The comprehensive guide to Matsuyama. Learn about famous spots and secret sites. Check out an authentic array of food and souvenirs.
Matsuyama City in Ehime Prefecture has a great selection of historic sites to visit, such as the nation’s oldest hot spring retreat, the Dogo Onsen, and Matsuyama Castle, a symbol of the city. As most sites are near Matsuyama Station and the Dogo Onsen, you can easily visit several in one day. Here, we will introduce our most highly recommended sites in Matsuyama.
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What is Matsuyama like?
Matsuyama is located in the central Ehime Prefecture and is the largest city in Shikoku. Facing the Seto Inland Sea, the city has a mild climate throughout the year. Its dry weather makes the city a comfortable place to live. Matsuyama is an attractive place which offers both a convenient city life, and a natural seaside environment on the west side and a mountainous region on the east side. Only a short distance away, you can dive into a luscious nature and peaceful countryside.
The best 7 spots in Matsuyama
There are many historic sites in Matsuyama City and a classic old-style tram makes it easy to visit the main sightseeing spots in a few hours. We will introduce below 7 must-see spots in Matsuyama.
1. Matsuyama Castle
Matsuyama Castle is an iconic symbol of Matsuyama City, and it is also famous as being an impregnable castle. Here you’ll find 21 Important Cultural Properties, including the castle tower, as well as various sights to take in, such as the castle tower, Ichinomon, and Shitakemon. Cherry blossoms bloom in the inner citadel plaza every spring, and it is a famous cherry blossom viewing spot.
2. Dogo Onsen
The Dogo Onsen is a historic building with immense splendor and history. In Japan, it is classified as an Important Cultural Property. At this onsen you’ll find an alkali spring with smooth gentle waters that soothe, rejuvenate and beautify the skin. There are also plenty of shopping streets, tourist spots, and foot baths to explore nearby, perfect for a stroll in yukata.
3. Ferris Wheel Kururin
The Ferris wheel Kururin has a diameter of 45 meters, and from the ground to its highest point spans 85 meters. During the day, Kururin offers a view over Matsuyama City, including the hot spring inns at Dogo Onsen, the Iyo-nada Sea, and Matsuyama Castle standing tall in the center of the city. You can also enjoy the illuminations held at night, looking out over the night view of the city from the Ferris wheel.
4. Saka no Ue no Kumo Museum
The museum was built around the theme of “Saka no Ue no Kumo”, or “Clouds Over the Slope” by the prominent novelist Ryotaro Shiba and focuses on three main characters from Matsuyama City; Yoshifuru Akiyama, his brother Saneyuki Akiyama, and their poet friend, Shiki Masaoka. The exhibition presents information and details of Shiba’s novel and other Meiji period writings, as well as documents relating to the main characters. The building was designed by the world-famous architect, Tadao Ando.
5. Botchan Ressha Train
Botchan Ressha is a train replica designed after the steam locomotives that operated for 67 years after the opening of Iyotetsu (Iyo Railways) in 1888. The name, “Botchan” is named after a train used by the protagonist in Natsume Soseki’s novel of the same name. The current model runs via a diesel-engine, but is affixed with an odorless smoke machine to recreate the same cloud puffs as in the old days. Take a ride for the full nostalgic look and feel of riding on an old steam locomotive.
6. Ishiteji temple
Ishiteji is number 51 of the 88 temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Niomon Gate, built in 1318, is designated as a national treasure. The main hall, pagoda, and bell tower are also designated as Important Cultural Properties. With other interesting features like the 200-meter-long Mantra cave, Ishiteji has been a popular sightseeing event. Ishiteji’s specialty, Yakimochi, is a grilled rice flour dumpling with sweet red bean filling.
They are sold at the approach to the temple.
- 2-9-21 Ishite, Matsuyama City, Ehime
- Official Website
- Official Website (Japanese)
Bansuiso was built as a villa by earl Hisamatsu Sadakoto in 1922, a descendant of the former Matsuyama feudal lord. It was built in the French Neo-Renaissance style thanks to Sadakoto’s experience living in France as a military officer in the army. Not only is the architecture of Bansuiso extremely high in artistic value in and of itself, but it also often hosts exhibitions of paintings, hanging scrolls, and traditional arts, as well as various events, so be sure to check those out as well!
Special foods not-to-miss in Matsuyama
Matsuyama is blessed with a mild climate and surrounded by sea and mountains, both offering excellent food materials. In Matsuyama, there are plenty of delicious food selections to choose from; fresh seafoods from the Seto Inland Sea and their wagyu beef brand Iyo Gyu, etc. Check out the restaurants below which serve these local specialties and staple foods long loved by the locals.
1. Local Cuisine Goshiki
A historical Japanese restaurant established in 1635. One can enjoy regional cuisine that uses many local ingredients such as fresh red seabream, Iyo-wagyu (Iyo beef cattle) and Hime-pork.
There are two kinds of Taimeshi, Matsuyama’s signature dish, Uwajima Taimeshi (topped with Sashimi) and Matsuyama Taimeshi (red seabream cooked with the rice), and both are available here.
2. Tanimoto Kamaboko Dogo shop
Tanimoto Kamaboko is a long-standing Kamaboko shop established in 1916. Jyako-ten, or “fried Kamaboko”, is a locally caught small fish ground into paste including both skin and bone, then shaped flat using a wood frame and fried in rapeseed oil. It has a soft chewiness, unique flavor and an addictive grainy texture from the small bones.
The best 3 shopping facilities in Matsuyama
Several shopping malls are located in and around Matsuyama City, selling the latest fashion items and fancy desserts, etc. There is also a nice shopping street for souvenirs around the Dogo Onsen area. Check out these shopping facilities during your visit to Matsuyama.
1. Iyotetsu Takashimaya
“Iyotetsu Takashimaya” has an array of seasonal items available from the latest fashions to popular sweets.
The department store comprises a Main building and a South building, and the Main building also acts as a train station integrated with the Matsuyama City Station. Also available are furniture and household goods, as well as many restaurants mostly on the 8th floor of the Main building. The cosmetic floor on the Main building’s 1st floor has popular brands and the latest cosmetics, ingeniously divided into different themes, making it easier to find products based on one’s preference.
2. Dogo Shotengai (Dogo Haikara Dori)
Nicknamed “Dogo Haikara Dori”, the Dogo Shotengai is a shopping arcade connected to the Dogo Onsen. At 250-meters in length, this L-shaped shopping arcade links up with the main building of the Dogo Onsen and onto Dogo Onsen Station, the final stop on the Iyotetsu train line. The arcade is home to many souvenir shops and eateries, making it a perfect place to enjoy a stroll in your yukata after taking a soak at the Dogo Onsen hot springs.
3. Emifull MASAKI
A large-scale commercial complex, Emifull MASAKI, in Masaki Town, Iyo District in Ehime, is one of the largest shopping malls in the Shikoku region with over 200 unique shops from fashion to sundries, gourmet food and movies. The mall is divided into large areas including, “EMI MALL” lined with shops for fashion and miscellaneous goods, “EMI AMUSE” for amusement facilities, “EMI GOURMET” for dining, and a group of buildings where popular shops occupy each building.
The top 3 highly recommended accommodations in Matsuyama
The historic Dogo Onsen area offers many attractive accommodations from traditional ryokans to hotels offering unique services. These three accommodations below are especially recommended.
1. Dogo Onsen Funaya
The oldest ryokan in the Dogo Onsen Area, Funaya, was established over 390 years ago. While keeping to a tradition in line with its high status, they did not forget to satisfy guests with absorbing new concepts. Their past guests include Soseki Natusme who wrote the literary masterpiece, Botchan, and successive emperor and empress couples. Funaya is a truly high-status ryokan with a rich history.
- 1-33 Dogoyunomachi, Matsuyama City, Ehime
- 3 minutes’ walk from Dogo Onsen station on Iyotetsu Jonan Line.
- Official Website
- Official Website (Japanese)
The world-renowned architect, Kisho Kurokawa, designed the Dogokan ryokan. Guests can choose among rooms with different attractive features, such as the one on the top 8th floor with an expanse view of the town. Another choice would be the room with a private restorative outdoor bath where spring water is piped in directly from the Dogo Onsen. Their unique dinner menu will not disappoint either with seafood dishes from the Seto Inland Sea and natural delicacies from Ishizuchi mountain.
- 7-26 Dogotakocho, Matsuyama City, Ehime
- 15 min taxi ride from JR Iyo Line Matsuyama Station.
- Official Website
- Official Website (English)
3. Dogo Prince Hotel
This hotel offers a variety of rooms, including a special Asian-style tropical room, or one with a private open-air hot tab with fresh hot spring water from the Dogo Onsen with a great advantage of bathing anytime you want. The hotel also offers fun and interesting activities, such as Sanuki Udon noodle making, cooking a half-boiled egg with hot spring water, and experiencing the musical sounds of the Suigun Taiko drum and Tsugaru shamisen (a three-stringed traditional instrument). Try it all and enjoy Japanese traditional culture.
- 100 Dogohimezuka, Matsuyama City, Ehime
- Free shuttle bus from Iyotetsu Jonan Line Dogo Onsen station
- Official Website
- Official Website (English)
4 Souvenirs to make your friends happy
Ehime prefecture is a major producer of Japanese citrus and is indeed called the “Citrus Kingdom.” Their citrus products and their desserts are perfect souvenir items. Many delicious Japanese sweetshops and souvenir shops are located in Matsuyama but these four should not be missed.
1. Ichiroku Honpo’s Ichiroku Tart Yuzu
Ichiroku Tart Yuzu is made by rolling a filling of smooth bean paste mixed with white sugar and yuzu from Ehime Prefecture into a soft sponge cake. As you take a bite, the refreshing flavor of the yuzu and the subtle sweetness of the bean paste flows joyously through your mouth.
Check out season limited versions such as matcha and strawberry flavors.
2. Utsuboya’s Botchan dango
Botchan dango comes from a confectionary treat mentioned in Soseki Natsume’s famous book “Botchan”. These rice dumplings on a stick look very cute and come in three colors about the size of a small palm. Several shops make botchan dango but Utsuboya is the actual model of the confectionery shop that appears in the Natsume’s novel. Their dango is available in this main shop as well as in the Iyotetsu Takashimaya department store and at the Matsuyama airport.
3. Beni Madonna
A luxury orange, Beni Madonna, is Ehime’s original brand. This orange is characterized by a texture like soft jello; full of sweet juice and a rich aroma, it melts in your mouth immediately. Seedless fruits are less fussy and easy to eat. With this one, it’s best to cut it open using a knife due to the extra thin skin. It is only available in December.
4. Kirinomori Daifuku
Kirinomori Daifuku is a delicious sweet using Matcha tea powder from Ehime prefecture, Shingu. This dumpling is made with four layers; consisting inside of cream, sweet bean paste, mochi mixed with matcha, and a coating of matcha powder. After the immediate bitter flavor of the matcha powder, sweetness from the bean paste and cream make a perfect combination of flavors and texture in the mouth.
Must-see festivals and events
Matsuyama is the capital city in Ehime prefecture and attracts lots of people. The city plans many exciting events and festivals every year like the Matsuyama Marathon in which well-known guest runners and celebrities participate. We will introduce below the recommended festivals and events.
1. Ehime Marathon
The Ehime Marathon takes place every February as an exciting annual event that the locals cherish. The locals may also run with well-known guest runners and celebrities. The running route passes through the surrounding and scenic area of Matsuyama castle and the Seto Inland Sea, with the participants being encouraged with cheers from those along the roadside. As a participation award, runners receive a bath coupon for the Dogo Onsen. After the long run, healing the body in the hot spring waters makes for a perfect finish.
2. Matsuyama Spring Festival (Oshiro Matsuri)
Matsuyama Spring Festival (Oshiro Matsuri) marks the start of spring in Matsuyama City. The grand festival takes place at Matsuyama Castle and several city center locations. Amusing events are scheduled such as “Daimyo Musha parade” where citizens march with realistic samurai costumes and the “Chambara” sword fighting show, as well as a local food presentation “Gotochi Gourmet Festa” etc.
3. Matsuyama Fall Festival
Shrines in Matsuyama city host this festival on October 5th to 7th every year to pray for an abundant harvest season. The “hachi-awase” events, where palanquin wagons smash into each other, are the most powerful moments of the festival. This extremely wild scene is described as “fighting” wagons. The hachi-awase event near Dogo Onsen station at 6 am on October 7th marks the enthralling climax of the festival, much to the joy of the visiting spectators!
We hope that the detailed information we’ve provided will help make your visit to Matsuyama a pleasant and memorable one. The sightseeing spots, specialty foods, unique accommodation and souvenir shops we recommended were carefully selected. Since all interesting spots are near Matsuyama City center, you can plan to visit several sites on the same day, fully enjoying the town’s classic atmosphere. If you have some extra time, we would recommend traveling beyond the Shimanami Kaido, to the old-time townscape of Onomichi.