The seat of Seiyo city government is the little town of Uwa, and the heart of Uwa is an area called Unomachi. This is a network of streets with old buildings dating from the Edo Period and later. Unomachi has been designated as an Important Traditional Construction Preservation Area.
There’s a convenient free carpark in the middle of Unomachi from which you can explore to the north and south. There’s also a path leading down from behind the Ehime Museum of History and Culture, which places you at the eastern end of Unomachi, in front of the Uwa Philosopher’s Museum. This is one of four charming museums in Uwa. With parochial pride, this museum celebrates some of the wise and talented individuals raised in Uwa, presenting their achievements and some of their personal effects on the first floor. The second floor is a gallery of paintings and ceramics.
Next door is the Ikeda-ya Restaurant, housed in what was once a sake brewery. Here you can enjoy a satisfying lunch prepared with quality local ingredients under the massive dark beams that support the roof. There’s also a little shop with local souvenirs just inside the entrance.
Nearby, the Bunka no Mori Kyūkeijo is a restored building which functions as a shop and rest area. Visitors are automatically offered a cup of green tea and invited to have a seat before a large and impressive brazier. This service is free of charge.
Other notable buildings are the Suemitsu-ke Jūtaku, a very large house dating from 1770, which belonged to merchants who sold soy sauce and sake, and Matsuya Ryokan, which has hosted many famous personages including Prime Ministers of Japan. There’s also the Kaimei sake brewery and Yamami soy sauce brewery.
On one of the side streets are the Kaimei School, Kōkyō-ji Temple and the excellent Museum of Folk Tools, all arranged conveniently close to each other.
At the northwestern end of Unomachi is the Uwa Rice Museum, part of an old primary school built in 1928 that was relocated when the new school was built. It’s a very long wooden building, stretching for 109 meters. It houses some very interesting exhibits about the cultivation and marketing of rice, with many real tools and machines from various periods in history. There’s also a schoolroom preserved as it was, and in a separate building, a scale model of the old primary school, showing it to be an impressively large building suitable for a time when Japan’s population was much larger.
Unomachi is a wonderfully atmospheric place, and the people living and working here are friendly and welcoming.
Name in Japanese: 卯之町
Address: 2 Chome Uwachō Unomachi, Seiyo-shi, Ehime-ken 797-0015