Niihama is the third largest city in Ehime with a population of about 125,000. Niihama has been called “The Town of Red Gold” (Akagane no machi) for the Besshi Copper Mine. Websites: http://www.city.niihama.lg.jp/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niihama%2C_Ehime
Location / Access / Transport
- Train, bus: There are regular trains (local and express) and buses (Setouchi and Iyotetsu Bus Companies) running through Niihama.
Tourism / Festivals / Highlights
- Niihama Taiko Festival – A massive, must-see taiko-dai (large drum float) festival held from October 16-18. Niihama’s festival coincides with those in Doi of Shikokuchuo and Saijo, and has a reputation for being the rowdiest of the three.
- Zuioji Temple – A Soto Zen Buddhist temple located in the Yamane area in the foothills of the Besshi mountains. The temples has a zazen meditation service early every Sunday morning. Excellent autumn scenery.
- Minetopia Besshi – Located in the mountains, Minetopia is dedicated to the Besshi Copper Mine that allowed Niihama to prosper. A steam engine carries passengers from the landing point (which features a large Niihama souvenir shop and other attractions) to historical sites higher in the mountains. You can also visit the peaceful Tatsukawa Shrine (龍河神社), which sits at the top of an endless stone staircase under heavy forest, on the way up.
- Ehime Prefecture Science History Museum – A massive science museum with good exhibitions on the geological, biological, and industrial history of Ehime Prefecture (limited English). There is an excellent 45-minute planetarium show as well. 510 yen for admission and a separate 510 yen for the planetarium. Out of the way, but there are buses from Niihama and Saijo Stations.
- The Niihama Guide Club – a group dedicated to helping connect foreigners living in Niihama with the city. They often give tours and put on cultural events, such as tea ceremony demonstrations, kimono and yukata parties, and the Niihama Global Party in February.
- Spice Kingdom
- Marubun – while the Komatsu (Saijo) Marubun is known for pasta, the Niihama Marubun makes great gourmet pizza in a real oven. Conveniently located near the station. They do take-out!
- Cook`s Cafe – From 11am-2pm, they have a brunch special for 1050 yen
- Minna no Coffee – A lovely beach shack café overlooking Oshima Island on the very, very eastern edge of the city. It’s an adventure to get there if you aren’t driving. The friendly couple running it are bicycle fanatics and will also lend out their 2 kayaks for free on calm days.
- Koya – Also known as “little old house,” the restaurant serves great yakitori but it is a bit on the expensive side.
- J – Great Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki with a very friendly owner!
- Torikko – Awesome izakaya restaurant that specializes in chicken dishes.
- Mos Burger, Coco Ichibanya (curry), Sushiro/Hamazushi (conveyer belt sushi), Sukiya/Yoshinoya (beef bowls), Watamin-chi/Za Watami (izakaya) and many other Japanese chain restaurants can be found across the city
- AEON Mall – Large indoor mall with a variety of stores as well as several restaurants, a Starbucks, and a movie theater. AEON also has the region’s Kaldi Coffee, which stocks a wide variety of foreign food and drink.
- Fuji Grand – Located near the JHS ALTs’ current apartment complex, this large supermarket also features a Tsutaya, McDonald’s and Mr. Donut.
- Parks – Hirose Park (広瀬公園), Takinomiya Park (滝の宮公園, Yamane Park (山根公園) and Ikedaike Park (池田池公園)
- Marine Park Niihama – A man-made beach with a volleyball court, campgrounds, and picnic areas.
- Besshi Copper Mine Memorial Library – Niihama’s central library is located on the western end of the city near AEON Mall. The main building has an interesting circular design that features a lot of reading/study space looking out on the surrounding park.
- Hi Tech Sega – One of the larger traditional arcades in Ehime. Filled with plenty of fighting and rhythm games alongside the UFO catchers and purikura. Holds monthly tournaments and has played host to Ehime region qualifiers for national events like the Arc Revo Cup and Capcom Cup.
- Japanese lessons – The city holds free Japanese lessons every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30-9 p.m. at the Fureai Plaza (aka the Municipal Public Welfare Center). Private lessons for 500 yen an hour are also available.
- Bars – Niihama’s bar street Shikishima-dori (敷島通り) is the largest in the Toyo B area and features popular spots such as Bar Leon, Lau Lau, Chelsea’s and many more!
- Jeandore – Niihama’s live music venue.