Be spirited away to Dogo Onsen, the oldest spa in Japan, and be inspired by the resort's ornate hot spring baths, eclectic shops, fascinating museums and laid back atmosphere. Visit for yourself and discover why this little onsen town is one of Japan's favorite relaxation hot spots.
Dogo Onsen is located in the main tourist hub of Matsuyama and is a five-minute walk from the Dogo tram stop along a bustling shopping arcade.
If you are heading to Dogo from JR Matsuyama Station, take the #5 tram. You'll get there in about 30 minutes.
You can also take the nostalgic Botchan train, a steam train locomotive. This service runs less frequently, but is a lovely experience.
If heading to Dogo from Matsuyama Airport, Airport Limousine buses run directly there.
To minimize your travel time, consider staying in one of Dogo's many ryokan or inns. Most are within ten minutes' walk of the main bathhouse.
The bathhouse in the Hayao Miyazaki film "Spirited Away" was inspired by Dogo Onsen
Legend has it that the waters healed a deity's illness in ancient times
The Dogo Onsen building as you see it today was built in 1893
Take in the stunning exterior of Dogo Onsen. A three-level wooden building topped by a watchtower with red glass windows, metal herons, the symbol of the onsen, dot the roofs. Wander through the onsen's labyrinthine passageways to soak up the lively, though relaxed atmosphere.
The bathhouse offers various price levels. At the most basic level, you can enjoy the main bath for as long as you want. The highest price level allows you to access a second bath and gives you use of a private tatami room. After your bath, a cup of matcha tea and botchan dango, a sweet made from rice flour, will be waiting for you.
There is also the opportunity to tour the bath used by the Imperial Family.
Dogo Onsen is the area's main draw, but many other baths are available for your bathing pleasure. Visit Tsubaki No Yu, a stylish and modern bathhouse with the same bracingly hot waters as Dogo. The mineral-rich baths will leave your skin silky soft. Frequented by locals, bathing here allows you to escape the hustle and bustle of Dogo Onsen.
After a bath, try some of the delicious cuisine available in the Dogo area. One local specialty is taimeshi, a hearty dish of rice cooked with sea bream. Sometimes the sea bream is cooked, while at other places it's served raw sashimi style.
For light and zesty refreshment, look out for mikan orange ice cream, orange beer and juice. Taruto and botchan dango are two of the region's famous sweets and can be found along many of the area's shopping arcades.
Dogo's shopping arcades offer many places to pick up local souvenirs. Sakurai lacquerware, Uwajima pearls, Tobeyaki ceramics and Imabari towels can all be found around this area. For Studio Ghibli fans a Ghibli shop sells related merchandise.
At the end of the arcade is Botchan Karakuri clock. Between 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. the clock comes alive on the hour. The clock rises up to reveal characters from the Natsume Soseki novel, Botchan, accompanied by traditional music. Next to the clock is a small footbath to soothe your feet after a long day of sightseeing.
Visit the Masaoka Shiki Museum next to Dogo Park, for insight into the life of the father of modern haiku. Audio guides in English are available. The park is lovely at any time of year, but especially so during cherry blossom season. Take a walk and spot turtles that inhabit the ponds. A small museum that has information about Yuzuki Castle that was once in the area is located nearby.
If you want to see more, visit Isaniwa Shrine, about ten minutes away from Dogo Onsen. This shrine has a beautiful red and gold facade, with many paintings of battles and warriors. If you're lucky, you might even catch a wedding ceremony or the blessing of a newborn.
Walk for 20 minutes to Ishiteji Temple, one of the most famous of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Explore the sprawling grounds, cave and pagodas in the complex.