t’s time to dive back into the continuation of my Japanese road-trip (more than a year later!… sorry if I take my time but I make the pleasure last!).
On our way to Matsuyama city, in Ehime prefecture, located in the northwest of Shikoku island. We packed our bags there for 2 nights to enjoy the city but also to explore a few kilometers away, the village of Ōzu (which I will develop in a future article). For now, back to the city with these few tracks of visit!
This castle, located on the heights of the town, is accessible on foot, by cable car or chair lift. Unfortunately, we had a weather mixing rain and fog: for us, the only choice was to climb “on foot” but the other two options could have been fun to try.
The castle, built in 1603, having been bombed during the Second World War, has survived thanks to valuable renovations. The fog that day only amplified the mysterious atmosphere of the place, which in the end made the route even more interesting.
We chose to visit the interior of the castle (you have to wear the anachronistic green slippers, which are kindly lent on the spot!). It is full of period objects, armor, swords and even a room where you can put on samurai armor to enjoy the shogun atmosphere even more. A bit kitschy but enjoyable!
The view overlooking the hill offers a contrasting spectacle between these old stones of the past and the panorama dotted with modern buildings: a temporal shock!
Back on dry land, direction Dogo onsen honkan, a building that would have inspired Hayao Miyazaki for his animated film “The Journey of Chihiro”.
These hot springs in the city are said to be the oldest in Japan and are open to the public. We didn’t take the time to relax there but you can take a bath (the water would have therapeutic virtues) and enjoy the tea room on the 2nd floor.
We were satisfied with a foot bath outside, very pleasant too despite everything. This allowed us to wait patiently for the big animated clock “Botchan karakuri clock” which comes to life every hour from 8am to 10pm with little characters appearing and dancing around this magic clock.
Foot bath at Dogo onsen while waiting for the Botchan Karakuri clock animation
Close by, the “Dogo onsen” station is also very picturesque with this vintage locomotive.
If you have just missed the animation of the clock, you can still occupy your 60 minutes by strolling through the Dogo arcade, a covered alleyway with many souvenir shops full of merchandise stamped with the mascot of the prefecture of Ehime, Mikyan (a hybrid between a tangerine and a bear). Local delicacies are also available. Don’t forget to come back to the clock!
Mikyan, the Ehime mascot is everywhere !
Once again, we don’t lose sight of the pilgrimage of Shikoku and its temples, especially when temple number 51 is close to Dogo Onsen: two birds with one stone!
The access to this temple is nevertheless not very reassuring when we choose to go through a small dark passage linking the road to the temple! We left the road to rush into this pseudo cave barely lit (I was screaming every meter, moving forward: me? Sissy?) but the reward is all the more appreciable: this new calligraphy is deserved!
If you’re afraid of the dark, choose the access by road to avoid a few cold sweats even if between us, you don’t risk much (…but you know, when the imagination is running wild…).
Specialities of the city
Botchan dango and Taruto
Matsuyama is famous for its production of citrus fruits and mandarins called “Mican” that you will see declined in all forms of delicacies: ice creams, cakes, jellies, juices … Refreshing!
There is also Botchan dango, a kind of skewer of mochis in 3 different colours and the Taruto, a yuzu and bean flavored sponge cake.
We also tasted the local dishes in a restaurant, SUSHIMARU HONTEN (2 Chome-3-2 Nibancho, Matsuyama) located not far from our hotel.
The signature dish of the Ehime region is Taimeshi (rice with sea bream). In the town of Matsuyama, sea bream is supposed to bring good luck, so we accept with pleasure!
This dish must be eaten according to a certain protocol thanks to the different ingredients present on the tray: Add the condiments to the rice, mix the egg to the soup, add the sea bream and onions to the soup, then place them on the rice before pouring the soup and enjoy.
Taimeshi ready to eat after mixing the ingredients and Matsuyamazushi
Another local dish, Matsuyamazushi is nothing else but a bowl of vinegar rice topped with raw fish and eel. More classic but just as good.
The 2nd evening, we chose to taste yakitori skewers in the restaurant KURO TENGU (2-3-4 Nibancho Sushiharu Bldg. 2F, Matsuyama). It does not seem to me that the yakitori are known to be the speciality of the region but it is a treat all the same.
We let ourselves be tempted by an assortment of à la carte brochettes (asparagus wrapped in bacon, eggplant, chicken…) and yakionigiri (grilled rice balls with a good smoked taste). So comforting!
Yakitori and yakionigiri
Our Hotel in Matsuyama
For our 2 nights, we chose a downtown hotel, very well located: the Dormy Inn Matsuyama Natural Hot Spring. The rooms are unadorned, simple but comfortable. You can also enjoy the onsen on the roof but we didn’t have time to linger there.
The breakfast buffet is copious and mostly salty, as everywhere in Japan: the opportunity to taste natto while jumping out of bed, for the more adventurous!
I hope you enjoyed this overview of Matsuyama: next time, I will tell you about our “hiking” escapade in Ōzu, located 50mn from Matsuyama. A village full of charm as we like them… attention, we love them ! ( English translation by Quiterie)