While much of Shikoku remains fairly unheard of, Matsuyama City has been a famous name for centuries. As the largest city in the whole of Shikoku, the prefectural capital of Ehime, and home to both history-rich sites Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama has a reputation as one of the liveliest and most attraction-packed cities in Shikoku.
If there’s one thing that’s kept the visitors flooding into Matsuyama in the last millennium it’s the extra hot natural spring water of Dogo Onsen. While the area has been a source of bathing relief for centuries, it is just since 1894 that the most famous of the bath houses Dogo Onsen Honkan has been a central landmark in the city. Now the face of Dogo Onsen, this three-storey wooden structure is often the first place associated with Matsuyama City which popular culture is much to thank for, notably the much loved Miyazaki film “Spirited Away”.
Heading off the main streets and up Katsuyama mountain the omniscient Matsuyama Castle can be found overlooking the city where it has sat since the beginning of the 17th century. Sat at 132 metres above the city, the castle is visible from almost every angle from below. Fifteen minutes up a steep path leads up to the vast castle grounds while the easier alternate route is via the Matsuyama Castle Ropeway.
Parks, museums, and eateries pepper the bustling streets of Matsuyama City with the Saka no Ue no Kumo Museum, a favourite among many not only for its literary theme revolving around the Ryotaro Shiba classic that the museum is named after but also for its immaculate design thought out by mastermind architect Tadao Ando. The literary influence doesn’t stop there with popular novel “Botchan” by Natsume Soseki influencing many an attraction around the city. While characters from Botchan jump out of a wind-up clock in the Dogo Onsen area every hour, the Botchan-themed replica steam train can be seen puffing around the city centre all through the day.
Just a stone’s throw from the Seto Inland Sea, not only is Matsuyama a short trip from the fantastic western coastline of Shikoku but also has direct access to abundant delicious seafood found at restaurants, izakayas, and sushi shops around the city. Matsuyama also thrives in mandarin orange production which can be found in every form, from orange juice and jelly to mandarin ice cream and other desserts.
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR