The city of Matsuyama or “pine mountain” is the capital of Ehime Prefecture, Japan. It is the largest city on Shikoku island. The city is home to a hilltop castle offering spectacular views of the cityscape and the Seto Inland Sea. Matsuyama is a famous setting of one of Japan’s most popular novels “Botchan” and is home to some of the country’s oldest hot springs.
A perfect place to begin exploring Matsuyama is at the castle. Nestled on the steep hill of Mount Katsuyama in the city centre, it is one of Japan’s 12 original castles. During springtime, cherry blossom trees add an ethereal ambience to the picturesque, tiered castle. Ishiteji Temple located north-east of the city centre is a famous temple on the Shikoku Pilgrimage route. The main hall and pagoda offer insight into the country’s rich cultural heritage with paintings, religious objects and statues lining the walls and buildings. Lovers of culture will enjoy the abundance of museums Matsuyama offers. The Shiki Memorial Museum explores the work of haiku poet Masaoka Shiki, and the Museum of Art Ehime showcases unique works by local artists. Nearby, in Dōgo Onsen, visitors can unwind and relax in Japan’s oldest hot springs dating back over 1,000 years. Travellers interested in sampling local cuisine will find Matsuyama is famous for its delicious tarts made from red beans, chestnut or yuzu paste.
Reaching the attractions of Matsuyama on foot is possible. Even the hot springs of Dōgo Onsen can be accessed on foot in around 40 minutes. Buses connect all corners of the city, and to and from the ferry port. Trams operate throughout the city streets for visitors wishing to reach their destination quickly. The city has a rail station with trains running to several cities with connecting networks. Alternatively, there is bicycle and rickshaw hire or taxi services.
Matsuyama was originally known as a castle town incorporating the hot springs of Dōgo Onsen. The castle was built in 1603, although the hot springs stretch back many centuries. Today, visitors are attracted by Matsuyama’s laid back lifestyle, beautiful views, the hot springs and the region’s rich tapestry of history.