Experiences only found in
Matsuyama is comfortably warm, and the winters aren’t particularly cold. It doesn’t rain much year-round either, making it an ideal place for all sorts of activities. If you want to tour the city centre, the Botchan steam train is a great way to do it. Matsuyama is quite flat, so getting about by rental cycle is also easy. A rickshaw guide around Dōgo is another option.
There’s also a place where you can try your hand at Iyo kasuri dyeing and making Hime Daruma dolls, both traditional crafts of Matsuyama. If you head to the outskirts, you can swim in the sea and camp, and enjoy other outdoor leisure. The outlying islands in the Seto Inland Sea also offer many leisure options for a one-night stay or day trip.
The Botchan steam train is a cute little train that makes its way slowly around the castle town. It’s modeled on the Iyo Railway steam trains that started operations in 1888. Riding the train gives you the feeling that you’ve slipped back in time. They were an important means of transport back then. They’re mentioned in Sōseki Natsume’s novel Botchan, set in Matsuyama in the Meiji period, hence their name.
The original Botchan Trains went out of service in 1954 with the arrival of diesel-powered transport, but since 2001 when they were reintroduced, their jaunty presence around Matsuyama has become part of the landscape again.
The world renowned
The Shikoku Pilgrimage is a trail between 88 Buddhist temples dotted around Shikoku. It was selected by the New York Times’ list of 52 Places to Go in 2015. This wonderful aspect of Japanese culture is now the focus of worldwide attention. Currently, efforts are underway to register the temples and route as World Heritage.
Eight of the 88 temples are located in Matsuyama. All of the temples are connected by legend with Kōbō Daishi, and the ancient buildings are full of charm. You don’t have to visit all 88 temples to get a taste of ‘Ohenro’ pilgrim life – just one or two is enough.
The sea is right next door
Encounter the natural scenery of Matsuyama
The Kutsuna Islands in the Seto Inland Sea off Matsuyama are a popular area for outdoor leisure. The Kutsuna Islands comprise over 30 islands including Nakajima and Gogoshima. Each of the islands has beautiful beaches, and you can enjoy swimming in the sea, marine sports, fishing, and cycling. And on some islands, you can have delicious fresh seafood in restaurants and cafés.
You can get to the various islands by car ferry and high-speed boat from Matsuyama, and even a day trip is enough to experience the charm of the islands. Kashima Island with its wild and tame deer lies 400 m off the coast of Hōjō.