Ehime Prefecture is situated in Shikoku Island on the southern end of Japan. The prefecture, located between sea and mountains is famous for its sweet tangerines (called mikans), pilgrimage of the 88 temples, spa towns and is home to some of the country’s original castles. With so many things to do and see in Ehime, I wonder why the region is underrated. If like me, you like exploring off the beaten places, then Ehime is perfect for you. The good climate, traditional towns and the welcoming people make it an ideal destination.
During my discovery of Ehime, I explored Matsuyama, capital of Ehime Prefecture and three villages: Uchiko, Ozu and finally Uwajima. So without further ado, let’s explore the top things to do and see in Ehime.
- 1 Things to do and see in Ehime
- 2 Matsuyama City area (松山)
- 3 Uchiko area (内子)
- 4 Ozu area (大洲, Ōzu)
- 5 Uwajima area (宇和島)
- 6 Preparing your trip
Things to do and see in Ehime
Matsuyama City area (松山)
Matsuyama City is the capital of Ehime and has been known as a spa town for centuries. Home to Dogo Onsen, the country’s oldest traditional onsen, Matsuyama is a favourite with Japanese tourists.
As well as its spa house, Matsuyama is also famous for its temples. The city has eight out of the 88 places of worship included in the Shikoku pilgrimage route. There so much more attractions to do and see, but these are my top selection.
Things to Do: Have an onsen experience at Dogo Onsen
Onsens are an important part of Japanese culture and spending some times in public bath houses are very appreciated. Dogo Onsen is an onsen with more than 1,000 years of history. It has a special room for the imperial family and one exclusively for the Emperor. Visitors can join a short guided tour of the Yushinden and view the facilities reserved for visiting emperors. The building with its crafted rooftop is said to have inspired Studio Ghibli’s anime “Spirited Away”. Nowadays, visitors can visit the onsen for 410 yen. You can either visit to enjoy the bath or simply relax with some sweet treats.
Info: Dogo Onsen Honkan is currently undergoing some renovation during which the bathhouse will be partially closed.
Address: 5-6 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama | Fee: From 410 yen to 1550 yen. Guided tour only is 210 yen.
Things to See: Explore Matsuyama Castle
Dominating Matsuyama landscape is the Matsuyama Castle. Sitting up the hill, it can be seen from anywhere in the city. Matsuyama Castle is one of Japan’s 12 original castles. Due to its location, it provides visitors with an impressive view over the city and beyond. The castle is now a museum. If you don’t want to pay the entrance fee, you can just walk around the garden and admire the beautiful architecture.
Address: 1 Marunouchi, Matsuyama | Fee: 510 yen
Things to Do: Eat lots of mikan
If you ask a Japanese person to name a thing that symbolises Ehime, they will without a doubt mention “Mikan”. Thanks to the warm and sunny weather throughout the year, Ehime is a paradise for citrus fruits. A mikan is similar to a satsuma or tangerine but sweeter and juicier. The fruit is so much loved by the locals that you can get mikan juice on tap.
Uchiko area (内子)
Uchiko is a traditional town situated about 45 km from Matsuyama. The town became prosperous thanks to wax and paper production. It seems to have been struck in time as most of the houses are preserved, especially Yokaichi Street.
Things to Do: Take a stroll in the old streets of Uchiko
The main attractions of Uchiko are the old streets and Uchiko-za, an impressive kabuki theatre. It’s opened on most days. Visitors can look inside the theatre even on non-performance days. The streets of Yokaichi-Gokoku are lined with small shops, merchant houses, warehouses and privates residences dated back from the Edo, Meiji and Taisho eras. The district is designated “Important Preservation Districts”.
Ozu area (大洲, Ōzu)
Further south from Uchiko is the ancient fortified town of Ozu, cosily nestled between the mountains and the Hiji River. Ozu is famous in summer for cormorant fishing. But the rest of the year, it’s the castle and Garyû Sansô that brings in tourists. Since the town is so small, you can easily walk through the little alleys or along the docks of the river.
Things to Do: Visit Ozu Castle
Ozu Castle looks on the outside like any other castles in Japan. Ozu Castle was rebuilt in 2005 following the same model as the previous castle and by using the same ancient technique. You can view the different stages of construction work inside the castle. It allows you to see the extent of Japanese carpenters’ talent. If you venture to the top floor, you will be rewarded with a nice view of the city and the river.
Address: 903 Ozu | Fee: 500 yen
Things to See: Admire Garyû Sansô House
Located on the verge of the Hiji River, the sophisticated Garyû Sansô Villa is known as the “Katsura Rikyu of Ozu”. Built in the 19th centuries by a rich family, the main house is a beautiful building combining Japanese elegance and simplicity. The owner took his inspiration from Kyoto’s imperial Katsura villa. As well as the main house, there is a tea pavilion overlooking the river and a lovely moss garden. The villa is the main attraction of Ozu and at only 500 yen or 800 yen, if you combine it with a visit to the castle, it’s a bargain.
Address: 411-2 Ozu, Ozu-shi | Fee: 500 yen
Uwajima area (宇和島)
Uwajima is a port town and home to one of only twelve original castles from the Edo Period.
Things to Do: Check out Nanrakuen Garden
The beautiful garden of Nanrakuen is one of the largest gardens in Shikoku Island. It translates to “southern paradise” which I find quite fitting. We visited the garden one November evening. There is a dazzling light shown every evening. As well as the main house, the garden contains three other houses. House of the Sea, found on the right-hand side, is a replica of a stone-walled house, traditionally found in fishing villages.
On the opposite direction, you have the House of the mountain, old mountain tea house and the House of the Village. It’s typical of an Edo period farmer’s house with a thatched roof. This building also serves as a tea house where you can relax with a cup of matcha green tea and red bean soup. If you feel like having something more consistent, there is also a restaurant.
Take a stroll in this big traditional garden while appreciating the work that has gone into designing it, with the variety of trees and flowers.
Address: 1813 Chikaie, Tsushima-cho, Uwajima City | Fee: Entry to the garden is 310 yen.
Things to Do: Visit Uwajima Castle
The castle is part of the 12th original castles of Japan. The castle dominates the small town and its port. The architect who built the castle also built the castles in Ozu, Edo (former Tokyo) and Kyoto.
Address: 1, Marunouchi, Uwajima City | Fee: Entry to the castle tower is 200 yen.
Preparing your trip
Getting to Ehime
By Train – There is no Shinkansen line on Shikoku Island, but JR rails connect the island to Honshu via Okayama.
By Car – You can drive to Ehime and join via the connecting bridges of Shimanami / Imabari (North West).
By Plane – There are also 4 airports on the island hower Matsuyama is the best option to reach Ehime. It takes about 1h30 min from Tokyo Haneda and a little bit more for Narita. 1hr gets you there from Kansai or 50 mins from Osaka.
By boat – You can get to Matsuyama via Hiroshima by high-speed boat within an hour.
When to travel
Shikoku is one of the warmest islands in Japan but you will still be able to experience the full four seasons. The best time to visit Japan usually is during the sakura season (March/April) or during the momiji season (November to December). However, summer can be a great idea too as the sunny days would be perfect for some water sports.
You can travel around Ehime by train, bus, private car or bicycle. If you are taking part in the pilgrimage route, then you can get around on foot.
Uchiko, Ozu and Uwajima as easily accessible from Matsuyama. To get there from Matsuyama JR Station, take the JR Yosan Line Uwakai Limited Express. The hourly trains take 25 minutes for Uchiko and cost 1280 yen. For Ozu, it takes around 40 minutes and cost 1470 yen. Uwajima can be reached in about 80 minutes for 3000 yen.
During your stay in Ehime, you can either stay in an onsen ryokan, a traditional guest house or a western hotel. As home to the oldest onsen in Japan, Ehime provides with Dogo Onsen the perfect opportunity to experience a stay in an inn and enjoy a hot bath. Staying in a traditional Japanese house is perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in the local culture. Westerns hotels are well located within the city centre and offer all the amenities of a hotel.
Search for accommodation in Ehime via Booking.com
- Matsuyama Tourism
- Uchiko Town
- Uwajima Tourist Association
- Ehime Tourism Information
- Ehime Tourism Information
- Shikoku Tourism
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