Best Things To Do In Matsuyama Travel Guide
Matsuyama City in Ehime Prefecture is a scenic city overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, home to Japan’s oldest hot spring, Dogo Onsen, and has produced many literary figures. The city has many literary spots, including being the hometown of haiku poet Masaoka Shiki and the setting for novels such as Natsume Soseki’s “Botchan” and Ryotaro Shiba’s “Saka no ue no Kumo” (Clouds over the Hill), making it a city that offers travel that is distinct from other cities in Japa.
Here, we will show you the best things to do in Matsuyama, a city packed with charm, history, and elegance.
Matsuyama Castle is located on the 132-meter-high summit of Katsuyama Mountain, in the center of Matsuyama City. 1602 saw the construction of the castle, which was later destroyed by fire and rebuilt multiple times.
Matsuyama Castle is one of only 12 remaining “existing 12 castle towers” in Japan and is one of only 12 castles with a castle tower built before the Edo period.
Inside the castle, materials on the history of the castle and its buildings are on display, and outside, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the city to the Seto Inland Sea.
In the Honmaru Square of Matsuyama Castle, visitors can enjoy cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves in fall.
Take A Ride On The Botchan Train
The Botchan Train a reproduction of a train car from the Meiji era, stops in front of Dogo Onsen Station. At first glance, it looks like it is on display here, but it is actually in service
When it is time for the train to depart, it backs up from here and enters Dogo Onsen Station to depart for the city.
Back in their day, the Botchan trains were steam locomotives powered by coal, but they have been restored with diesel engines in consideration of the environment.
The train makes up to 10 round trips a day between Dogo Onsen and the city and has become a popular symbol of Matsuyama tourism.
Dogo Onsen Honkan
When it comes to sightseeing in Matsuyama, Dogo Onsen is a must-see tourist attraction. According to one theory, Dogo Onsen has a history of 3,000 years. Dogo Onsen Honkan” is one of the most famous onsens in Japan, and is even mentioned in Japanese classics.
Of course, it is famous not only for its hot springs but also for its architecture, which has become a symbol of the town. Built before World War II, it is a building with a long history and is designated as an important cultural property.
You can enter from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., but on weekends and holidays, there is a line of people waiting in line even before it opens and it gets especially busy in the evening where you may have to wait an hour or more before you get inside the front door.
After taking a bath, we recommend that you relax in the restroom while eating snacks and relaxing, but even if you don’t have time to take a bath, you can experience the splendor of the building just by looking at it.
It is one of the places you should definitely visit when you are in Matsuyama.
The other is Asukano Onsen, which is based on the concept of a bathhouse with Asuka-era architecture.
In addition to an open-air bath not found in the Dogo Onsen Honkan or Tsubaki no Yu, this hot spring has a special bathroom that is a reproduction of the imperial family’s private bathroom in the Dogo Onsen Honkan, and a large lounge like the one in the Dogo Onsen Honkan.
The interior of the building is richly decorated with legends and stories related to Dogo Onsen, and traditional crafts are also a highlight of the facility.
Dogo Shopping Street
L-shaped shopping street leading from the station to the Dogo Onsen Honkan
This is the main undercover street that connects visitors arriving at Dogo station with the main bath houses. There are about 60 stores in the shopping street, including souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, Tobe pottery stores, and stores specializing in Imabari towels.
You will have no trouble finding a place to have lunch, dinner, or a bite to eat.
There are three hot springs around Dogo Shopping Arcade: Dogo Onsen Honkan, Tsubaki no Yu, and Asukanoyusen, where visitors can stroll around in yukata (light cotton kimono). There are also yukata rental stores in the area.
There are also a variety of food shops, izakaya (Japanese-style pubs), and bakeries around the Dogo shopping district.
Bocchan Karakuri Clock
Symbol of Dogo Onsen with a fun, light melody
Located in the Housouen Garden in front of Dogo Onsen Station, the Botchan Karakuri Clock entertains visitors to the hot springs with a clock tower that rises every 30 minutes or one hour with lively music and the appearance of the characters from the novel Botchan.
Next to the clock, there is a footbath using hot spring water from Dogo Onsen, which is recommended place to relax while you wait for the big show.
Isaniwa Shrine is an ancient shrine that is said to have been built on the ruins of a shrine built when Emperor Chu-eto and Empress Jingu visited Dogo Hot Springs (the current site of Yuzuki Castle), which is well known in the “Kojiki” and “Nihonshoki”.
The present building was rebuilt in the early Edo period by Matsudaira Sadanaga, known as the third lord of the Matsuyama domain in Iyo Province.
The main deities of the shrine are Empress Jingu, Emperor Ojin, Emperor Chuai, and Princess Mihashira, and it is well known as a power spot that is beneficial not only for warding off evil spirits and fulfilling those hard-to-achieve goals but also for marriage and easy childbirth.
The shrine is located about a 5-minute walk from the Dogo Onsen Honkan, but the approach to the shrine is made up of 135 stone steps, so make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and gobble down a big lunch beforehand for plenty of energy to power your ascent.
Ishite-Ji Temple is the 51st temple of the 88 sacred places on Shikoku Island, and its Nio-mon Gate, built in 1318, is designated as a national treasure. The main hall, three-story pagoda, and bell tower are all national important cultural properties.
The temple is also home to a 200-meter-long “mantra cave” and other attractions. On the approach to the temple, yakimochi, a baked rice flour dough filled with red bean paste, is sold and has become a specialty of Ishite-dera Temple.
Historical park and cherry blossom viewing spot
When you visit Dogo onsen make sure to walk to the nearby park. In Dogo park are the ruins of Yuzuki Castle, which was here for 250 years from the 14th to the latter half of the 16th century.
As well as the moats and mounds that remain as they were in those days, the restored samurai residences and earthen walls, as well as artifacts found during excavations, are on display, offering you a peek into the age of the samurai.
There are some great views on offer if you make it to the top of the central hill which has a viewing platform.
The park is also a place of relaxation for local residents and is popular as a cherry blossom viewing spot in spring.
Dogo Giyaman Glass Art Museum
The museum exhibits about 300 rare glass artifacts, including the red plate glass of the Furisagikaku, the symbol of the Dogo Onsen Honkan, as well as gyaman and biidoro glass made from the Edo to Taisho periods.
Don’t miss the beauty of the modern red and black building and the garden decorated with glass and water objects. The café offers original sweets and French tea while enjoying the view of the garden.
Matsuyama General Park
Next on the list of our recommended things to do in Matsuyama is Matsuyama General Park. This is a large park inspired by Freiburg, Germany which is Matsuyama’s sister city.
Located on the summit of Ominegadai, the observatory, which is reminiscent of an old European castle, offers an exhilarating view of the Matsuyama cityscape.
The cherry blossom plaza is a perfect cherry blossom viewing in the spring.
The park is also filled with playground equipment for children of all ages, including the largest athletic facility in Ehime Prefecture, roller sliders, and playground equipment for toddlers. It is a must-visit sightseeing spot if you are traveling with kids.
Saka No Ue No Kumo (Clouds over the Hill) Museum
You don’t have to be a Ryotaro Shiba fan to visit this museum.
This museum guides visitors into the world of “Clouds over the Hill,” featuring exhibits related to the “Akiyama Brothers” and “Shiki Masaoka,” who were the main characters in Ryotaro Shiba’s “Clouds over the Hill” and were also great men born in Matsuyama.
Visitors who have not read the original story can learn about the path taken by the characters and Japan at that time in an easy-to-understand manner from a wide variety of exhibits.
The novel triangular building designed by architect Tadao Ando in the image of “Clouds over the Hill” is also a highlight of the museum.
Bansuiso French Style Villa
Built in 1922, this French Renaissance-style building, is located in the center of Matsuyama city at the foot of the central hill. Bansuiso villa was built in the Taisho era by Count Sadakoto Hisamatsu, a descendant of the former lord of Matsuyama.
Known as the Guest House of Matsuyama, it is a designated National Important Cultural Property and has even been visited by Showa Emperor himself.
Back in the day, Bansuiso villa was the premier place for socializing in Japan, and many famous people from all walks of life and members of the royal family visited the villa.
Fortunately, it was spared the ravages of World War II and remains in its original state. Many tourists still visit this valuable spot where they can enjoy the “Taisho Romanticism” of the Taisho era.
Ride The Kururin Ferris Wheel
Located on the rooftop of the Iyotetsu Takashimaya Department Store, the Kururin Ferris Wheel is a popular spot for local residents to enjoy a 15-minute ride in the air, reaching a maximum height of 85 meters.
The view of Matsuyama City, including Matsuyama Castle, and the Seto Inland Sea can be seen from the top of the wheel. The beautiful illumination at night makes it a popular place for couples.
Dogokan Luxury Onsen And Accommodation
A famous inn in Dogo with a reputation for warm hospitality
Designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa, Dogokan is a famous ryokan in Dogo Onsen. Located on a hill in the hot spring resort area, it offers an outstanding view of Matsuyama Castle.
The large public bathhouse is equipped with a variety of baths, including an open-air hot spring, and a sauna, and can be used for one-day trips. The interior of the building is reminiscent of an old townscape from the Edo period and is very atmospheric.
Get Away From It All At Kashima Island
It’s easy to overdo it when visiting historical sites and seeing spectacular natural scenery. Sometimes, taking a break from busy sightseeing and having a more chilled-out time to do nothing is one of the ways to enjoy a trip. One place where you can enjoy such luxury is Koh-i-jima Island.
As the name suggests, the island is located in the Seto Inland Sea, and it is easily accessible by a 20-minute ferry ride from Takahama Minato, a 20-minute train ride from Matsuyama JR Station.
Bathing in the sea is great, and since the island is not too large, we recommend renting a bicycle and touring the island while admiring the tangerine and mikan orchards and the beautiful rural scenery of the Seto Inland Sea.