As we all know, Japan is comprised of four main islands; while only the Shikoku is not connected to the Shinkansen (the new trunk line high-rapid railway) network, it is kind of left out in most travel planning. The up-side to of this situation to me, is there are some kinds of mysteriousness and mystics to this island (I think not only to me). In fact, many locations in Shikoku are listed in the Japanese national “hidden treasures”
The list of 100 Japan’s “Hidden Treasure” (日本の秘境100選): http://j100s.com/hikyo.html
That time I was exploring Hiroshima and ultimately I put Matsuyama and the Togo Onsen (Hotspring) on my itinerary. If you are looking for something new, I would recommend this city and I had a great experience!
Matsuyama is the capital of the Ehime prefecture and the largest city in Shikoku. Developed as a typical Japanese castle town, the city has certain historic flavors from different eras.
…>>> Okayama > (JR Railway) > (Day 1) Matsuyama Castle Town District > (Day2) Dogo-onsen > (Ferry) > Hiroshima >>>…
In a nutshell, I took off from Okayama and spent 2 days in Matsuyama. Day 1 we went to city center – Matsuyama Castle Town (for the cherry blossom) and the main shopping streets; for Day 2, I visited the Dogo-onsen shopping street, Ishite Temple and Dogo park for more cherry blossom excitement.
++++ Part 1
Matsuyama is located at the corner of Northeast Shikoku and charmingly surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea. In fact, it’s a little far from the other two main cities in the country (both three hours away from Takamatsu or Okayama). But well, I thought my plan was perfect to hit one bird with two stones – Okayama > 3 hours train to Matsuyama > 2.5 hours ferry to Hiroshima, and then I met the most amazing cherry blossom I have ever seen. No complaints.
Both rapid bus and JR trains are available @ the Okayama station. The costs were roughly the same, the time required was roughly the same, the level of comfortableness was also the same – basically, it’s up to your personal choice. If I really have to point out each method’s problem, I didn’t have to change vehicles taking buses or enjoyed higher flexibility with my traveling schedule taking the train.
Express bus Okayama – Matsuyama: http://www.jr-shikoku.co.jp/bus/businfo/madonna_ex/okayama.htm#rate
Things to see in Matsuyama:
1. The “Botchan Ressha” 坊っちゃん列車
The replica steam locomotive ride was based on a novel written by a great Japanese novelist Natsume Sōseki (夏目漱石) of the Meiji period, setting in the city of Matsuyama.
Check out the timetable (there are about 6 times per day – running from Togo onsen to Matsuyama station): http://www.iyotetsu.co.jp/botchan/annai/#botchan_noriba
In fact, the city of Matsuyama is not big, and the tram itself was interesting enough for me to let the vehicle just move around the city, me sitting by the window, and enjoying the city’s street view (P~E~R~F~E~C~T)
2. Matsuyama Castle Town
It’s definitely a super highlight of the city.
Do you know that there were thousands of castles in Japan since the Sengoku Period; Unfortunately, the majority of them were destroyed due to fire, disasters, or war over the years. Today, about a hundred castles were rebuilt and restored, and the Matsuyama Castle is one of the twelve “original” castles left standing (the most famous castle in the list is the Himeji Castle.)
Once we settled in the hot spring hotel we took the steam locomotive and headed straight to the Matsuyama Castle. The cherry, yes, yes, yes, was in full bloom and everyone was excited.
The whole experience was fun – the mascot character, the historic sites, the chairlift and ropeway, and the cherry blossom was just perfect for different types of visitors.
Open Hours: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Ticketing: 510 yen (suggest taking the ropeway)
How did I get there: In the city centre with very clear signs at Okaido station by tram
About the mascot of Matsuyamajo: http://www.matsuyamajo.jp/event/yoshiakikun/#calendar
3. Saka no Ue no Kumo Museum and Bansuiso
Matsuyama has a very rich literary heritage, and Ryōtarō Shiba is one the most well-known novelists from the city. The Saka no Ue no Kumo (Clouds over the slope) is an important Japanese historical novel set in the Meiji period. The triangular museum with concrete exterior itself was designed by the famous Japanese Architect, AndoTadao (安藤忠雄), and inside the premise, it has shown plots of the novel and pictures of Matsuyama from the Edo period.
The Bansuiso (Bansui Mansion) was up the slope on the same road of the Saka no Ue no Kumo Museum and the final stop of the city tour bus. It was an elegant French style mansion building constructed in 1922 and now it was a multi-functional venue for private parties and functions. It has also areas opened to the public for visitors to appreciate the architecture and small exhibits.
Any thoughts, tips or questions?