Located in the center of Ehime and facing the Seto Inland Sea, Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku. On the hill in the center of the city stands Matsuyama Castle, the symbol of the town. The castle and its surrounding area as a whole constitute a historic site park. Additionally, Dogo Hot Spring is one of the town’s main attractions. Read more about what to do in Matsuyama!
To get to Matsuyama castle, you can first take a 6-minutes ride on a ropeway. A lift taking you to the mountain top of 131-meter-high Mt. Katsuyama where the ridge has been leveled will make it easy to go further up. From the terminal of the lift, there is an ascending path to the castle and its tower. The main keep of the castle is one of the only 12 original ones built in Japan during the feudal time.
The first castle was constructed here in 1602 by Kato Yoshiakira, but the owner changed a few times by the order of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The main keep you can see today was a reconstruction by the 12th lord of Matsudaira in 1854. If you go up the steep wooden stairway to the top floor in the castle tower, you will get a panoramic view that includes Mt. Ishizuchi and the Sea of Iyo.
Dogo Hot Spring
In the late 19th century, a quaint wooden public hot spring building was constructed. A bathroom dedicated to only the Imperial Family was added, which is a unique place in Japan and you can visit it now. Around the public hot spring, there are many hotels. It is interesting to see that many hotel guests go to the public hot spring even though each hotel has its own one, and hotels encourage it. Therefore many people stroll around town in the evening, and shopping streets nearby are busy until late.
It is said that people started to bathe after watching a white egret curing its wound with the gushing hot water a long time ago. Dogo Hot Spring appeared in a history book written in the 8th century, so it is regarded as the oldest hot spring. Later, many Emperors and Imperial Family members visited this hot spring, and Dogo became a famous hot spring town.
Shikoku is known as an island of pilgrimage. There are 88 Buddhist temples related to Kobodaishi, the founder of the Shingon sect. It is said that if you visit all the 88 temples and then visit Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture, your wish will come true. Nowadays, many people visit these temples using cars or tour buses, but about 5,000 people still go on foot as people did in the past. The total distance is more than 1,200 km and it will take 40 days if you walk 30 km per day. Because they wear traditional white clothes, pilgrims are very easy to recognize.
Ishiteji temple is the 51st temple on the pilgrimage route and has an especially beautiful gate. Also, having many smaller attractions on the grounds, this temple is certainly worth a visit!
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Access: If you go to Matsuyama from Tokyo, take Shinkansen (Bullet train) to Okayama (3.5 hours), then take the express train to Matsuyama (2.5 hours)