan with a shower on board. You can use the shower for a small fee, or for no charge, depending on your accommodation type. But if you don't like being limited to six minutes of water, just plan an early visit to Dōgo Onsen!
If you have a Japan Rail Pass, all travel on JR trains is covered except for accommodations on the Sunrise Seto; you can book a carpeted floor space at no charge, or pay the applicable room fee and surcharges for a room or compartment. If you are traveling a long distance to reach Matsuyama, you can choose to simply split up your journey, stopping at an intermediate destination en-route in order to sleep somewhere. For example, on a trip from Tokyo to Matsuyama you could leave Tokyo in the evening on the Shinkansen and make your way to Osaka or Himeji to spend the night. The next morning you can continue to Okayama to connect to the Shiokaze train.
By bus edit
Highway buses connect Matsuyama with the rest of Shikoku, as well as with other major cities in Japan. The following buses are operated by JR Shikoku Bus[dead link] (Japanese website) and affiliated JR bus companies.
Within Shikoku, the Botchan Express bus runs multiple times per day from Takamatsu (2 hr 45 min, ¥3900), while the Nangoku Express offers six daily round-trips from Kochi (2 hr 45 min, ¥3500) and the Yoshinogawa Express offers service to/from Tokushima (3 hr 15 min, ¥4300).
The interestingly-named Madonna Express bus service runs six daily round-trips between Matsuyama and Okayama (3 hours, ¥4300).
From Osaka and Kobe, service is offered on the Matsuyama Express Osaka bus. Eight daily round-trip buses during the day from Osaka and Sannomiya Bus Terminal (5 hr 45 min from Osaka, ¥6700). One round-trip bus runs overnight, starting from Kyoto station (8 hr 15 min, ¥7000) and stopping at Osaka and Sannomiya along the way.
The Olive Matsuyama bus service operates overnight between Nagoya and Matsuyama, via Tokushima and Takamatsu (10 hr 15 min, ¥10,000).
Overnight buses are offered from Tokyo on the Dream Takamatsu-Matsuyama service (10 hr 15 min, ¥12,000; ¥14,300 for Premium Seats).
Iyo Tetsu Bus operates similar services in competition with those listed above, at similar prices. Iyo Tetsu's overnight services make pickup and dropoff stops directly at Dogo Onsen (see below). Iyo and JR buses make stops at the Okaido arcade, from which Dogo Onsen is a short, convenient journey by tram.
Willer Express operates buses from Matsuyama to Kobe, Osaka and Tokyo. Online bookings are available in English.
By ferry edit
- Matsuyama Kankoko (松山観光港). Ferries depart from Matsuyama Kankoko. To reach the terminal from JR Matsuyama Station, take the Iyotetsu Limousine Bus which leaves every hour (20 minutes, ¥450). The bus also runs from the Dogo Onsen tram station (40 minutes, ¥600).
- Ishizaki Ferry and Setonaikai Kisen operate daily to and from Hiroshima, with some boats stopping in Kure (呉). The Superjet Hydrofoil service departs from Matsuyama every hour, on the hour, from 07:00 to 18:00, then at 19:30 and 21:00. The ride takes 70-80 minutes to reach Hiroshima and costs ¥6900 each way. Slower ferries depart on different schedules between 06:25 and 19:50 (10 per day), reaching Hiroshima in about 2½ hours at a cost of ¥3500 each way.
- Kokura Ferry runs an overnight service to Kokura in Kitakyushu, leaving at 21:55 and arriving at 05:00 the next day (you may stay on board until 07:00). A second class bunk costs ¥11,100 (as of April 2022). You need to fill out a short form before boarding the ferry.
- Sunflower runs a ferry service from Beppu to Osaka which stops in Matsuyama along the way. The ferry leaves Matsuyama at 22:55 and arrives in Osaka at 07:35 the next day. Fares start from ¥9600. The ferry service from Osaka to Beppu does not call at Matsuyama.
Get around edit
If you plan on staying for an extended period of time (or believe you will spend more than ¥2000 on transportation), you may want to buy an IC Card at Shieki, which gives 10% discounts on all Iyotetsu transportation (including taxis).
Traveling on foot is an entirely viable way of getting around downtown at a comfortable pace.
By tram edit
Trams (streetcars) have a flat fare, ¥160 per trip (November 2014) or ¥80 for children. A one-day pass costs ¥400.
Of the lines that run around the city, route # 5 is the most useful for travelers, as it runs between the JR Matsuyama station and Dogo Onsen, passing Matsuyama Castle and the Okaido shopping arcade. Route # 3 connects Dogo Onsen with Matsuyama-shi station (for the Iyo Railway).
You can also tour a few Botchan sites on the Botchan Ressha, which is a recreation of the old steam-powered trams (though the modern version runs on diesel).
By bus edit
Iyotetsu (伊予鉄) city buses connect all corners of Matsuyama (except for the island, Nakajima), from the ferry port in the west to Kume in the east, and from Hōjō in the north to Tobe in the south. The hub is the aforementioned Shieki. Timetables are not in English, but if you can pronounce the destination, the driver will help you get there. Fares start at ¥150. Enter buses in the rear and take a slip of paper. If you need to change a yen note, insert it into the machine at the front of the bus to receive change. When you are ready to disembark, go to the front, check the amount due on the above chart and drop the money into the slot.
Buses run once an hour from the Takahama Ferry Port to Dōgo Onsen Eki. There is also an East-West Loop bus which connects all vital areas and whose fare is ¥150.
By train edit
Outer City Commuter Train (郊外電車), ☏ . Also run by Iyotetsu, with a hub at Shieki. Trains run from Yokogawara to Iyo to Takahama every 15 minutes and are quite reliable. ¥150-500.
By car edit
The Nissan Car Rental port at the intersection of Nishihoribata and Hanazoromachi, across from JAL Hotel. Car rental is not practical for city travel, but can be handy for onward destinations in Shikoku.
- Nissan Rentacar. 08:00-20:00. Rentals available in the city center (+81 89-931-4123) and at Matsuyama Airport (+81 89-974-2341).
- Toyota Rentacar, 109-6 Miyadamachi, ☏ . 08:00-17:00.
By bicycle edit
- Bicycles can be rented from EPIC (see above). They are usually not mountain or racing bikes, and come with 1-3 gears.
- Rickshaws (人力車, Jinrikisha) are "man-powered vehicles" popularized by the elite in the Edo period, and are only available for rent around Dōgo. Fares, including a guided tour by your carrier, start at ¥1500 for 15 minutes. There may be an English speaker available.
While having read Sōseki's novels or Shiki's haiku is by no means essential to enjoy most of these sites, it will probably represent the difference between whether you find them evocative pieces of history or just a pleasant collection of Meiji-era buildings.
- 1 Akiyama Brothers Birthplace (秋山兄弟生誕地 Akiyama Kyōdai Seitanchi), 2-3-6 Kachimachi, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00, closed 28 Dec-3 Jan. Born to a lower class branch of the Matsuyama samurai clan, these two brothers became military heroes of Japan. Yoshifuru, the eldest, is credited as the father of the Japanese cavalry, while Saneyuki excelled in naval tactics. Yoshifuru traveled to France to study cavalry techniques in 1887. After serving in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) he established a cavalry division which debuted in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). After holding numerous posts of prestige, he was promoted to General in 1916 and finally retired to become a junior high school principal in Matsuyama. A childhood friend of Shiki, Saneyuki shared his friend's love of the written word, and the two studied literature at Tokyo University. However, at the behest of his brother, Saneyuki embarked on a military career. He was sent to America to study naval tactics, and had on-the-job training during the Spanish-American War (1898). After returning to Japan, he became the foremost strategist of the Russo-Japanese War, leading to a major victory on Tsushima. ¥200.
- 2 Bansuiso (萬翠荘), 3-3-7 Ichibanchō, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:40-18:00, closed 29 Dec-5 Jan. This French-style building was constructed in 1922 for the former lord of Matsuyama Castle, Hisamatsu Sadakoto (久松定謨). After having lived and studied in France, Hisamatsu became enamored with the romantic architectural style, and hired Kigo Shichirō (木子七郎) to build his villa. This Taishō Era estate was the venue of many parties for the elite in its heyday, and the Emperor made it a point to visit whenever he was in the area. It is boused as an annex of the Museum of Art. The first floor's gallery changes throughout the year and is free, while the collection on the second floor showcases ink paintings by Shiki, Sōseki, and other Ehime residents. ¥100 adults, ¥50 children.
- 3 Botchan Gizmo Clock (坊っちゃんカラクリ時計), Dōgo Yunomachi Hōjōen, ☏ . Chimes between 08:00-21:00. Admirers of the aforementioned Botchan may enjoy watching the Gizmo Clock beside Dōgo Onsen Station at the mouth of the shopping arcade when it chimes every hour and half hour. Botchan Karakuri Tokei was completed in 1994 to commemorate the 100th year of the last reconstruction of Dōgo Bathhouse, and the animatronics that emerge during the musical interlude depict special scenes from the novel. Free.
- 4 Dōgo Park & Yuzuki Castle Ruins (道後公園・湯築城), Dōgo Park, ☏ . Dōgo Park: 24 hours, Yuzuki Castle Ruins: Tu-Su 09:00-17:00, closed 29 Dec-3 Jan. From mid-March through April, the typically peaceful Dōgo Park is overwhelmed by inebriated locals and hawking vendors who come to take part in the most ancient of activities, hanami, or viewing of sakura (cherry blossoms). An oval shaped patch of green in the overdeveloped Dōgo neighborhood, Dōgo Kōen is an important part of Matsuyama's identity because it harbors the ruins of Yuzuki Castle. Yuzuki-jō was the residence of the Kōno Clan (河野), who ruled Iyo Province (伊予, now Ehime) from the 13th to the late 16th century, when war lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) sent an army to Shikoku to conquer and unify Japan. The excavation of the 30,000-m² site took over 14 years, but the castle, gardens, and residences were all recovered. Within the recreated homes, mannequins silently act out the daily lives of the elite during that time, drinking tea and writing renga (poems composed by a group). There is also a library and a volunteer English-speaking guide can show visitors around with advance reservations. Free.
- 5 Isaniwa Shrine (伊佐爾波神社 Isaniwa Jinja), 173 Sakuratani, ☏ . 24 hours. Sitting upon Dōgo Hill and accessible by car or climbing 135 stone steps, this important cultural asset is one of three great examples of Shinto Hachiman-zukuri (God of War) architecture in Japan. It was promised by the lord of Matsuyama Castle, Matsudaira Sadanaga (松平定長), if the gods awarded him victory in the 1667 Edo Castle Yabusame (horseback archery) competition. The outer walls are modeled after the Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine in Kyoto, while the inner sanctum (the oldest part of the shrine) is designed in various Shinto styles of the 17th century. Memorials honoring the warlords who fought against the Kamakura battalion are guarded by stalwart dogs who watch over the four deities adorning the four corners of the vermilion structure. There are exhibitions of feudal era armor (including Matsudaira's helmet) and swords (Tachi Mei, a mid-Kamakura era piece crafted by the famous Kuniyuki Rai). Free.
- 6 Iyo Kasuri Folk Craft Museum (伊予かすり会館), 1165 Kumanodai (Near Kinuyama), ☏ . 08:10-16:50. Learn about the process of making Iyo's signature cloth and then create some of your own. Reservations necessary. ¥50 adults, ¥40 children.
- 7 Kōshinan Historic Park (庚申庵史跡庭園), 2-6-7 Misakechō, ☏ . Th-Tu 10:00-18:00. This small teahouse was built in 1790 as a gift to Kobayashi Issa (小林一茶) by his friend Kurita Chodō (栗田樗堂), from one poet to another. The design was inspired by Matsuo Bashō's idyllic hut and the name comes from the sexagenary cycle of the year. It has been restored to its former beauty. When the fujidana wisteria are in bloom, Kōshinan Shiseki Teien is truly a sight to behold. It is free to tour, but reserving the rooms is also possible. Free.
- 8 Matsuyama Castle (松山城), 1 Marunouchi, ☏ . 09:00-17:00, closed 29 Dec. Situated on the 130-m-tall Katsuyama Hill in the center of the city, this sprawling fortress is one of three remaining multi-wing, flat hilltop Japanese castles. It was constructed by the feudal lord Katō Yoshiaki (加藤嘉明) over the course of 25 years, completed in 1627. Four of its eight strategic gates are designated national cultural treasures, and with the wealth of historical artifacts within its majestic walls — swords and armor belonging to the three occupying families, calligraphy and official documents from the feudal era (English available) — Matsuyama-jō is well worth the hike. The castle is accessible by hiking a wooded trail, but the ropeway (¥500 roundtrip) can be boarded at the east entrance. ¥500 adults, ¥150 children.
- 9 Matsuyama Central Park (松山総合公園), 1-1633-2 Asahigaoka, ☏ . 24 hours. Curiously styled as a European fortress wall and atop a hill high enough to parallel the castle, Matsuyama Sōgō Kōen provides a panoramic view of Matsuyama and features a playground for children. Free.
- 10 Museum of Art, Ehime (愛媛県美術館), Horinouchi, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:40-18:00, closed Dec 29-Jan 3. Ehimeken Bijutsukan is a surprisingly discreet 10,300-m² facility in Shiroyama Park (at the base of the castle and surrounded by a moat) and houses a permanent collection from Ehime natives such as Takubo Kyōji (mixed media sculptor) and Kangaku Oki (ink painter) as well as temporary exhibits from all over the globe. There is a rental gallery where Ehime residents can display their pieces, along with free workshops, a library, and a café. ¥300 adults, ¥200 students.
- 11 Ninomaru Historical Garden (二ノ丸史跡庭園), 5 Marunouchi, ☏ . 09:00-16:40, closed Dec 29. Located southwest of the castle on the hillside, Ninomaru Shiseki Teien is another excellent point for viewing the city. The ruins of the Matsuyama Clan estate are preserved and celebrated in a romantic mixture of contemporary fountain designs and ancient garden aesthetics. Viewable from the castle's donjon, mystical Takigi Nō (nocturnal plays by bonfire) performances take place here throughout the year, and families enjoy picnics in its quiet serenity. Many cultural events (tea ceremonies, doll exhibitions, drum performances, etc.) are hosted here. ¥100 adults, ¥50 children.
- 12 Russian Soldiers' Cemetery (ロシヤ人墓地), 1-525 Miyuki. 24 hours. During the Russo-Japanese War, a number of Russian soldiers ended up in prison camps in Matsuyama. Not viewed as criminals but rather as warriors who loved another nation, these prisoners are said to have had a relatively easy life here. To this day, volunteers of the community respectfully tend to their tombs, which are in the center of a sacred circle of temples and shrines. Free.
- 13 Saka no Ue no Kumo Museum (坂の上の雲ミュージアム), 20-3 Ichibanchō, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:40-18:00, closed first Tu each month and Dec 29-Jan 3. The name means "The Cloud Over an Upward Slope", and refers to the title of a book written by Shiba Ryōtarō (司馬 遼太郎) depicting the struggles Japanese people encountered as they rebuilt their country after the Meiji Revolution and the conflict with Russia. This impressive building, designed by well-known architect Ando Tadao (安藤忠雄), tells the stories of the aforementioned Akiyama Brothers and Masaoka Shiki. The ¥400 admission may be a little steep for non-Japanese readers as there is absolutely no English inside, but the Meiji Karakuri Theatre (moving 'stick' figures) is quite entertaining. ¥400 adults, ¥200 students.
- 14 Shiki Commemorative Museum (子規記念博物館), 1-30 Dōgo Kōen, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. Located in the Dōgo area, the Shiki Kinen Hakubutsukan has a large collection of literature, artwork, and special exhibits about the life of Shiki. ¥400 adults, ¥320 students.
- 15 Shikidō (子規堂), 16-3 Suehiromachi, ☏ . 08:30-17:00. The main rooms of the house where Shiki spent the first 17 years of his life were replicated and set up in Shōjuji near the center of the city. The desk and artifacts from his childhood are displayed as he would have had them. The facility is complete with literary and artistic works discovered after his death, pictures, and even some monuments dedicated to other renowned haiku poets. ¥50.
88 Temple Pilgrimage edit
Eight temples in Matsuyama are part of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Most are well out of the city center, though, and require a car or (appropriately enough) a hike.
- 16 Jōruriji (浄瑠璃寺), 327 Jorurichō, ☏ . #46. Created in 708, this temple houses one of Gyoki's Yakushinyorai statue, the first of its kind and the guardian of knowledge and art. Free.
- 17 Yasakaji (八坂寺), 773 Jorurichō, ☏ . #47. Built in 701, this temple has the first Amida Nyorai deity statue. Free.
- 18 Sairinji (西林寺), 1007 Takaimachi, ☏ . #48. Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師) struck the ground with his stick and created a pond here; his 11-headed Kannon also stands here. Free.
- 19 Jōdoji (浄土寺), 1198 Takanokochō, ☏ . #49. Jōdo was built in the 700s by Emyo Shonin. Free.
- 20 Hantaji (繁多寺), 32 Hatateramachi, ☏ . #50. Another Yakushinyorai statue is worshipped here. Free.
- 21 Ishiteji (石手寺), 2-9-21 Ishite, ☏ . 24 hours. #51. This is one of the most impressive of the 88 temples in the pilgrimage, housing a variety of statues, haiku stones, and treasures scattered about the grounds. Some of its more interesting aspects are the Deva Hall with its murals of gods, the belfry, and the giant stone statue of Kōbō Daishi — whose head, if you can touch it, will absolve you of making the entire pilgrimage. Founded in 728 and part of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism, Ishiteji embodies one of the most moving of Buddhist legends of greed, sorrow, repentance, and reincarnation. Smoke from the incense of pilgrims making their prayers fill the inner sanctum. Ishiteji celebrates the New Year like no other temple in Matsuyama. Free.
- 22 Taizanji (太山寺), 1730 Taisanjichō, ☏ . #52. An 11-headed Kannon and Shitenno god statues reside here. Free.
- 23 Enmyōji (円明寺), 1-182 Wakichō, ☏ . #53. Also built in the 8th century, the dō style of this temple was rebuilt in 1633. Free.
- See also: Public baths in Japan
Co-ed almost-naked stair-climbing
As you descend the staircase down to the baths, keep an eye out for an unusual sign:
Or, in English, "Climbing the stairs while naked is strictly forbidden".
- 1 Dōgo Onsen Honkan (道後温泉本館), 5-6 Yunomachi, Dōgo, ☏ . Grab your towel and go bathing! Dōgo Onsen is the oldest and most famous onsen in Japan, with a history stretching back over 3,000 years. Quite a few legends surround these waters. One says that the springs of Dōgo were discovered when, during the age of the gods, a heron placed his injured leg into hot water streaming out of a rock and was miraculously healed. Another claims that when an ill god bathed in the hot spring, the god recovered and danced for joy. The heron motif is everywhere inside the building. Tama no ishi or Yudama, the round rock from which the healing waters sprang, is the source of the symbol for Dōgo, though it looks more like a chestnut to some. There are two types of baths in the honkan for both men and women.;
In January 2019, renovation works started on the Dogo Onsen Honkan during which the bath house is closed partially over the period of seven years. During the first of two phases of the renovation works, two small baths on the first floor remain open to visitors (one for each gender), while the rest of the building, including the rest areas on the second and third floors, gets closed. Some parts of the building will be covered up by scaffolding; however, some of the building's sides (the front and north sides during the first phase of the renovations) will intentionally be kept free of scaffolding to reduce the impact on tourism.
- According to legend, Prince Shotoku (574-622) used to partake of the waters, and in 1899, the annex Yushinden, was built so that the Imperial Family could enjoy Dōgo in privacy. The last time the Emperor visited Dōgo was in the 1970s, but the curious can peek into the rooms (15-minute tour without bathing: ¥250 adults, ¥120 children.) There is also an exhibition room that features artifacts from the various stages of Dōgo's history.
- Kami no Yu 1F (神の湯). 06:00-23:00. The "Bath of the Gods" is a simple public style bath in a pseudo-Mediterranean setting. Towels and soap are not provided but can be cheaply rented at the front. Includes access to the Exhibition Room and Botchan's Rooms. Adults ¥400, children ¥150.
- Kami no Yu 2F (神の湯) (The path marked in blue.). 06:00-22:00. Bathers can use the lounge, wear a Dōgo yukata, and have tea with sembei (rice cracker) for 60 minutes. Includes access to the Exhibition Room and Botchan's Rooms. Adults ¥800, children ¥400.
- Tama no Yu 2F (霊の湯) (Follow the red path.). 06:00-22:00. The "Bath of the Spirits" 60-minute course includes use of Kami no Yu, lounge, a yukata, snacks, towel, the two aforementioned rooms and a 15 minute Yushinden tour. Adults ¥1200, children ¥600.
- Tama no Yu Private Room 3F (霊の湯) (Follow the yellow path.). 06:00-22:00. This course is 80 minutes. The room is private, and the provided yukata has a heron design. Botchan dango (rice dumplings) are served. Adults ¥1500, children ¥750.
- 2 Ehime Children's Castle (えひめこどもの城 Kodomo no Jō), 108 Nishinochō, Otsu, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-17:00, closed Dec 29-Jan 1. This vast playground (350,000 m²) consists of five play zones with slides, roller coasters and even workshops for cooking and crafts. Great for families and couples. ¥300 adults, ¥100 children.
- Haiku Monument Tour (俳碑めぐり). 24 hours. Many well-known haiku writers came from or have made pilgrimages to Matsuyama, giving it the title "Town of Haiku" (俳句の里). As you tour the city, you'll find dozens of stones engraved with timeless verses. Haiku no Ro features a number of these stones. Some of the haiku artists on display are Takahama Kyoshi (高浜 虚子), Ishida Hakyō (石田波郷) and Yanagihara Kyokudō (柳原 極堂). Free.
- 3 Jungle/Okudōgo Onsen (ジャングル/奥道後 温泉), 267 Suemachi, Okudōgo (Bus 52 or 73 for Okudōgo and Yuyama New Town to Yu no Moto stop), ☏ . 05:30-00:00. The best kept secret when it comes to communal bathing in Matsuyama is the old timey resort Hotel Okudōgo's onsen safari, and that's not surprising considering it's beyond (奥's meaning in this context) Dōgo. There are 26 pools in all, half in Seseragi and the others in Kawasemi; men's and women's areas are switched almost every day. It's called "Jungle Onsen" because of the steamy atmosphere. No two pools have the same concoction (sulfur, alkaline, etc.) or style, which makes pool-hopping fun. There are waterfall massages, saunas, temperatures ranging from scalding to freezing, and outdoor pools overlooking the forests of the Okudogo Mountains and the Ishite River. ¥500 adults, ¥250 children.
- Koto Lessons (箏レッソン), Matsuyama Information Center, 4-20-6 Sanbanchō, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-17:30. Taught by volunteers. The koto and picks are provided, but reservations are required. Free.
- 4 Zazen Meditation (坐禅), Keitokuji, 3-2-5 Takasagochou, ☏ . 07:00-08:00. Zazen, "seated meditation", is a form of Buddhist meditation used to empty the mind and simply exist in the moment. Try it out for some travel stress relief. Free.
- 5 Matsuyama Putt Golf (パットゴルフ松山コース), 229-1 Myouka, Tobe, Iyo District (Route 33), ☏ . M-F 12:30-20:00, Sa Su 10:00-20:30. A family-friendly mini-golf course just outside of Matsuyama. Managed by a Canadian expat and his wife. ¥1000 (3 games).
Hime Daruma and Hime Temari
Two stories explain the origins of these cheerful artifacts. One says that when Emperor Ojin visited Dōgo Onsen he was inspired by the memory of his mother's pregnancy, and decided to craft an object to give expecting mothers good luck. The other says that after being left fatherless by the Mongolian Invasion (1274-1281) and devoting the rest of her life to caring for her late patriarch's grave, the face of one of the daughters of the Kōno clan, Hime, was drawn over that of a Bodhidharma toyōka daruma (Bodhidharma being the founder of Zen Buddhism). In Japan, a bride brings a temari, which is a technicolor string ball, to the groom's house as a sign of "amicable settlement", but it is more commonly exchanged during New Year's.
A stroll around Dōgo Onsen, particularly the Yunomachi shopping corridor, will turn up plenty of tourist-oriented souvenir shops. Look for Iyo Kasuri cloth, which was traditionally woven with thread-dyed indigo, but is now made in many vibrant hues and is used for clothing, toys and accessories. (Kasuri means "splashed pattern".) Another item of note is Tobe pottery, which boasts a history of over 220 years. Designated a National Traditional Craft, it's valued for its thickness and simplicity, and the sensual contrast of the indigo against pristine white ceramic ware. Shops in Yunomachi sell Tobeyaki, but Tobe the town is not far from Matsuyama if you'd prefer to go to the source.
The Gentangai Arcade, just east of Shieki, is the place to look for more contemporary and eclectic items.
- Animate (アニメイト), 4-10-8 Minatochō, BE-FLAT 4F, ☏ . 11:00-19:00, closed first M each month. There are a few anime shops around the downtown area, but this is the landmark. The others aren't far away on foot — walk a little further into the Gentengai Arcade and Melon Books and Iashinbang will be on your left and up the stairs, or achieve moe at Merry Maid Cafe, on the 5th floor of the appropriately named Waku Bldg.
- Dog Pillar (ドッグピラー), 5-1-11 Chifunemachi, ☏ . 10:00-19:30. What canine wouldn't want to try some green tea doggie treats?
- Hamashou (濱正), 3-6-24 Ishite, ☏ . Quality, locally produced bamboo products (and other Ehime crafts) on the second floor. Head east on Rt. 317 from Dōgo Hill.
- Takashimaya, 5-1 Minato-cho, ☏ . 10:00-19:00. Situated above the Iyotetsu train station, this Takashimaya has a rare distinction among Japanese department stores: a Ferris Wheel on the roof.
- Tsudaensōdō (津田演奏堂), 4-11-5 Minatochō, ☏ . 10:00-19:00. If Misora Hibari is your idol, get your enka fix here!
Matsuyama is a great place to indulge a sweet tooth. Botchan dango (坊ちゃん団子) headline every sweet shop in town. They're skewered rice dumplings covered in bean paste dyed with green tea, eggs, and azuki beans. This soft, sweet snack was popularized by Sōseki, who had such a weakness for them that he included the treats in Botchan. Another local favorite are the cute little tarts (タルト). Originally derived from Nagasaki's Castella cake in the 1600s, the Matsuyama variety replaces jam with azuki bean paste, and rolls up the cake.
For a healthier sweet, mikan (みかん) (citrus fruits) come in a multitude of species, including iyokan (grapefruit-like) and dekopon (huge, orange and puckered). Mikan are mainly harvested in the fall and are very cheap, but they're so treasured that they are used as offerings to ancestral spirits.
- Dōgo Bakushukan (道後麦酒館), 20-13 Yunomachi, Dōgo, ☏ . Tu-Su 11:00-22:00. One of the only two restaurants privileged with having Dōgo Beer on the menu, Bakushukan is to the right of Dōgo Onsen Honkan and has a warm, semi-German theme. ¥1000-2000.
- Goshiki Honten (五志喜本店), 3-5-4 Sanbanchō, ☏ . 11:00-21:00. This restaurant is a fantastic place to experience Ehime cuisine, serving dishes such as taimeshi (fish) and goshiki soumen (五色そうめん), five-colored noodles dyed using natural ingredients: eggs, green tea, buckwheat flour, plums and shiso. Thin yet strong, these noodles make an excellent base for other regional fare. ¥1600-5000.
- Ladky's (ラルキー), 5-9 Hanazonochō, ☏ . 11:00-14:30, 17:00-22:00. There are two locations, but this is the original. Ladky's serves up the best Indian food in town. Spice potency varies with the chef's mood, so choose wisely... or order the pudding to soothe the fire. Lunch: ¥1000-2000; Dinner: ¥1500-2500, Course: ¥2900.
- Matsuchika Town (まつちかタウン), 5-1-1 Minatomachi (Underground of Shieki), ☏ . 10:00-21:00, closed 3rd W each month. Opened in 1971, this ramen strip is the place to find regional noodle fare at comfortable prices. Try Sapporo Enishiya, Tōkyō Kyouka or Kumamoto Tengaiten. You'll see Matsuyama-ites waiting in lines for something edible, so lunch is a test of patience richly rewarded. ¥300-700.
- Nikitatsu-an (にきたつ庵), 3-18 Kitamachi, Dōgo, ☏ . Tu-Su 11:00-21:30. A romantic and sophisticated Japanese brasserie, and the other of the two restaurants with the honor of serving Dōgo Beer. It's next door to the brewery, in fact. Lunch ¥1000-4000, dinner ¥3000-5000.
- Underground Café, Ropeway Street 3-6-6, Okazaki-Sangyo 2nd Bldg (walk up Ropeway Street towards the castle and turn right at the fourth side street), ☏ . Food 12:00-19:00, bar until 04:00. One of the best kept secrets among night spots. UC has an open patio draped in the Union Jack, yet has the tastiest Mexican dishes in town. Try the quesadilla or enchilada, but don't bother with the nachos. They also serve a wide variety of highballs (¥525+), exotic beers (Sol, Pine, and Red Stripe), pasta and rice dishes (¥420+). Pictures of all dishes are available, and for ¥3000, a party of three can drink as much as they want and get a seven course meal.
The drinking district is fairly well-concentrated; the streets around the Okaido Arcade are the place to begin a bar crawl.
- Dōgo Brewery (道後ビール水口酒造), 3-23 Dōgo Kitachō, ☏ . 08:30-17:00. Local breweries are a rare find in Japan, so it's no surprise that locals take so much pride in Minakuchi Shuzō. At the end of your complimentary tour of the tiny facility, and after you've tasted each of their signature brands — the crisp Sōseki Stout, hardy Madonna Alt and mild Botchan Kölsch — you can try asking the manager what the secret is to the smooth, clean taste, but you won't get much of an answer. It could be the use of Dōgo's sacred waters or the meticulous hopps roasting technique. Beer is brewed in the spring and summer, while shōchū is made in the fall and winter. Free.
- Flankey Kobayashi (フランキー小林), 3-4 Ichibanchō, Nichōme, ☏ . 17:00-02:00. A cozy standing bar popular due to its cheap fare and the friendliest English-speaking football-loving Japanese staff on the block. Draft beer and shiranami shōchū (potato based alcohol) are ¥300, Smirnoff Ice, yakisoba and chijimi are ¥350 and edamame (green beans) are ¥200. It's south of Moral Monkey bicycle parking lot on the right-side corner.
- Gallé, 12-1 Dogoyuyuki-machi, 2F (Dogo Onsen tram stop), ☏ . Tu-Su 08:00-17:00. A small European-style cafe by Dogo Onsen, Gallé sells sweet Japanese breakfasts, thick cut honey toast, yogurt, and fruit, either a la carté or as breakfast sets for ¥550 to ¥800. Their coffee may seem a little pricey at first, starting at ¥450, but the care and quality they put into their brew makes it well worth the extra yen per cup.
- Junk Field Sports & Cafe Bar (ジャンクフィールド), 2-5-10 Nibanchō, Zenana Bldg 2F, ☏ . M-Sa 18:00-03:00. While you watch the game on one of the 3 large flat screens, you can order individual dishes and a drink or two, or one of their courses, which will run you ¥2800 to ¥4000. Heading south from Ichibanchō, this is down the one-way, side street on the right of Ōkaidō, and on the second floor of the building on your left after you cross Nibanchō street.
- New York Elephant (N.Y.E.), 3-10-1 Nibanchō, Chime Nibanchō Bldg 3F, ☏ . 18:00-03:00. Billiards, darts, and typical Japanese bar fare. It's located on the left rear of Mitsukoshi department store.
- Roppongi (六本木), 2-7-2 Ichibanchō, Rojji Bldg, ☏ . 19:00-02:00. Run by young married entrepreneurs, Roppongi is a chic but comfortable bar with music catered to guests. Table charge is ¥300, draft beer is ¥500 and cocktails begin at ¥650. New favorites include chicken liver pâté, beef stroganoff, and the owner's best, Chocobanana Milk which uses Godiva whiskey. It's just off Ichibanchō Street, between the Iyotetsu Travel Agency and the Iyotetsu Taxi Hub.
- Sala Sol, 2-3-5 Sanbanchō, 3F, ☏ . 19:00-late. And "late" really means late at this popular, seedy watering hole, where expats and natives have been known to drink and dance until daybreak. Nabe, who speaks Japanese British English, is a kind and friendly host who will be happy to spin your favorite song. However, be aware that of the 4 beers listed on tap, only Lowenbrau is ever available on draft. Football games are screened here, albeit often with cheesy pop music drowning out the audio.
- Yamiichi Johnny (闇市ジョニー), 1-4-16 Nibanchō, ☏ . M-Sa 18:30-02:30. If you’re in the mood for assorted cow and pig parts, this Kansai-style horumon semi-standing bar will be right up your alley. Try the tongue for ¥800, a diaphragm for ¥850 or, their specialty, raw liver for ¥580 (warm it up yourself for an extra ¥20). Wash it all down with Mr. Ishii’s signature Johnny shōchū, a highball (¥500) or draft beer (¥380).
- 1 Eco Dōgo (エコ道後), 2-17 Dōgoyuzuki-machi, ☏ . Almost on top of Dōgo Onsen, with free Internet. Check-in is at 2PM, but you can leave your things there at any time. ¥2200 with your own sleeping bag; without, it's ¥2500.
- 2 Guest House Matsuyama (ゲストハウスMATSUYAMA), 8-3-3 Okaido (Ropeway tram stop), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Run by the super friendly Tamanoi-san of The Sophia Club NPO. It has a number of different rooms both Western and Japanese style some of which are self-catering. All have private bathrooms. Tamanoi-san speaks good English and knows 'everyone' in town. Internet, bike use included. Rooms from ¥2000 shared, ¥2500 single.
- 3 Matsuyama Youth Hostel (松山ユースホステル), 22-3 Himesuka, Otsu, Dōgo (uphill from Dōgo Onsen Station), ☏ . Closed late Nov, late Jan, late June. Run by an eccentric but affable couple who will, among other things, provide courses on spoon-bending and scan your aura on demand. Expensive for what you get. A bit of a hike up a hill from the main part of town. Small, family kitchen not great for cooking, but it's near many restaurants. ¥3200.
- Hotel Taihei (ホテル泰平), 3-1-15 Heiwadori, ☏ . It's just behind the castle, and offers an observatory, open-air sauna and onsen (10th floor) and two buffet restaurants. It also has Internet access. Rooms from ¥5000 single, ¥7500 double, ¥13,700 triple.
- Matsuyama City Hotel (松山シティホテル), 2-8 Otemachi, ☏ . Also in the heart of Matsuyama, this smaller hotel has a cheaper breakfast, Japanese and Western restaurants, and a fitness room. Western-style rooms from ¥6300 single, ¥15,550 double; Japanese-style ¥6900-18,900.
- Funaya (ふなや), 1-33 Dōgoyuzuki-machi (Dōgo Onsen tram station), ☏ . Top-end classic ryokan, with indoor and outdoor onsen, centered around an exquisite traditional Japanese garden. Rooms from ¥20,000 with meal.
Stay safe edit
Matsuyama is a safe city, even by Japanese standards. Theft has never been an issue at Dōgo Onsen, but there are coin lockers (¥100) if you have valuables to store.
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- 24 Tobe Zoo (とべ動物園), 240 Tobechō, Iyogun, ☏ . Tu-Su 09:00-17:00, closed Dec 29-Jan 1. It's south of Matsuyama. Tobe Dobutsuen is the destination for viewing over 190 species of animals, particularly "Peace" the polar bear. Though more spacious than its previous grounds and the silhouette animal footprints leading to the entrance are endearing, the zoo may leave much to be desired for those not used to Japanese zoological standards. ¥300 adults, ¥100 children.
- Mount Ishizuchi — the highest peak in western Japan.
- Uchiko — traditional merchant town with Kabuki theatre and wax factory museum.
- Uwajima — bull sumo, 3 hours south on the JR Yosan Line
- Other cities within reach on the Yosan Line include mountainous Ikata and industrious Niihama and Imabari, the latter of which is connected to the mainland for cars and bicyclists.
- Iya Valley, a couple of hours away in central Shikoku, is famous for its daring vine bridges, traditional thatched roof homes, and isolated mountain culture.
- Mima, is a small city in western Tokushima prefecture. Mostly known for several historic locations, as well as campsites and outdoor activities (kayaking, hiking, fishing, motorcross, paragliding, etc.). Accessible by bus from Matsuyama.
- Takamatsu - on the other side of the island and accessible by train