Yawatahama City and Honai Town.
Yawatahama City [八幡浜市]
Yawatahama is a port city, and the hub of the surrounding coastal communities. It has a lively restaurant scene and is home to a newly built Fuji Grand, which houses many popular stores. The old silk capital of Honai was recently incorporated into Yawatahama, and is just a 10 minute drive from the heart of Yawatahama.
Location / Access / Transport
- Car: Route 197
- Train: To/From Ozu – 10 minutes by express train and 20 minutes by local train. To/From Matsuyama – 40-50 minutes by express train and 100-120 minutes by local train.
- Bus: To/From Matsuyama – bus runs to Matsuyama Shieki (1530 yen).
To/From Osaka and Kyoto – overnight buses available. There are also buses to local cities such as Mikame (Seiyo) and Misaki (Ikata).
- Ferry: Ferries to the resort town of Beppu (famous for its onsen, monkey park, and natural geysers) are available for as little as 3000 yen one-way. Routes to Usuki with its famous collection of stone Buddhas are also available.
There is an excellent travel agency in the train station. They specialize in domestic travel and can give you all the information you need about trains, planes, buses, ferries, and car rentals within Japan. They even have some English-speaking staff – ask for Emi!
Tourism / Festivals / Highlights
- Historic Buildings – see buildings from Japan’s Modern Period (circa 1910-1940) as well as Shikoku’s first bomb shelter built in 1941. Open for free tours.
- Kawanosu Hashira Shinji – a festival held in Kawanosu on the third Saturday of April. Men cut down a 22-meter pine tree at dawn, dress the tree, drag the truck around town, throw people in a river and then the ocean during the day. Later they start hustling out the Ushi-oni (Ox Demon)! Not to mention Kagura (a sacred Shinto entertainment dance) from 6:30 pm to past midnight with a hair-raising, acrobatic, fiery finale.
- Teya Teya Festival – a lively local festival in mid-August. The town parades through the streets to traditional Japanese music.
- Yawata-jinja – a Shinto shrine at the start of the Shotengai.
- Hachiman-jinja – a shrine tucked in the area defined by the elbow of the Shotengai.
- Hanasyohachi – amazingly delicious and rather inexpensive; a good place to try Yawatahama’s specialty: chanpon!
- Minato – by the port. Good fried shrimp and tasty tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) set menus. It’s a small place but has an awesome view of the port!
- Agora Marche – by the port. Everything from chanpon to pizza to sashimi. Includes a bakery, a small fresh food market and a gift shop. There is also a smaller café next door.
- Wimpy – a small coffee-shop style restaurant just a five minute walk from the train station. Great pastas, lunch sets, pizzas, and desserts.
- Pino Coda – a classy café on the outskirts of town. Indian cuisine, good coffee, and excellent pastries and cakes.
- Buruman – a really nice, cozy café about a two minutes’ walk from the train station towards Ozu.
- La Cuisine Uwasakai Tusukasa – classy place, pricey. Good chanpon!
- Amalfie – fancy Italian food.
- Fast Food
- Various fast food options like Sukiya, Pizza Royal Hat (offers delivery), Hokka Hokka Tei, Hotto Motto (two of these), and of course the convenience stores.
- Shotengai – lots of small stores for groceries, gifts, electronics, crafts, clothing, and stationary. Be sure to head here every 8th of the month when they hold a monthly market.
- Fuji Grand – grocery store with a small section for foreign foods, Lady Drug (cosmetics), a bakery/café, Ed-On (electronics), Space (school supplies/character merchandise), Daiso (100-yen shop), a nice Japanese restaurant, an arcade, and stores for home goods, clothing, books, shoes, and more.
- Shoppers – basic Japanese supermarket.
- Fuji and Fuji Grand – the largest grocery store in the area; has some hard to find goods like mozzarella cheese and taco shells.
- Sports Center – located near the harbor. Swimming pool, gym, tennis/basketball courts, baseball field, aerobics, step, boxercise etc. There is a separate facility near Atago Mountain that offers training in various martial arts like kendo and judo.
- Culture Center – offers many classes such as pottery, painting, ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), and Chinese. They also host cultural events like tea ceremony and English conversation classes.
- Taisho-yuu – indoor bath from circa 1920. It’s not an onsen, it’s a bath…and a hot one at that.
- R’s Bar – super spacious. “An authentic bar” as the locals say. Good prices.
- Ron’s – a jazz bar located just off of the Shotengai.
- Smokey Dragon – live shows from local musicians once a month.
- Turf – small but popular karaoke bar.
- PePe – located in the shotengai across from Kuimonya. Foreigner-friendly!
Honai Town [保内町]
Honai is a pretty little historic town with a population of about 10,000. It was once the textile capital of Shikoku, and it still has many beautiful historic buildings from its heyday.
Location / Access / Transport
- Car: To/From Yawatahama – about 10 minutes from central Yawatahama. To/From Matsuyama – about 60 km along Route 56.
- Train: The nearest train station is 10 minutes away by car/20 minutes by bike in Yawatahama.
- Bus: To/From Yawatahama Station – a bus runs to the station about once an hour, but service usually stops around 6 pm.
Tourism / Festivals / Highlights
- Mokkin Road – a must-see wooden boardwalk between Honai Junior High School and the river. Lined with brick buildings and dotted with personal boats, it’s quite nice and a lot of effort has been put into sculptures and lighting.
- The Hills of Honai – many schools in Honai and Ikata organize hikes up the hills in the autumn and spring. Beautiful sunset views!
- Meiji Era Buildings – wander past the boardwalk and find the old Meiji-era homes and buildings from when Honai was the silkworm and textile capital of Shikoku.
- Fall Festival – takes place at Mishima Shrine. Includes traditional performances such as Ushioni (Ox Demon), Itsu Shika (5 deer), and karashishi (taiko drumming and lion dance).
- Somen Nagashi – Somen noodles in running ice water that you catch with your chopsticks, dip in sauce, and enjoy. A beautiful location in the Heike Valley. Open only in the summer months from June till September.
- Mori Mori – excellent ramen and handmade udon. Talk to Saita, owner and all-around friendly guy.
- Kei – a hip restaurant on route 197.
- Gyuta – “The Fat Cow.” Popular yakiniku restaurant.
- Season is Alive (Nakai) – a really good izakaya with friendly atmosphere and good food. On the main street through Honai.
- Glutton – silly name, but good, mid-priced Italian-style cuisine.
- Honai Shopping Center – a grocery store with a Japanese sweet shop and bakery inside. A takoyaki vendor parks himself outside the shop every weekday.
- Kimura Supermarket – the smaller of Honai’s two grocery stores.
- Little Mermaid – bakery
- Daiki – everything you’ll need for your house, including tools, kitchen utensils, toiletries, cleaning supplies, electronics and gardening supplies.
- ReStation – local gym with membership for 8,000 yen/month. Good gym, indoor swimming pool, sauna.
- Honai Bowl – includes an arcade and a karaoke joint downstairs.
- Kotohira – park in Honai that’s especially nice around cherry blossom season!
- Cultural things: pottery, calligraphy, martial arts, tea ceremony, and taiko drumming. (These are classes that you would have to enroll in and go to regularly, not drop in events.) Let your RA or supervisor know what you are interested in and they can get you started.