May 17, 2015


Ehime(愛媛)means "lovely princess" and is located at the north-western part of Shikoku(四国). It is famous for 1 of the oldest hot springs in Japan-- Dogo Onsen(道後温泉), and Imabari (今治)towels, THE name for good-quality towels. It also has 2 out of 12 original castles in Japan-- Matsuyama-jo(松山城)and Uwajima-jo(宇和島城). Being a fan of onsen and castle towns, this prefecture is of course not to be missed!

My main trip to Ehime was together with Kochi(高知), in summer. So it was very hot and I was trying to hide in the shades all the time. Anyway, went there direct from Kobe by a day bus (4900 yen, 4 hours). Wasn't eligible for JR pass, but bus was convenient and affordable too.

Spent my 1st day at Matsuyama(松山), capital of Ehime, also the largest city in Shikoku. For locals, it is famous for being the setting of Natsume Soseki's novel Botchan. Getting around Matsuyama can be done by trams (1 of the few cities still using this mode of transportation), and 1 day pass is advisable.

Trip to Matsuyama Castle was interesting, as the more expensive entrance ticket includes the ropeway/chairlift up Mount Katsuyama (where the castle is on), and also a postcard as souvenir.

Matsuyama-jo is 1 of 12 castles surviving from the Edo period. The unique thing about this castle is, the main keep has several wings, so it is quite interesting to explore around.

Had some time so went shopping (summer sale!) at the Shotengai 商店街, then headed to Dogo Onsen, 1 of Japan's oldest and most famous hot springs, that even the imperial family goes to. When I reached there at 7pm, many people gathered around the Botchan Karakuri Clock outside the station to watch the figurines move.

Dogo Onsen Honkan (main hall) is a wooden public bathhouse dating from 1894. It is said to be the inspiration for Ghibli's Spirited Away. There are a few different packages, and I chose the cheapest which is to just have a bath in Kami no Yu(神の湯), the main bath.

Didn't check out the temple/shrine/museum in that area. After the bath, had dinner at a random restaurant nearby. Ordered local specialty Taimeshi 鯛飯 (Uwajima-style) and it was SO GOOD!

The next day, went to Uwajima(宇和島)at another end of the prefecture, which is less explored compared to Matsuyama. Went there by bus which took around 2 hours. My purpose of going there was of course Uwajima Castle, being 1 of 12 castles that remained from Edo period too. Simple 3 storey castle.

Also went to Yusu-Mizugaura(遊子水ヶ浦)to see terraced field landscape facing the sea, designated as important cultural heritage. It is 1 hour bus journey from Uwajima station. Bus frequency is very low, I guess people usually drive to this place.

Since I still have some time after that, checked out the shrines/temples near Uwajima station. Warei shrine's 12 meters tall stone shrine gate is the largest in Japan! There is also Taga shrine, smaller shrine for fertility, and a 3 storey sex museum just beside, devoted to fertility and its graphical expressions. Didn't pay to go in.

Other than Taimeshi, Jakoten (fish cake) and Yuzu are also specialties of Ehime.

Before this trip, actually covered parts of Ehime when I went to Hiroshima for a short home-stay. Saw the Shimanami Kaido, a 60 km long toll road that connects Honshu to Shikoku, starting from Onomichi City(尾道)in Hiroshima, passing through 6 islands in the Seto Inland Sea (Mukaishima, Innoshima, Ikuchijima, Omishima, Hakatajima and Oshima), before reaching Imabari City(今治)in Ehime. It is possible to cycle (70km) too!

We went to Oyamazumi Shrine located on Omishima(大三島), dedicated to the gods who protect sailors and soldiers. There is a large museum that houses fighting equipment from the past, but it was closed by the time we reached.

The minshuku 民宿 that we spent the night in is worth mentioning~ The facilities were simple, but the food was really good, especially the fresh fish grilled to perfection!


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