Visit the birthplace of haiku and try your hand at pottery and indigo crafts
Soak up the rich literary tradition of this famously hospitable castle town. Matsuyama is a welcome respite from Japan's frenetic cities offering no shortage of activities to keep you occupied.
- Taking a bath in Japan's oldest onsen
- The local craft Dogo Beer or a freshly squeezed glass of mikan juice
- The beautiful haiku stones dotted around the city
- Venturing to the suburbs to find magical islands populated by deer
How to Get There
Matsuyama is the prefectural capital of Ehime and the largest city on the island of Shikoku . As a result, there is a network of transport options from around Japan and to other areas of Shikoku.
By air, it's about a one and a half hour journey from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Matsuyama Airport. From Osaka in Kansai, it is just 50 minutes.
To access Matsuyama by rail, catch the Shinkansen from any major station, such as Tokyo or Osaka, to Okayama. It's then a two and a half hour journey from Okayama to Matsuyama Station by JR Seto-Ohashi/Yosan Line Limited Express train.
From Hiroshima take the Setonaikaikisen Car Ferry or Super Jet Ferry to Matsuyama port.
The birthplace of modern haiku
Masaoka Shiki, the father of modern haiku, described the city as his "dear home town." See Matsuyama through Shiki's eyes with a visit to the Shiki Museum. If you're on a tight schedule, try to spot the beautiful haiku stones around the city or get creative and post your own into one of the many haiku post boxes dotted throughout Matsuyama.
A novel city
Natsume Soseki wrote his novel Botchan after living in Matsuyama, and for the people of the city, it's truly a badge of pride. Even the city's replica steam train was named in honor of Soseki's work.
If you're a bookworm, take a trip to the Saka no Ue no Kumo Museum, designed by the architect Tadao Ando. The museum is a treasure trove of artifacts inspired by the Ryotoro Shiba novel "Clouds above the Hill."
The heart of Matsuyama
Sitting on a hill above the city is Matsuyama Castle . One of Japan's few original castles, it's home to an abundance of unique cultural experiences such as the opportunity to play taiko drums and wear the armor of a samurai. The castle offers sweeping panoramas of the city and is particularly beautiful in cherry blossom season.
Be spirited away by Dogo
Another quintessential Japanese experience is to bathe in Dogo Onsen —a hot spring bath with a 3,000-year history that has hosted royalty and inspired Miyazaki's Spirited Away.
Dogo area is a wonderful place to stroll around. The nearby Dogo park houses the Yuzuki castle ruins and the area also showcases Japanese art in various outdoor locations.
If you want to enjoy sweeping panoramas of the city and the nearby Seto Inland Sea, head to the Takashimaya department store, which has a ferris wheel on top. From there you can see amazing views from Matsuyama Central Park, home to Matsuyama's second castle.
Follow the pilgrim's path
There are eight temples of The Shikoku Henro, or 88 Temple Pilgrimage in Matsuyama, one of which is the curious Ishiteji Temple. A highlight here is its mysterious statue-lined tunnel complex that leads to a second inner temple. If you are lucky, you might even see a pilgrim in their traditional costume paying their respects to Kobo Dashi (774-835), the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan.
If you are feeling creative, there are two local crafts to try your hand at, Iyo Kasuri indigo dyeing and Tobeyaki pottery making. At Iyo Kasuri Folk Craft Hall you can dye your own apparel. An hour bus ride from Matsuyama is Tobe City where you can both make and paint a number of ceramics.
If you're feeling adventurous, catch a train for 20 minutes to Iyo-Hojo station and hop on a five-minute ferry to Kashima Island. Here you can see deer that mostly roam around the woods of this small island.