Imabari City [今治市]
Imabari is a port city that lies on the coast of Ehime Prefecture, facing the Seto Inland Sea. Not only does Imabari have a varied landscape with green mountainous areas and a world-class archipelagic Shimanami-Tobishima area, but it is also widely known for its towel and ship building industries. A few years ago, the old city merged with a number of other districts to form the second largest city in Ehime, with a population of about 172,000 people; however the old districts’ distinct identities still remain. Ehime was only connected to Honshu, the main island of Japan, about 10 years ago.
Please see http://www.city.imabari.ehime.jp/ and http://iciea.jp/e_index.html for more information.
Location / Access / Transport
- To/From Matusyama - Setouchi Express Bus Line
- Imabari - Oshima - Hakatajima - Omishima, runs throughout the day
- Schedules (Japanese only): http://www.setouchibus.co.jp/
- Train: Imabari is on the JR Yosan Line – both express and local trains stop here.
Local trains connect the smaller towns in the area.
- Ferry: Several local ferry lines run from Imabari Sanbashi (Port) connecting the various islands of Toyo A. Sanbashi port is about 20 minutes’ walk or a short bus ride from the JR Train Station. Japanese only: http://www.islands.ne.jp/imabari/kanko/access/imabari.html?#access-tab02
Tourism / Festivals / Highlights
- Spring Festivals - a string of festivals that take place each year in the beginning of May. Most of these festivals take place at local shrines throughout the Imabari area, and typically feature a type of dance called Tsugijishi. Most of these festivals also feature taiko and mikoshi. The most famous takes place at Noma Jinja. This festival features five groups of Tsugijishi dancers (a type of lion dance).
- Onmaku – Imabari City’s biggest annual festival, usually held during the first weekend in August. It is a two-day festival that features a variety of traditional Japanese dancing, Japanese Taiko drumming, game and food booths, and an incredible hour-long fireworks show over the Seto Inland Sea.
- Imabari Jazz Festival - Imabari is famous for Jazz music, and hosts a two-day Jazz festival in September of each year, attracting Jazz artists from all around Japan who come to perform at different venues throughout the city.
- Otomo-uma – held on the third Sunday of October each year, at Kamo Jinja in Kikuma-cho. The festival features Tsugijishi (lion dancing), and mikoshi fights… but the main feature is a horseracing event called “Uma-no-hashirikomi.” Brave boys race horses clad in colorful adornments.
- Bara Matsuri - The Rose Festival takes place in Imabari’s Yoshiumi on Oshima. It takes place in the middle of a huge rose park, and features many modern and traditional performances, as well as rose ice cream.
- Imabari Castle – Built in 1604 by Takaora Todo, it is a rare coast-side open castle, and boasts one of the only sea water-supplied moats in the world. There is a fabulous view from the observation deck on the 6th floor of the tower. You can see a panoramic view of the entire city, the Ishizuchi Mountain Range, the Seto Inland Sea, and the first Shimanami-kaido Bridge. In the spring, the castle grounds are a popular location for hanami.
- Shimanami-kaido - the highway that connects Imabari City to Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture, by six bridges, crossing over six islands. You can cross the bridge via car, motorbike, scooter, bicycle, or foot. It is about a 70km journey from the foot of the bridge in Imabari to Onomichi but you can choose to ditch your bike on the other side and catch a bus or ferry back to Shikoku. There are also bike terminals on each of the islands, along the way so you can drop your bike off at one of these terminals (for a fee). The views along the way are breathtaking, and the lush, mountainous islands are lined with beaches.
- 88 Temple Pilgrimage – Imabari is home to six of the temples (#54 – Enmei-ji, #55 – Nanko-bo, #56 – Taisan-ji, #57 – Eifuku-ji, #58 – Senyu-ji, #59 – Kokubun-ji).
- Imabari Towel Museum
- Korea Town – reservations recommended
- Cucina Italiana Umakoshi - operates on a reservation-only basis. Lunch is a good price and dinner is a bit more expensive, but worth the money. They also have wood oven pizzas!
- Osteria Miyagawa
- Farina Fresca - fantastic Italian food and a fairly decent wine selection too.
- Tou – lunch sets are great and reasonably priced.
- Espana Miro – reservations only
- Spice Kingdom
- Gyukaku – yaki niku
- Uichi – yaki tori
- Gomidori – yaki tori. Very famous, very good, very smokey inside.
- Tatsugawa – Imabari-style yaki tori
- Tarome-tei – okonomiyak
- Menya Takeyoshi – ramen
- Sushi-suigun / Sushiro / Hamazushi – all conveyor belt sushi joints.
- Gaka - cute café with coffee, tea, sweets, and yummy lunch sets.
- Verdure – near Imabari Castle entrance
- Ichimishin – really nice atmosphere!
- Barrel Coffee and Roasters - café and brewery!
- Fuji Grand - indoor shopping mall with stores, restaurants, bowling, video games, 100yen shop, internet café, and six screen movie theatre
- Aeon - large supermarket. Bottom floor is the grocery store with a large cosmetics section, a bicycle shop and a McDonald’s; 2nd floor has mainly men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel; 3rd floor has a hundred yen shop and almost anything else you could possibly need
- A-Coop - Cheap meat section. There’s also a nice bakery inside that posts the time fresh bread will be available.
- Fuji Market (Koizumi). 1st floor grocery store; 2nd floor department store with a small 100 yen shop
Malls and shopping arcades
- Aeon Mall: Large American style shopping mall – large sports store and camping store; also has stores that may cater to western sizes, and a large grocery store with many foreign food options.
- World Plaza – the largest mall in Imabari; DIY hardware store, 100yen shop, restaurants.
- Ginza – covered shopping arcade; the original shopping district in Imabari. The busiest time is during the Onmaku festival.
- Daiki - Large DIY hardware store; daily goods; gardening tools
- Nitori – furniture and home interiors shop. Best place to go for house essentials like bedding and curtains. Also reasonably priced furniture including beds and kotatsu.
- DeoDeo / Yamada Denki – electronics stores
- Elk – outdoor adventure store; climbing, camping equipment, etc.
- Tsutaya – bookstore and CD, DVD, and Video rental shop
- Uniqlo - Clothing store for men, women, children, and babies. It’s reasonably priced, and if you are any bigger than the average sized Japanese person, this may be one of the only safe bets for finding clothes that will fit you.
- Imabari City Gym - Weights, treadmills, basketball courts that are also used for volleyball, badminton, and indoor soccer. They also have an area for karate, judo and aikido as well as tennis courts and a baseball field nearby. Classes offered: yoga, volleyball, badminton, table tennis, aerobics, futsal, fitness weight training, etc.
- Axtos - Gym with weight machines, pool, and studio (yoga class, hula, hip hop, aerobics)
- Movie theaters – iCinema, Fuji Grand
- Kinro Seisyonen Home (Working Youth Center) – Handicraft, Calligraphy, Kimono School (to learn how to put on a kimono properly), Tea Ceremony, Painting, Cooking, Flower Arrangement (Japanese & Western style), Koto, Yoga, Baking.
- Onsen (hot springs) – Yu-no-ura Onsen, Nibukawa Onsen, Kiyomasa-no-yu, Chikutei.
- Imabari City Library - spacious, quiet atmosphere to read, study, etc.; free internet access; English book shelf; Audio-visual booths; CD rentals.
- Imabari City International Exchange Association (ICIEA) - they organize international oriented events, and provide assistance to foreign residents. ICIEA offers help by supplying vital information for living in Imabari, as well as Japanese language and culture classes. A plethora of information about Imabari is available in English at ICIEA, including English maps. They also coordinate exchange programs with Imabari’s international sister cities.
- i-News - a bilingual newsletter, published by ICIEA. i-News welcomes written contributions from foreigners living in the area, so feel free to contribute!
Although Imabari does not have a huge, bustling nightlife, there are still a few places to go have a good time with friends. Matsumoto-cho is a bar district in the downtown area of Imabari that features a large variety of bars, but beware of snack bars (hostess bars). The bars in Matsumoto-cho tend to have table fees, or pricy drinks.
- Tin Goose - Jazz Bar; owner plays the guitar and knows many foreign songs that you can sing along to (there is a table charge). Atmosphere depends on the crowd, and can be pretty hit or miss.
- IONS Night Club - Located in the Sakurai region of Imabari, this is about as close to a night club as Imabari gets. Unfortunately, to get there you will need to drive or take a cab.
- Rokusan - a cool little bar, the owner is friendly, has a huge collection of records and sometimes takes requests. Great atmosphere, good drinks. There is a bar section and a lounge in the back.
- Wao – entertainment center with karaoke, billiards, purikura, and video games.
- Maneki-neko - Smaller, and not as nice as Wao, but cheaper.