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Matsuyama

The largest city in Shikoku, Matsuyama has maintained its vitality and cultural traditions across the centuries.

Matsuyama

Matsuyama is the capital city of Ehime Prefecture and the largest city in Shikoku. It’s a bustling city with some excellent bars and restaurants, offering a choice of cuisines from around the world, in addition to regional specialities like boar and sea bream.

Matsuyama is home to Dogo Onsen, the oldest recorded hot spring in Japan. Dogo Onsen is featured in the Michelin Green Guide, and was the inspiration for the hugely popular animation Spirited Away.

Another favourite sight is Matsuyama Castle which sits atop a major hill in the middle of the city with an extensive moat and earth ramparts that dominate the city centre. Unlike many Japanese castles that were destroyed and rebuilt of concrete, Matsuyama Castle remains in its original state of wood and plaster. The castle offers spectacular views of the city, mountains, and sea, particularly from the top of the keep.

On the slopes of castle is a French-style chateau, the flamboyant Bansuiso Villa. It was built by a Matsuyama aristocrat who had been abroad and admired western culture.

Eight of the eighty-eight temples in the Shikoku Pilgrimage are located in Matsuyama, and pilgrims are a common sight making their way to the temples. Picturesque Buddhist temples in Matsuyama include Ishite-ji, Taisan-ji, and Jodo-ji, all dating back to the 8th century. Notable Shinto shrines include Isaniwa Jinja and Tsubaki Jinja.

In the feudal period, the lords of Matsuyama would sail from the port of Mitsuhama when they made their obligatory visits to Edo. Mitsuhama still has buildings from that period. Today, ferries leave the port for the Kutsuna Islands, a chain of beautiful islands within the city boundary.

The haiku poet Masaoka Shiki lived in Matsuyama. His house, now known as the Shiki-do, and a museum, the Shiki Memorial Museum, are popular attractions, and the reason for the city’s role as the world capital of haiku culture. The novel Botchan by Natsume Soseki is set in Matsuyama. Despite the fact that Soseki pokes fun at the provincialism of the city, anything of note in the city is now called the Botchan this or that.

Matsuyama also figures in several works by Shiba Ryotaro, particularly the 1969 novel, Clouds Above the Hill. This was the basis of a long-running TV drama adaptation, and a museum designed by the renowned architect Tadao Ando. Another noteworthy cultural site is the Itami Juzo Museum dedicated to the famous film director.

Physically, Matsuyama is quite a compact city. The centre of the city is served by a tram system with beautiful tram cars from the 50s and 60s, as well as a picturesque replica steam train, the Botchan Ressha. The city is surrounded by mountains and incorporates a number of hills, giving it a green, rural feeling.

Matsuyama Airport has regular flights to Tokyo, Osaka, and other major Japanese cities, as well as selected Asian destinations, including Shanghai and Seoul. There are regular ferries to Hiroshima, including an express ferry that takes only an hour. Night ferries go to Kobe, Osaka, Kokura, and Kitakyushu.

Information

Name in Japanese: 松山

Pronunciation: matsuyama

Address: Matsuyama, Ehime

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