The fun and interesting Matsuyama City in Ehime Prefecture is the largest city on the island of Shikoku and has many great things to see and do.
Matsuyama has long been known as a hot spring resort, famous for Dogo Onsen, and has developed as the castle town alongside the imposing Matsuyama Castle.
It is also a city of literature associated with towering figures such as Shiki Masaoka, Yamatoka Taneda, and Soseki Natsume, and was the setting for the renowned novels Botchan and Clouds over the Hill.
Known as the city of hot springs, castles, and literature, in addition to historical sites such as Dogo hot spring, Matsuyama Castle, and temples and shrines of 88 sacred places on Shikoku the city offers many ways to enjoy yourself, such as relaxing in the hot springs, visiting places associated with cultural figures, or touring places of worship.
Here, we will introduce some of the best attractions in our ultimate list of the best things to do in Matsuyama, Japan
The dramatic and imposing Matsuyama Castle is no exception and is a can’t-miss attraction in Matsuyama and is designated as an important cultural property.
There are only 12 castles in Japan where the symbolic building known as the castle keep was built before the Edo period and still remains as it was in those days, and Matsuyama Castle is one of them.
Because of its elevated location, the view from the castle’s observatory is truly spectacular and You can enjoy a 360-degree view of the Matsuyama Plain and out into the Seto inland sea.
You can take a ropeway or lift to the top of the hill, so even those who are not confident about their physical strength can safely get up to the top of the hill.
Since it is a popular tourist spot, it may be crowded on consecutive holidays and national holidays, so we recommend that you allow plenty of time for your visit.
It’s also worth allowing plenty of extra time to enter the castle keep and explore the grounds to experience its beauty and impregnable strength up close.
The dazzling Bansuiso is a French-style mansion that has long been a popular spot for aristocrats and celebrities to visit.
It was built as the villa of Count Sadamo Hisamatsu, a cashed-up aristocrat and descendant of the feudal lord of the Matsuyama domain.
The exterior of the building, as well as the interior, is so beautifully designed that it almost makes you feel as if you are in another world.
In front of the entrance and on the staircase landing, there is a beautiful stained glass window and there is a small cafe with a great little garden next door.
Business hours: 9:00-18:00
Clouds over the Hill Museum
The theme of this wonderful museum is Clouds over the Hill, which is a clasic historical novel by Ryotaro Shiba titled Kumo-no-saka-no-ue in Japanese.
The beautiful museum introduces visitors to valuable materials and historical background on the Akiyama brothers and Masaoka Shiki, the great figures from Matsuyama who are depicted as the main characters in the film.
Even those who have not read the original novel or can’t speak Japanese can enjoy the interesting exhibits, including episodes related to the main character, items related to the actual use of the Akiyama brothers, Shiki’s haiku, and images and materials showing the changes in Japan and Matsuyama during the Meiji Era.
Hours: 9:00-18:30 (Cafe: 10:00-17:00)
Admission: 400 yen
Dogo Onsen Honkan
The iconic Dogo Onsen Honkan is the undisputed symbol of Dogo that welcomes visitors with its imposing structure and charm.
The wonderful bathhouse was the inspiration for the god’s bathhouse in the film Spirited Away and it is also the hot spring of choice for the Japanese imperial family.
The three-story wooden building is designated as a National Important Cultural Property and It became famous when it appeared in the novel Botchan by the great writer Soseki Natsume.
The wonderful interior of the building is full of a historical atmosphere with black pillars, beams, and wooden lockers.
There are two bathhouses, “Kami no Yu” and “Rei no Yu,” which have been loved by the locals since long ago, and you can enter and enjoy the hot spring baths yourself.
You can even rent yukata (Japanese bathrobe) and receive tea and tea sweets.
Business hours: 6:00-23:00 (last admission at 22:30)
The wonderful Asuka-no-Yu is a bathhouse inspired by the Asuka period and is a great alternative when the main bathhouse is full up.
It is decorated with traditional Ehime crafts and offers many attractions that are different from those of the Dogo Onsen Honkan, such as projection mapping on ceramic murals in the bathrooms.
There are also open-air baths and family baths, which are not available in the main building, and you can enjoy bathing in high-quality spring water.
Business hours: 6:00 – 23:00 (closing at 22:30)
The vibrant Isaniwa Shrine in the Dogo area is built in the Hachiman-zukuri style, which is the architectural style of shrines and is one of only three such shrines in Japan.
The Botchan Train
The iconic Bocchan Train is a cute, small-sized locomotive that runs through the center of Matsuyama.
This locomotive, loved by locals and tourists alike, is a replica of a steam locomotive that ran in the city for 67 years from 1888.
It is a replica of the steam locomotive that appeared in Soseki Natsume’s classic coming of age novel Botchan.
The engine and cars are painted a dark green, and the interior is decorated in beautiful dark wood that resembled the inside of a matchbox according to Soseki’s somewhat harsh protagonist.
Each ride on the Botchan train takes about 20 minutes and the train takes passengers around tourist spots such as Dogo Hot spring and Matsuyama Castle.
The Botchan Train operates on two routes, one departing from Matsuyama-shi Station or Furumachi Station and the other terminating at Dogo Onsen Station.
The trains operate year-round, with service hours from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
The total out-of-this-world Ishite-Ji is a famous temple in Shikoku, with its many buildings including a magnificent three-story pagoda and a rustic main hall.
Unlike temples in Kyoto, it is a place where the original landscape of esoteric Buddhism remains, and it is a solemn place with a sense of history.
In the back of the temple grounds, there is a hidden and dark cave, and if you walk through the faintly lit corridor lined with Buddhist statues, you can reach a golden pagoda at the back called the Mantra Pagoda.
Ishite-Ji Temple is the 51st temple on the 88 temples tour of Shikoku and is very easy to get to. The inner temple grounds are expansive and include the Niomon Gate, a national treasure.
The relaxing and refreshing Dogo Park is a great place to take a walk.
The area around the ruins of Yuzuki Castle has been developed and surrounded by the outer moat of the castle, the park preserves the remains of the castle, including earthen mounds and land allotments, as well as a wonderful realistically restored samurai residence and a small museum.
In spring, the park is famous for its cherry blossoms bringing visitors from far and wide.
Bocchan Karakuri Clock
The playful Bocchan Karakuri Clock is located in Housouen, a small park just in front of Dogo Onsen Station.
When the big red clock strikes the hour, characters from Soseki Natsume’s novel Botchan appear and start bouncing around to the melody.
At night, the clock is illuminated by gas lamps, giving it a charming atmosphere.
There is a footbath right next to the clock where the same hot water as that of the Dogo Onsen Honkan flows, so you can soak your feet in the footbath.
The somewhat quirky Enmanji Temple is a photogenic spot that is said to bring good luck.
The temple’s precincts are covered with symbols of Dogo Onsen called yudama, which are shaped like chestnuts, and the overall atmosphere is bright and lovely despite the temple’s long history.
A large Jizo statue sits on the Buddhist path in front of the main hall. When the hot water from Dogo Onsen once stopped, people prayed to this Jizo and sure enough, the hot water soon gushed out again.
Shiki Memorial Museum
This unique museum exhibits the handwritten manuscripts and books of Shiki Masaoka, a towering figure of haiku poetry from Matsuyama.
There are letters he exchanged with literary figures such as Soseki Natsume, with whom he had a close friendship and a recreation of his residence.
The history of Dogo and Matsuyama, as well as the period in which Shiki lived and his friendships, are also introduced in detail.
The museum is primarily in Japanese but there is an English audio guide that can be rented.
This museum is a must for lovers of Haiku and poetry in general.
Okaido Shopping Street
The spacious Okaido Shopping Street in the city center is the largest shopping street in Matsuyama and a convenient area for shopping and entertainment even in the rain.
It is a favorite place of the local residents, and on weekends events are held in various areas of the arcade.
It appears to be a motley collection of shops and department stores, including grocery stores and Mitsukoshi stores, but if you go a little off the beaten path and stroll through the narrow alleys, you can find some unique hole-in-the-wall restaurants cafes, and bars.
It is an interesting shopping arcade that you can walk through many times and still discover something new without getting bored.
Kururin Ferris Wheel
The Giant Ferris Wheel lovingly named Kururin is 45 meters in diameter and boasts a height of 85 meters from the ground to its highest point.
During the daytime, the Ferris wheel offers a panoramic view of Matsuyama City, including the towering Matsuyama Castle in the downtown area, the hot spring inns of Dogo Onsen, and the Iyonada Sea.
The Ferris wheel also offers a panoramic view of the city at night, when the illumination can be enjoyed, and is a popular date spot.
Ehime Museum of Art
Next on our list of the best things to do in Matsuyama is the stylish Ehime Museum of Art. The museum boasts a collection of more than 10,000 items, including Western paintings by Monet and Cézanne, and fascinating illustrations by Sugiura Nonsui, a pioneer of modern graphic art born in Matsuyama.
It is one of the few museums in Japan to have a free atelier space where visitors can freely engage in creative activities such as printmaking and woodworking.
There is also a Cloth Picture Forest space where kids can create their own unique stories, making it a place where the whole family can enjoy and unleash their inner artists.
Ninomaru Garden Park
In this interesting historical garden, the remains of a large well discovered during excavation are displayed and there is also a tea ceremony room in the garden.
The entrance gate to the Ninomaru Historic Garden looks just like the gate of Matsuyama Castle, giving the impression of grandeur.
The entrance fee is reasonable at 200 yen and the inside of the garden is surprisingly large and there is a lot to see.
Imabari Towel Museum
The interesting Imabari Towel Museum is one of the few towel museums in the world.
The museum exhibits the manufacturing process of towels as well as many other towel artworks. There is also a well-stocked towel collection store, a restaurant, and a café.
More Things To Do In Matsuyama And Ehime Prefecture
Here are some more things to do in Matsuyama and the wonderful surrounding areas
- Take a weekend trip southwest on the luxurious Iyonada Monogatari Sightseeing Train
- Take a Ferry Trip
- Visit some more temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage and soak up some of rural Japan
- Drink some of the delicious local mikan juice
- Eat Tai-meshi, steamed sea bream on rice