Exploring Uchiko Japan – A Charming Village in the Japanese Countryside

Last Updated on 09/01/2024 by secretmoona

Walking through the Japanese village of Uchiko, you feel like you are slipping back in time to the Meiji period. The preserved streets of Yokaichi Old Town is is a must see.

Are you interested in experiencing a different side of Japan that is often overlooked by tourists? Would you like to venture off the typical tourist path and discover places that locals love to visit? If you answer yes, then we have just the thing for you – a guide to Uchiko Japan, a delightful Japanese village in Ehime.

Where is Uchiko, Ehime

The village of Uchiko (内子) is located in Ehime Prefecture, 40 km southwest of Matsuyama on Shikoku island, making it an ideal day trip destination.

Is Uchiko Town worth visiting?

Uchiko is often referred to as the small Kyoto of Iyo and is definitely worth a visit if you love traditional architecture and the charming atmosphere of a Japanese village. This historical town was once prosperous because of its production of traditional sumac wax, which occurred during the Edo period (1603-1876) up until the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Walking through the Japanese village of Uchiko, you feel like you are slipping back in time to the Meiji period. The preserved streets of Yokaichi Old Town is is a must see.
Peaceful street in Uchiko’s Yokaichi Old Town

The wax used in Uchiko was made from the abundant Hazenoki tree in the area. One of the main attractions in Uchiko is Yokaichi Old Town – a 600-meter-long street which houses most of the town’s attractions. Another popular spot is the Uchiko-za Theatre.

Fun fact: sumac wax is still used today to style the traditional top knot (mage) of Sumo wrestlers.

Preparing your travel to Uchiko in Ehime Prefecture

How to travel to Uchiko, Japan

Located between Matsuyama and Uwajima, Uchiko is easily accessible via Matsuyama. 

From Matsuyama

Uchiko Town is situated between Matsuyama and Uwajima and next to Ozu, another charming town; therefore, it is easily reachable from Matsuyama. You can get to Uchiko in the following ways:

  • By car: Uchiko is only 30 minutes away from Matsuyama by car. However, please note that there are tolls on the expressway.
  • By train: It takes 25 minutes on the limited express train to reach Uchiko station. The ticket for an unreserved seat costs about 1280 yen, while a reserved seat ticket costs 2000 yen. Local trains are also available, which take about 60 minutes and cost 760 yen. The Japan Rail Pass covers both local and limited express trains.
  • By bus: If you prefer travelling by bus, you can take the Iyotetsu buses from Matsuyama-shi for 720 yen one way. The travel time is similar to that of the local train.

Once at Uchiko Station, walk 20 minutes through the town to reach the Yokaichi Old Town area. On weekends and holidays, the Chagamaru Retro Bus goes to all major tourist destinations in the city.

Get your JR Pass here

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From elsewhere in Ehime

If you want to travel to Uchiko from any other part of Japan, the easiest way is to fly or take a ferry. 

  • From Tokyo, you can fly from Haneda or Narita airports to Matsuyama, which takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes. After that, you can take the limousine bus to JR Matsuyama Station and then take a train, as mentioned above. 
  • From Osaka, it takes about 1 hour to reach Uchiko by plane. 
  • It takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach Uchiko from Hiroshima by high-speed ferry or 2 hours and 40 minutes on a regular ferry.
Uchiko is a small charming town in Ehime Prefecture in Japan. There are many things to do in the small Japanese village. Check out my guide.

Getting around Uchiko 

Uchiko is very small; therefore, you can explore it entirely on foot. JR Uchiko station is about a 10- 15 minute walk to Uchiko-za, so it might be better to start there. The Yokaichi Old Town is another 10 minutes from the theatre. Be sure to grab a map of the town at the Tourist Information Centre near the station. 

If you enjoy cycling, there’s a bike rental service available near the Uchiko Tourist Information Centre. You can rent a regular bike for 500 yen for the first 3 hours or 700 yen for the entire day. Alternatively, you can rent an electric bike for 1000 yen for the first three hours or 1500 yen for the whole day. This seems like a great deal to me!

Things to do in the quaint Japanese village of Uchiko

If you’re looking for things to do in Uchiko Town beyond wandering the streets of Yokaichi Old Town, read on to discover all the attractions this small town has to offer.

Walking through the Japanese village of Uchiko, you feel like you are slipping back in time to the Meiji period. The preserved streets of Yokaichi Old Town is is a must see.

Wander in the streets of Yokaichi Old Town 

Our journey started in the historic Old Quarter of Uchiko, a charming town located in the Ehime Prefecture of Japan. As we made our way through the narrow streets, we discovered that the districts of Yokaichi and Gokoku were the most iconic and picturesque streets in the area. The streets were lined with old wooden houses, merchant houses, and traditional shops that looked exactly as they were back in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The wooden houses, with their intricate lattice work and shoji screens, were built with traditional Japanese carpentry techniques that have been passed down through generations. The merchant houses, on the other hand, were once used as shops and warehouses by wealthy merchants who made their fortunes during the Edo period. Today, many of these houses have been converted into museums, cafes, and souvenir shops, offering visitors a glimpse into the town’s rich history.

As we walked along the streets, we were transported back in time, marveling at the preserved architecture and the unique atmosphere of the Old Quarter. It was a truly unforgettable experience, and we felt grateful for the opportunity to witness such a well-preserved piece of Japanese history.

Shop window in Uchiko Japan
Typical shop front in Uchiko

The Yokaichi and Gokoku Special Preservation District is a historically significant area that has been designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings. This district is a treasure trove of Japanese history, consisting of approximately 90 buildings that have been meticulously restored to their original condition. These traditional buildings are a testament to the wealth of the traders who inhabited the area during the Meiji period, which spanned from 1868 to 1912.

Each of the buildings in the district has a unique story to tell. Many of them were once used as shops or warehouses, while others served as homes for the people who lived and worked in the area. The architecture of the buildings is a fascinating blend of Japanese and Western influences, reflecting the changing times and the influence of foreign traders. The buildings are also adorned with intricate carvings, paintings, and decorations that showcase the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who created them.

While wandering around, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between the streets here and the old town of Kawagoe in Saitama. We had read that Yokaichi Old Town usually gets crowded in the afternoon, but to our surprise, it was almost empty when we visited. We’re not sure if it was because we were there in the morning or if it was due to some other reason. Nevertheless, we had the opportunity to explore the area without encountering many tourists.

Visit the Kamihaga Residence

Different type of wax at the Japanese Wax museum Uchiko
Display at the wax museum

There are 90 buildings in Uchiko, one of which is the former home of the Haga family, who was one of the largest wax producers in the region. The Kamihaga Residence has been transformed into a wax museum, which is open to the public. Visitors can learn about the wax industry and production in Uchiko and get a sense of the Haga family’s wealth. The residence is well-maintained and boasts rooms filled with screens, tatami mats, and a beautiful garden, making it a delightful place to explore.

Honhaga Residence, Uchiko Japan
Entry to the Honhaga Residence is not allowed but you can pick through the beautiful garden

During our tour, we came across two impressive buildings: the Honhaga Residence, owned by the primary producer of wax in town, and the Omura Residence, which is one of the oldest buildings in the area. Unfortunately, both buildings are not open to the public. If you’re interested in visiting the area, you can check out the Japanese Wax Museum at Uchiko-chō, Uchiko 2696. The museum is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm and admission is 500 yen.

Get a glimpse of Uchiko’s history with a visit to the museum

After exploring the charming old town, we decided to visit the Machiya Museum – a small, yet fascinating museum that offers a glimpse into the life of a typical merchant house during the Edo Period. Housed in a traditional machiya, or townhouse, the museum showcases various artifacts, furniture, and decorations that were commonly used during that era. As we walked through the museum, we were amazed by the attention to detail and the authenticity of the exhibits. From the sliding doors and tatami mats to the kitchen utensils and clothing, everything felt like a step back in time. The best part? Admission to the museum is absolutely free, making it a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in Japanese history and culture.

Museum of Commercial and Domestic Life, Uchiko Japan
Museum of Commercial and Domestic Life

If you’re looking for an interesting museum to visit in Uchiko, Japan, the Uchiko History Museum, also known as the Museum of Commercial and Domestic Life, is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re travelling with kids. Even though it’s small, the museum has a lot to offer. You can see animated life-sized dolls that demonstrate how a merchant family used to live. When you approach the waxworks, they start telling you what they are doing (in Japanese only). The museum is open from 9:00 to 16:30, and the admission fee is 200 yen. If you want to visit Kamihaga Residence and Uchiko-za, you can purchase a combo ticket for 900 yen.

Visit Uchiko-za Theatre

Inside the Uchiko-za theatre (credit: VisitEhime)

After a short 10-minute walk from Yokaichi and Gokoku Preservation district, you will come across another tourist attraction: Uchiko-za Theatre. Built in 1916, this two-story theatre was previously used as a venue for Kabuki, a traditional Japanese theatre. It is a great place to witness Japanese performing acts that range from puppet shows and storytelling to kabuki performances.

Apart from attending the shows, visitors can also join tours that offer behind-the-scenes access to the entire theatre on days when there are no performances.

During our visit to the theatre, we were not able to witness any performances. However, a volunteer guide was kind enough to provide us with a detailed explanation of the theatre’s history. We were shown the wooden stage and the two trap doors that are used by the actors to enter and exit the stage. The guide also informed us about the unique features of kabuki theatres such as the rotating stage, hidden entrances for the actors, and their dressing rooms.

If you’re interested in attending a performance, you can check out the event calendar by clicking here. The theatre is located in Uchiko-chō, Uchiko 2102. It’s open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, and the admission fee is 400 yen. However, if you also want to visit Kamihaga Residence and the history museum, you can opt for a combined ticket that costs 900 yen.

Visit unique craftsmen shops 

Japanese Candle Maker Omori, Uchiko Japan

Uchiko is a charming town that still preserves its traditional way of life and crafts. During our visit, we had the chance to explore some of the local shops and see the skilled craftsmen at work.

One of the most interesting shops we visited was the Japanese Candle Maker Ōmori. This shop has been in operation for over 200 years and is renowned for its traditional Japanese candles. Visitors can watch the craftsmen at work through a glass partition, creating candles with a large flame that is a signature of their craft.

Bamboo craftsman in the Japanese village of Uchiko Japan

The second shop we visited was Take-Kōbō Bamboo Studio, which is a treasure trove of some of the finest bamboo products you can find. From bags and chairs to figurines and kitchen utensils, this shop has it all. What impressed us the most was the quality of the products and the skill and precision with which they were made. But what truly stood out was the passion and respect the craftsmen had for their products. They shared with us their deep knowledge of bamboo and how they take pride in working with this versatile and sustainable material.

Overall, our visit to these shops was not only educational but also inspiring. It gave us a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Uchiko and the dedication of its craftsmen to preserving their traditions.

Create your own personal souvenir 

There are several workshops in Uchiko where you can create amazing souvenirs. The Uchiko no Wa Art Studio and Tenjin Japanese Paper Factory organize most of these workshops. You can learn how to make Japanese Washi papers, small paper lanterns called “iro-andon” or gilding. Gilding involves decorating paper, wood, plastic, and other surfaces using gold foil.

Workshops:

  • Gilding workshop: costs 1620 yen at Tenjin Japanese Paper Factory and 200 yen at Uchiko-no-Wa. The latter takes around 40 to 60 minutes to complete.
  • Handmade candlestick: costs 3000 yen at Jizaikōbō and takes about 1.5 hours to complete.
  • Mini paper lantern workshop: costs 2000 yen at Uchiko-no-Wa.
  • Paper-making workshop: costs 500 yen at Tenjin Japanese Paper Factory.

Please note that all workshops are conducted in Japanese. However, if you require an English-speaking guide, you can make an advance request. Additionally, the Uchiko Volunteer Guide Uchiko Locals is a group of volunteers who offer free guided tours of the town. For more information, please check their Facebook page.

Walk around Uchiko Town in a kimono or yukata

Pink kimono wearing lady looking at flowers in Japanese village of Uchiko
Beautiful pink kimono (Image by vivi14216 from Pixabay)

During the warmer months, especially in the summertime, people in Japan and tourists enjoy strolling around the streets wearing traditional clothes. And when it comes to this popular activity, there’s no better place than Uchiko, the town that is known for its traditional values! If you’re looking to rent a kimono, then Uchiko no Wa is the perfect place to go. They offer a great variety of kimonos in different colors and patterns that you can wear while exploring the town. In addition to kimonos, the shop also sells washi paper and other handmade products. The friendly staff will assist you in putting on the garment and even help you style your hair.

Kimono prices range from 3000 to 4500 yen, while Yukata costs 2800 yen. Hair styling is priced at 1700 yen, and Japanese tabi socks cost 500 yen. Looking to wear a kimono or yukata during your trip to Japan? Rent one here

Where to eat in Uchiko, Ehime

Many of the old houses in Uchiko have been transformed into shops, restaurants, and unique accommodations. The town’s specialty is sea bream, and there are plenty of eateries where you can try it out. You’ll find some excellent restaurants near Uchiko station, as well as along Yokaichi and Gokoku. The map below, courtesy of Uchiko Town Visitors Centre, lists some of the restaurants favored by local tourists. However, I recommend that you take a stroll around and stop at any place that catches your eye.

Uchiko's restaurant mapMap of Uchiko's restaurants

Where to stay in Uchiko, Ehime

Most visitors to Uchiko opt for a day trip, but I recommend staying overnight to explore the nearby towns. You’ll have a choice of luxurious inns, traditional Japanese houses, or farm stays.

 

Staying longer? Why not visit these sites / Japanese villages  

Here are some other places in Uchiko Town worth exploring.

  • Ishidatami Seiryu-en Park used to have 30 water mills in the area, but the number has decreased to three due to renovation works by the locals. 
  •  Covered Bridges: Uchiko previously had over ten covered bridges that were once common throughout southern Ehime prefecture. Unfortunately, today only a few remain. These bridges facilitated movement within and between small villages and also served as storage and shelter for farmers. 
  •  Terraced Rice Fields of Izumidani: The Izumidani area has 95 terraced rice paddy fields spread across the mountainside.
  •  Farmers’ Markets: Karari Farmers’ Market & Restaurant and Seseragi Farmers’ Market offer fresh local specialties, fruits and vegetables, and crafts made in the surrounding villages.  

Make sure not to limit yourself to the Old Quarter. Take some time to explore the side streets and wander through the alleyways. You may even venture beyond the small town and discover some hidden gems. 

Have you ever been to a Japanese village before? If you want to explore more of Japan, including the countryside, check out my articles about Japan travel. You’ll find some great trip ideas to help you plan your next adventure.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission if a product is purchased through one of these links, at no extra cost to you. 

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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

20 thoughts on “Exploring Uchiko Japan – A Charming Village in the Japanese Countryside

  1. I have never seen photos of a village like this in Japan! This is adorable! My husband wants to go to Japan, so I will definitely be adding this to my list of places to go!

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing an off the beaten path destination! I would love to stop and make a mini paper lantern! It sounds like so much fun. I love the look of the streets , great culture! Less crowds definetly seems like a plus as well! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you. The mini paper lantern workshop is definitely a fun yet creative activity. Plus the lantern makes a great souvenir to take home!

  3. Wow, what a beautiful looking place. It’s just like I imagine Japan to loook like at the turn of the century. I’m a big fan of the Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli animations and the villages they show in these films look just like Uchiko. That theatre is so authentic to watch some traditional performing arts and pupperty, I love the idea of sitting on the floor on cushions to watch it.

    1. I am a fan of Studio Ghiberti too. I agree, it’s fascinating to watch a traditional show and puppetry. I watched one during my first trip to Japan and although I couldn’t understand most of it, I had fun laughing along with everyone else!

  4. As first time visitors to Japan, we sadly did miss visiting Uchiko. We certainly would have loved to see this village. Wandering the streets in a traditional kimono sounds like fun. It looks like it might be worth a few days visit.

  5. There’s so much I’d like to do here! The Museum of Commercial and Domestic Life sounds interesting, as does the kabuki theatre. I would love to try on a kimono and walk around, if it’s not considered weird to do so 🙂

  6. Hello! This is Michiko from Uchiko Town Tourism Association. I just found your article, and loved it. Thank you so much for introducing Uchiko Town to the world. We have launched an English website last year. We would be appreciated if you could change the link to https://uchikogenic.com/en/
    Thank you!

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