You definitely need more than five days to fully enjoy everything Ehime has to offer! But, as a guideline, here are the highlights of my recent trip to this Japanese prefecture.
Placed in the Shikoku island of Japan, Ehime prefecture is only a one hour flight away from Tokyo. Matsuyama, the capital, is the perfect place to establish base while you explore the area. Let me show you what you may have been missing!
Please note: I was kindly invited by JETRO to this trip and this is an sponsored post. However, my thoughts are my own.
JAPANESE CASTLES LIKE never before.
While in Ehime, I visited two Japanese castles: Ōzu, and Matsuyama.
Ōzu Castle is now a reconstruction of the original, destroyed at the end of the feudal period. Unfortunately, this is pretty common in Japan, which only has 12 original castles still standing. But Ōzu Castle enjoyed a very special reconstruction, using only the same techniques and materials originally used to build it. Thanks to that, the castle looks and feels original, outside and inside! It is also the 5th highest castle in Japan.
Matsuyama Castle, on the other hand, is one of the few original castles still remaining! The story behind is one of war, betrayal and revenge, very much Game Of Thrones style. It all starts when Katō Yoshiaki boldly submits his plans to the reigning Tokugawa Clan, for a castle that would sit higher than theirs (forbidden!). It’s during 1601, Japan is in war and the Tokugawa family, hands full, overlooks and approves Katō’s plans. From then, this Castle will see lots of fighting and disputes, but managed to survive them all, luckily for us!
DON’T FORGET TO:
- Go to and back from Matsuyama Castle via chairlift-Super fun! Included in the ticket price.
- Dress like a Japanese Warrior at Ozu Castle and selfie away!
TALE AS OLD AS TIME… well, almost.
Ehime is very rich in history and it excels at preserving it! A stroll around Yokaichi Old Town in Uchiko, will confirm it. Along this street, you’ll see the almost 100 Meiji period style houses that will make you travel back in time. Some of these houses are now open to the public, with a cute cafe or a family-run store selling the famous mikan oranges here and there. The unmissable spots here are the impressive Kamihaga Residence and the nearby Koshoji Temple, which has a 10m long, pure white resting buddha called Nirvana.
If you covet the peace of Japan’s countryside, there’s no better way of getting your zen than bathing in the silence of Garyu Sanso. This small but surprising villa is a great example of Japanese design and architecture. There’s symbolism in every corner of the houses and garden, and during the Tsukimi (Harvest Moon evening) the moon lights up the cieling of the tea house. Ah. I feel relaxed already 🙂 .
DON’T FORGET TO:
- Check the handmade Japanese candles at the Yokaichi store. The wax just dissapears (no dripping!) and the flame doesn’t generate smoke!
- Buy some renowned mikan oranges, or anything, really, from a local store.
ONSEN WORTHY OF STUDIO GHIBLI
Dōgo Onsen Honkan is one of the oldest onsen (hot springs) in Japan. Its history dates back around 1000 years and its popularity seems to have only grown! Although it now sits amidst lively and modern Matsuyama, the building and the surrounding atmosphere will make you feel like inside of Spirited Away. It is said it was one of the places that inspired the movie! Dōgo Onsen is very foreigner-friendly so don’t be scared to include it on your trip plans. It may be crowded tho, so you may check my next suggestions as well.
Newer than Dōgo Onsen but also really beautiful, Tsubaki Onsen has a more modern feel and bigger installations. One of the unique experiences you can have in Tsubaki Onsen is renting a replica of the Imperial Bath, reserved only for the Japanese Imperial Family, for your private enjoyment. It costs 5400￥ for two people, 90 minutes. It looked amazing and so luxurious! Next time I will definitely book it!
- Visit the nearby Minakuchi Shuzo Sake Brewery that produces the 7 times gold winner sake of the Japan Annual Sake Awards! Named a National Tangible Treasure, this brewery makes sake, Shochu, Soda and more! Look for the exclusive, limited edition sake flavors like eggplant and broad beans.
- Have a bite at Nikitatsuan, a beautiful restaurant with an acclaimed, Kyoto trained, local chef.
SHIMANAMI CYCLING EVENT
Often described as “A cyclist paradise”, the Shimanami Cycling Biannual Event attracts more than 7000 bike aficionados of all levels. It’s the only cycling event in Japan where you can ride your bike on a closed highway! The courses, covering the famous Shimanami Kaido, range from 30km to 140km and are known for the incredible views of the bridges, bays and sea. It’s a challenging but rewarding adventure, especially if you’re not the sporty type (I’m not). It is totally doable though and the organization really goes the long way providing safety and support! Cycling along the Japanese traditional houses while enjoying the sea breeze was a beautiful experience and I felt so proud afterwards!
DON’T FORGET TO:
- Take a picture with Ehime’s mascot mandarin-puppies: Mikan and Dark Mikan! They hang around the Shimanami Goal Matsuri.
- Stop on the photo friendly areas of the cycling course to immortalize the islands and bridge views.
There you go. Here are some of my reasons to inspire you to stray off the beaten path and visit Shikoku Island and Ehime Prefecture! Hope to see you there for the next cycling event in 2020! 😉