Although it is the most advanced of the cities on Shikoku, it is still known as the perfect place in which to visit the oldest hot spring resort in Japan. Literary talent has been another export over time with many haiku poets having lived here – the many “haiku posts” dotted around town dedicated to their memory.
Matsuyama’s tram system is a well organized, fundamental form of transportation for local people in this part of Japan and is absolutely no problem for those visiting from out of town to access and use worry free although it didn’t feature in the famous novel Botchan written by Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) in which the main character is a high school teacher in the city who goes by the nickname of “Botchan”. The ‘Botchan’ name is used at various spots around the town today and one of the most famous must surely be the “Botchan Ressha (Botchan Train)” – a locomotive shaped tram running through the city center.
Located in the center of the city is Matsuyama Castle built by Kato Yoshiakira, a subordinate of the renowned warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) who initiated construction in 1602. Today the 400-year-old castle has largely become symbolic of Matsuyama City – visible from all areas of the city.
For visitors to Matsuyama, perhaps the highlight of a visit is the opportunity to take a dip in the Dogo Onsen hot spring. As one of the oldest hot springs in Japan with a 3000-year history, Dogo has some of the most effective waters in the nation for those wishing to fight nerve pain, rheumatism and anemia. The Dogo Onsen Honkan Public Bathhouse stands at the center of this hot spring town to welcome both tourists and locals to its baths for the reasonable fee of 400 yen per person per dip.
For the more active individuals in search of a touch of exercise and ocean views, why not visit the neighboring city of Imabari, access point to the Shimanami Kaido Expressway that stretches across the sea to Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture by way of several islands in the Seto Inland Sea. A cycling path runs parallel to the highway enabling the energetic to rent a bicycle at the entrance and enjoy cycling above the waves below – all the time taking in the glorious sea view.
A bean jam roll cake has long been seen as a local Matsuyama sweet and is said to have been introduced to the local area in the mid-17th century by visiting Portuguese in a slightly different shape and containing jam. Over time the current form emerged and is now considered a Matsuyama specialty.