My most recent trip to Japan to Japan took me to some new and interesting places.
There was the small city of Matusyama. It’s actually the largest city of Ehime prefecture. As well as having Japan’s oldest onsen (bath house), it’s famous for a beautiful white castle high on the hill.
I arrived in Matsuyama just after dark, as the residents (and a few tourists) were getting ready for their evening bath. The view of the Onsen is very impressive, lit up by lanterns and street lamps. To add to this peaceful mood, you will see many visitors walking to the spring wearing brightly-coloured yukatas (a lightweight version of a kimono). Just outside the Dogo station is an old electric train and there is a robot clock that comes to life every hour.
The tram running from the main JR station connects the city’s main areas of interest. Taking line 5 allows you to pass the city’s main shopping area. Right outside Matsuyama City station is the Takeshimaya Shopping centre. The roof is home to a 50 metre illuminated ferris wheel (moved a few year’s ago from Hiroshima). In a lovely gesture of good will, the city allows foreign passport holders the opportunity to ride it for free (normal price is 700 yen). It’s 15 minutes for it to make one turn, and the views are as impressive as the structure of the wheel itself.
The city is famous for udon noodles, slightly chewy and very thick soup noodles made from wheat flour. At about 400 yen for a medium bowl of ‘dons in a light seafood broth, they were some of the best value food I had here.
If you want something more fancy, the Michelin guide has for the first time published it’s ratings for the city. It covers most of the city’s expensive restaurant, but a few cheaper options are recommended. With everything from ramen places (Shiosoba Maeda) to very expensive Kaiseki restaurants, it admittedly favours places at the latter end of the price scale. But reading the guide does at least give a good indication of the range of food available.
Although famous, due its age, and also its connection with the Studio Ghibli film Sprited Away, the Dogo Onsen is actually has very little options for bathing, with only one bath. There’s a much more impressive onsen near the JR station (Hibiski). There are several different waters including foaming baths. Walk around naked, but put your pants on if you’re getting a massage.
If it sounds like Matsuyama is a bit of a sleepy place (bathhouses, trams and castles) there’s a large red light area in Okkaido where you can go if you’re feeling sexy. And with some of the best looking women in the whole of Japan , this might be the number one reason to come here.
I flew with Jetstar, a budget airline from Narita airport.
There are many alternative ways to get here; for example by bus, train, or across the cycleway from Hiroshima.