The capital city of Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku Island, Matsuyama is famous for the Dogo Onsen Honkan bathhouse dating back to the Meiji Period with its ornate and tiered wooden buildings. The provincial and sleepy town is the business and shopping hub for the laid-back country folk of the rural area. It sits in a river basin formed by the Ishite and Shigenobu Rivers and cuddled by the Ishizuchi and Takanawa Mountain ranges. With a mild and temperate climate of balmy summers and almost no snow in the winters, the city is a hub for local buses and trams with the train station at its heart.
This is a town to explore whilst pedaling a bicycle or reclining in a rickshaw if you don't want to use your own foot power and walk. You should check out the Shiki Memorial Museum dedicated to Masaoka Shiki's haiku poetry that was a native of Matsuyama and 1 of 4 great masters of haiku. He has been credited with revitalizing Japanese poetry and making it relevant to modern Japanese culture.
For castle lovers there is the hilltop feudal-era Matsuyama Castle fringed by gardens and cherry blossoms plus others to explore. The city has a collection of Meiji-era buildings to meander around and plenty of museums to poke your nose into. There is the Botchan Gizmo Clock that chimes between 8am and 9pm daily with animatronics emerging during the musical interlude.
The town's main attraction is the "Dogo Onsen" that everyone can enjoy any time of the year. This is for those that are serious about their hot springs and steamy water dunkings. A public bathhouse, it is thought to be the oldest in Japan and is actually mentioned in the 2nd oldest book of Japanese history from 720 AD, "Nihon Shoki".
When you need a break from pedaling, take a seat and create your own haiku whilst sipping some green tea or slurping some noodles, then rush off and buy some "Hime-daruma" dolls to tuck into your luggage for good luck.
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