Matsuyama

· Food, Illustration, Travel

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!

 

Matsuyama castle

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!

 

Dogo onsen

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 !

 

Ishite-ji temple

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)

Five senses #17

· Beauty, Culture, Decoration, Fashion

Today is the 17th « Five senses » article to tell you, as always, what have stimulated my 5 senses lately. I hope you’ll like reading it and that you’ll discover a few things: enjoy !

 

Taste

I bought this book before the lockdown and just finished it… it’s the perfect illustration of the slow life!

« Un sandwich à Ginza » can be read quickly or very slowly… the way I chose. The author Yokô Hiramatsu precisely describes delicious japanese meals, from a favorite restaurant, an unusual place, from Osaka to Tokyo, season after season. A few drawings of the comic master Jirō Taniguchi come along to illustrate the story: a real plus to the narrative.

“Un sandwich à Ginza” by Yôko Hiramatsu (illustrated by Jirō Taniguchi) Editions Picquier

 

While reading, I was really pleased to discover the Omurice temple (omelette stuffed with rice), the joy of a winter invigorating fondue (nabe) or the secrets of a simple cantine in a company.

A change of scenery and descriptions to make your mouth water (only the episode with the bear repelled me). I was as amazed as when I read the manga « Le gourmet solitaire » from Jirō Taniguchi. A contemplative narrative that makes you travel and makes you want to try new flavors.

 

Sight

As I said on Instagram, the posters in our living room have been the same the past three years, and even though they were very useful to decorate our wall, it was time to choose more personal images, which will remind us souvenirs. And what would be better than photos from our Japan trips?

The most difficult was to select only 3 (we kept on the left side the photographic enlargement of the SkyTree from 2014, that we really love)

Teeshirt vintage customised with a MadHatterPlushies patch (already seen here)

 

Some of the pictures were beautiful in colors but austere in black and white, and we wanted to avoid all the famous “cliché” (classic views of monuments from Japan, kimono/yukata, Tori…). So after long hours of discussion, here is the selection:

  • A picture of my SO and I seated next to the Yayoi Kusama artwork in Naoshima, taken by a tourist with our camera (we might not leave our camera like this in another country but Japan is quite safe about this). An impression of serenity emerges from this picture, but reality was different: there was another 10 person lining to take a picture next to the famous pumpkin… but this contrast with the backstage makes us laugh and reminds us some nice memories spent on this wonderful island.
  • An architectural detail from our hotel in Awaji designed by Tadao Ando We loved so much our stay in this place that watching these few crossing graphic shadows give us peace.
  • This Garyu Sanso house in the small town of Ozu made us dreaming (I’ll tell you more about this soon): we can’t live inside but we had to hang it on our wall to pretend.

 

Smell

Cherry Lipbalm Hurraw

 

Since wearing a mask is highly recommended to go outside, I’ve barely worn red lipstick. However, I don’t like a nude face when I take my mask off (to have lunch for instance). So I chose a less colorful alternative than a red lipstick: a tainted lipstick balm with a cherry smell.

I discovered this brand thanks to my friend’s Candice advent calendar surprise (=a coco balm), and I wanted to try another taste as yummy. The color is discreet but is enough for these particular period with mask.

 

Touch

Vinyl turntable TN-400BT Walnut TEAC

 

You’ve already seen these vinyl turntable on the blog but I haven’t written any article about it.

Indeed, a year ago we decided to invest in a pretty vinyl turntable with a few criterias for the selection: unobtrusive, with a wooden board, transparent cover (to protect from the dust), good sound quality, good durability AND Bluetooth connection so that the sound could come out of our B&O Play speaker.

This last criteria made us eliminate quite a few turntables that fulfilled the previous criterias. The purists will say that for a good sound we should have plugged the turntable to an amp and speakers but our priority was also to not have too many things, considering the size of our apartment and our will of minimalism.

It will always be possible to plug an amp later, if we decide to live in a bigger place (and without neighbors!).

 

 B&O Play A2 Bluetooth speaker Bang & Olufsen (2016)

 

As for now, the sound of this Japanese turntable is very qualitative and the pleasure to listen to our favorite tracks remains the same.

Now that we all use streaming platforms, I had this envy to get this object in order to have the pleasure to open an album jacket, read lyrics, admire picture.

 

Hearing

Since the lockdown I’ve walked every morning with my earplugs in my ears: the good occasion to exercice (which was limited the last few months) and to listen podcasts while walking.

Here are 3 podcasts that I’ve listened with pleasure while walking in the morning (feel free to recommend others in the comment area below!) :

 

THE MINIMALISTS : I discovered this podcast after watching a documentary on Netflix with the same name. As its name suggests, it gives you ideas to consume less, using less things to live better, while talking about daily topics. It’s all in English but pretty easy to understand (if you have basics but Joshua and Ryan’s american accent is very clear).

KIFFE TA RACE : While questions about racism are under the spotlights, it’s even more important to educate ourselves and analyse our daily behaviors. This podcast animated by Rokhaya Diallo and Grace Ly discusses without taboo different topics about racism with a guest, in a chill and humorous way. Learning to know the others and accept the differences, that the aim of this podcast – in an educational way as much as possible.

CD2TITRES : the musical Madeleine de Proust. Loïc unveils the secrets of the best hits from 1996 to 2003 : the holy period for Pop music. The story of “Who do you think you are” from the Spice girls, “Erase/Rewind from the Cardigans and other songs we enjoy listening again while discovering the secrets behind. A nostalgic effect but also a lot of information for pop music fans (just like me!). (English translation by Quiterie)

Shimanto

· Food, Illustration, Travel

We continue our Japanese roadtrip! After leaving the city of Kōchi, we headed south to Shikoku island toward Shimanto for 2 nights in order to enjoy one full day on the area.

We slowed down to make sure we’d enjoy the Japanese nature and discover my favorite part of this country, the wilder areas. As always, I’ll take you with me to show you this refreshing part of Japan. Deep breath, let’s go!

 

Yakatabune boat trip on the river

Shimanto-gawa is a 196km-long river, the longest in Shikoku, well-known for its extremely pure and clear water. We could have chosen a canoe-kayak but we took the most traditional way, the yakatabune.

 

This traditional Japanese barge was created during the Edo period and was used as a private boat for the shoguns (the ancestor of the private yacht!). When we get inside the yakatabune, we can admire all the views at the same time while enjoying a good meal on a long table, comfortably seated on pillows placed on the tatami.

 

This boat trip was recommended by the owners of our housing that I’ll describe at the end of this article. The wharf was not really easy to find (especially since I can’t remember the exact address but the company name was called “Yakatabune Sakoya”) : anyway, just go to the Shimanto tourist office or show a picture of this article to local people, they will help you out.

The guide/boatman of the day, called Hideaki, was very talkative, even though he wasn’t speaking a word of English (thank you google translate for helping us out). Only us and a couple of tourists from Hong-Kong on the boat : and we enjoyed this small committee!

That being so, Hideki explained to us that the water wasn’t really clear that season because of the rain and that the best was winter time to enjoy the best clarity. He proved it by showing us a photo album while telling us some stories about «celebrities» as he was very proud to pose with Kumamon, the mascot of the Kumamoto prefecture or Kyushu island.

We also discovered the chinkabashi (submersible bridges) hanging over the river, built without a fence, in order to resist the bad weather and flooding.

As always, Japanese know how to compose with their weaknesses to better adapt to the caprice of nature.

 

Dragonfly park

We visited this dragonfly park early in the morning, and once again we were almost the only tourists to be there. It’s in a very quiet ambiance that we freely strolled around the water lilies and dragonflies.

74 species can be watched along the year : we only saw a few of them in their natural habitat but it was very relaxing to experience this show.

 

The park also had a museum with insects and a small souvenir shop where benefits are intended to preserve the dragonfly species.

 

Savour Shimantoya eel

(SHIMANTOYA 2494-1 Yamachi, Shimanto, Kochi 787-0157) This restaurant is apparently the most popular to savour a bento with eels freshly fished in the Shimanto river.

 

We had a beautiful lunch with a view on the river. The caramelized eels and shrimps were delicious… and eating all of these seated on a tatami made this experience even better (…or painful, depending how flexible you are!).

The restaurant has been featured in a manga comic book !

 

 

Our small house in Shimanto

If you want to see a full home tour of this housing in Shimanto, please check out my Instagram highlight stories called “Shikoku”: all I am saying is not very reliable but everyone who likes the french show « La Maison France 5 » might agree. More seriously, this small house was just the perfect location in the region… and the adorable owners advised us for dinner places, grocery shopping and what to visit around : we almost thought we were locals!

We did some grocery shopping in the supermarket nearby and prepared big and yummy breakfasts that you can see on the picture above.

VSo here is the address, if you want to stop by for a night or two in the region: Shimanto river house Yuube-Tei (2082-7 Fuba Kamimachi, Shimanto – 787-0018 SHIMANTO). Here is also their website and their instagram page: say hi from me!

 

On the road to Matsuyama !

After this break into nature, here we are again, on the road on the way to Matsuyama. Before telling you all about this city full of charm, here is a quick look at the temples we visited on the way between Shimanto and Matsuyama : the 39, 40, 41, 42 et 43 (Enkō-ji, Kanjizai-ji, Ryūkō-ji, Butsumuko-ji et Meiseki-ji) … And there are the 5 new calligraphies on my Nokyocho !

 

 

I hope you enjoyed the destination today that was for us one of the most beautiful reconnection with nature… before going back to an urban landscape in the next city of Matsuyama : see you soon! (English translation by Quiterie)

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