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Matsuyama is the capital city of Ehime Prefecture and the largest city in Shikoku. Its name means “pine mountain”. The city has some excellent bars and restaurants, offering a choice of regional specialities like sea bream and wild boar, not to mention wonderful sake. Matsuyama is home to Dogo Onsen, the oldest hot spring bath house in Japan. Dogo Onsen is featured in the Michelin Green Guide, and was the inspiration for the popular animation Spirited Away. Another favorite sight is Matsuyama Castle which sits atop a large hill in the middle of the city. Eight of the eighty-eight temples in the Shikoku Pilgrimage are located in Matsuyama, and pilgrims are a common sight. Picturesque Buddhist temples in Matsuyama include Ishiteji, Taisanji, and Jodoji, all dating back to the 8th century. Ishiteji is a particularly weird place, which includes an amazing series of tunnels in the hill behind it. Major Shinto shrines include Isaniwa Jinja and Tsubaki Jinja. The haiku poet Masaoka Shiki lived in Matsuyama. His house, now known as the Shiki-do, and a museum, the Shiki Memorial Museum, are popular attractions, and the reason for the city’s role as the center of the international haiku movement. The novel Botchan by Natsume Soseki is also set in Matsuyama. Matsuyama also figures in several works by Shiba Ryotaro, particularly the 1969 novel, Saka no Ue no Kumo (Clouds Above the Hill). This was the focus of a major branding exercise undertaken by the previous major, which resulted in long-running NHK drama adaptation of the novel, and a museum designed by the renowned architect Tadao Ando. Another cultural site worthy of note is the Itami Juzo Museum dedicated to the famous film director. Physically, Matsuyama is a compact city. The centre is served by a tram system with beautiful tram cars from the 50s and 60s, as well as a picturesque replica steam train, the Botchan Ressha. The city is surrounded by mountains and incorporates a number of hills, giving it a green, rural feeling. Within the city limits are a number of sandy beaches facing the translucent waters of the Seto Inland Sea. The city still has many old buildings dating back to the Meiji Period and earlier. There are several stylish buildings by the architect Shichiro Giko, including the flamboyant Bansuiso Villa. Matsuyama Airport has regular flights to Tokyo, Osaka, and other major Japanese cities, as well as selected Asian destinations, including Shanghai and Seoul. There are regular ferries to Hiroshima, including an express ferry that takes only an hour. Night ferries go to Kobe, Kokura, and Kitakyushu.
The city boundaries of Matsuyama encompass a chain of islands in the Seto Inland Sea. These beautiful islands are cultural heirs to the Iyo Suigun, the pirate-samurai who dominated the Inland Sea for centuries. You can get to the islands by ferry from Mitsuhama and Takahama ports.
Matsuyama is a compact city with a wide choice of things to do and see, from galleries and museums to beaches and historic buildings and parks. Be sure to allow plenty of time to do everything!
Matsuyama is home to eight of the 88 Buddhist temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, as well as to many dramatic Shinto shrines. You can see pilgrims dressed in white making their way between the temples, while the shrines are the focus of exciting and varied seasonal festivals.
Matsuyama has so many fascinating buildings, museums, galleries, beaches and things to do, choosing the top ten isn't easy. When you've done the top ten, be sure to look for some of the hidden gems too.
With its mild climate and proximity to the sea, Matsuyama produces a wide range of high quality vegetables, fruit, seafood and meats. This is reflected in the menus of the city's restaurants and hotels. Besides traditional dishes such as taimeshi — rice cooked with sea bream — Matsuyama is enjoying a pâtisserie boom, making the most of the wonderful citrus and other fruits produced locally.
Nightlife in Matsuyama is concentrated around Dogo and the Banchos, the three streets in the centre of town called Ichi-, Ni- and San-Bancho. Explore after dark and you're sure to find something that suits you.
Matsuyama is something of a café city, with everything from large Japanese and foreign chains, to stylish and friendly owner-run cafés featuring distinctive beverages and food.
Matsuyama has a wide range of shopping areas including covered arcades, malls, and department stores. The two arcades in central Matsuyama and in Dogo serve as the arteries to a much larger area of shops and restaurants.
Matsuyama has a full calendar of festivals and events throughout the year, from festivals dating back hundreds of years, to exciting modern sports and cultural events. There's something happening every week!
Matsuyama has been home to artists, soldiers and thinkers who have achieved international influence. Their birthplaces and homes are now fascinating museums. Several of the temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage are also found in Matsuyama, but you don't have to be a pilgrim to enjoy their calm beauty.
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