Around Imabari

Tamagawa, Sakurai, Namikata, Onishi and Kikuma.

Tamagawa Town [玉川町]

A beautiful town/village that lies in a quiet valley among the green mountain ranges of southern Imabari. The picturesque Sojagawa River lazily winds its way through the rice fields that decorate the town with the changing seasons.

Location / Access / Transport

  • Car/Bike: coming from downtown Imabari, take the 317 mountain highway, headed towards Matsuyama.
  • Bus: accessible by bus and car from Imabari Port and Imabari Station. For bus schedules and fares, see http://setouchibus.co.jp/

Tourism / Festivals / Highlights

  • There are many shrines and temples that line the mountain ranges of Tamagawa including #57 and #58 of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. #58 (Senyu-ji) has a gorgeous view of Imabari, the Seto Inland Sea, and neighboring islands. If you make a reservation in advance, you can have a traditional temple lunch, which is made with herbs and flora picked fresh from the mountainside.
  • Imabari-shi Tamagawa Kindai Bijutsu-kann (Modern Art Museum) - typically features works by Japanese artists on the first floor, and foreign artists on the second floor (including Dali, Warhol, Rembrandt, even a small Picasso).
  • Bon Festa - Obon Festival with traditional Japanese music and dancing, festival games, and a great fireworks display; held at Greenpia, usually on the second weekend in August.

Dining Out

  • Japanese
    • Aan - amazing hand-made, fresh soba noodles; delicious, reasonably priced sets with fried chicken and donburi.
    • Yamabiko - delicious udon!
    • Hassho-tei - famous for its yaki-niku, fried chicken, and salad bar.
    • Kawashi - tiny but awesome restaurant directly across the road from Tamagawa Junior High School; limited menu, but they offer delicious and sizable lunch sets for very cheap.
  • Vegan
    • Magnolia – organic food café with a small market; the lunch set is delicious! Yoga sessions and interesting lectures held on the second floor. Information on various alternative lifestyle-related events going on in Ehime.

Leisure

  • Greenpia - huge community center with a large, well-lit open ground. Has two baseball diamonds, two tennis courts, a big playground for kids, a multi-purpose gymnasium with a stage, meeting rooms, a large tatami room, and dance studios where a variety of activities are held (i.e. hula, judo, etc.).
  • Tamagawa Dam – a beautiful temple sits on the small peninsula that juts out into the reservoir. In the spring, check out Tamagawa Dam for a BBQ and gorgeous cherry blossoms. In the summer, try canoeing or camping.
  • River BBQ and fishing - in Nibukawa, you can do both. There is a crystal clear turquoise river you can take a dip in when the weather is warm. It also makes a great place for camping. There is even a fish farm right by the river – they will not only provide a fishing pole with a baited line, but they’ll even clean and BBQ it for you if you want.
  • Hiking and Biking - take a bike ride along the river, or on a path through the wealth of rice fields. Or hike one of the many mountains in search of a shrine, temple or view of the city.
  • Onsen - relax at one of the many hot springs in the scenic Nibukawa Valley of Tamagawa, many of which feature secluded outdoor baths overlooking the river.

Sakurai Town [桜井町]

A sleepy little seaside community located on the east border of Imabari just before the Saijo city limits.

Location / Access / Transport

  • Car: to/from central Imabari is a 20 minute drive.
  • Train: JR local trains stop at Iyo-Sakurai Station.

Tourism / Festivals / Highlights

  • Tsuna Shiki Tenmangu - beautiful sprawling shrine complex. Especially popular in March when the dozens of plum trees are in bloom.
  • Siekodou - famous mochi shop where you can try mochi with a whole mikan or strawberry inside. Made fresh by the family who own the shop. Opposite Marunaka Supermarket.
  • Sakurai Shikki Kaikan (Lacquer Ware Workshop) - Sakurai is known for its lacquer ware. At this shop you can buy shikki made on site by their trained artisans. You can also watch them at work and learn about the whole process step by step.

Dining Out

  • Cafes
    • Café Astro – funky little café that serves lunch. The menu is small-they have risotto, gratin, and some Japanese foods.
  • Japanese
    • Uozen - ocean-front restaurant that serves seafood and traditional Japanese food.
    • Sakura Fubuki - only ramen and gyoza available here. You can even try Imabari ramen!
    • Unagi-ya - the place to go if you want some fresh grilled eel.
    • Hotto Motto - when you don’t want to cook it’s a step up from convenience store food. Everything is take-away and ready in about 5 minutes.
    • Osen Izakaya - the only Izakaya in Sakurai. They do the usual kinds of yakitori. Not an extensive menu but tastes good.
    • Takomasa Takoyaki.
  • Western-style
    • Canadian Café - strange Japanese take on a western style restaurant. Mostly hamburger steaks and omu-rice.
    • Piton – open for lunch and dinner, this place has a cozy log cabin vibe. Wide variety of Japanese classics and western favorites like pizza, pasta, and steak.
    • Olive House - serves Italian food. The daily lunch sets are cheap!
  • Taiwanese
    • Rising Dragon - Semi-fast food style menu. Has a large and tasty menu.

Shopping

There isn’t much shopping to speak of in Sakurai – drive or cycle to Central Imabari for more!

  • Sun Life – small grocery where you can find most day-to-day basics. For a bigger selection head to Marunaka. Small pharmacy next door.
  • There are convenience stores close to the station.

Leisure

  • Neighboring Yunoura Heights Hotel - has a lovely onsen with an incredible view of the sea.
  • The Core House - a community gym.

 

Namikata Town [波方町]

A small town just outside of Imabari with roughly 9,700 residents. It is also home to the offices of numerous shipping companies.

Location / Access / Transport

  • Train: Local trains run to Namikata and Hashihama stations.
  • Bus: Buses are available within Namikata and to Imabari.
  • Ferry: Ferries from Hashihama to the small islands of Koshima (小島) and Umashima (馬島) are available.
  • Bike: Cycling to central Imabari is about 30 minutes
    The pedestrian/bike path onto the first of the Shimanami Kaido bridges starts in the Hashihama/Namikata area. You can walk/bike the bridge to Oshima for a small fee (200yen).

Tourism / Festivals / Highlights

  • Ozumi no Hana - a nice beach camping area overlooking the sea. It is also where the Marine festival is held, the Sunday before Marine Day. There are various food vendors, a stage for performances with local acts, kayaks for rent, and a mini boat cruise around the small nearby islands.
  • Namikata is also very close to the Shimanami bridges that connect to the Seto Inland Sea islands and Onomichi in Hiroshima. You can rent bicycles at Sunrise Itoyama.
  • Cultural activities - held at Namikata BOE during the week (taiko, tea ceremony, flower arrangement)
  • Parks and Museums - there is a great kid’s park that’s fun for all ages near the sports park and Dojo. Above the park there is a nice path that will take you to a traditional house. There is also a small museum that displays old agricultural tools and local historical oddities including human bones.
  • Umiyama jo (Namikata Castle) - a tiny castle with a great view over the sea and the first set of the bridges.
  • Ozumi Beach Seaside Park - there is a beach festival held here every year – on the Sunday before Marine Day festival. Can barbecue and camp here.

Dining Out

  • Korean
    • Liohen - serves up the best yakiniku in the area, although it is a little pricey.
  • Japanese
    •  A yakitori izakaya – popular with locals.
    • Oriento - an izakaya that has more of a German beer hall feel to it.
  • Pizza
    • Austro - the best pizza in Imabari.

Shopping

Supermarkets

There are a few grocery stores in town but no places to really shop – go to central Imabari.

  • Dio - discount grocery store located on Route 317 going to Imabari
  •  A butcher and a small supermarket near Kitago Junior High. Good for fruit and veggies.
Miscellaneous
  • Komeri – home improvement store located in the Hashihama area.
Malls
  • Happy Plaza – has a good liquor store with a decent range of foreign wines, a softbank store, a Chinese restaurant, a supermarket and a fried bento shop.

Leisure

There are various activities offered in the town hall and the town gym during the week, e.g. soccer, volleyball, kendo, judo. Ask at the town hall for the schedule.

 

Onishi Town [大西町]

Don’t let the translation “Big West” fool you! Onishi is a small suburb town of Imabari city with a population of roughly 10,000. It is located by the sea and home to one of the largest ship building companies in Japan, Shinkurushima Dockyard, which employs workers from all across Asia, giving Onishi a multi-cultural demographic. Onishi may be small but has many lovely little treats to discover.

Location / Access / Transport

  • Train: Local trains run both ways between Imabari and Matsuyama.
  • Car: 15 minutes from Central Imabari
  • Bike: 30 minutes to Central Imabari

Tourism / Festivals / Highlights

  • Fujiyama Park – this big, green, hilly open space with a central water lake feature is the hub of community life and in springtime when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, this is a popular spot for hanami parties. For one week in this season, lanterns illuminate the park at night. In autumn, the trees display gorgeous shades of fiery reds, burnt oranges and golden yellows. Local festivals are often held here. The park is also the site of an ancient tumulus burial tomb that was excavated by Ehime University.
  • Kamoike Beach - a gorgeous little beach surrounded by mountains. Follow the signs to the “Observatory” and you are rewarded with a 360-degree view of the sea, mountains and Shiminami Kaido bridges.
  • Cycling - Onishi is filled with beautiful flowers, gardens and shrines. Keep your eyes peeled when you are cycling around the town.

Dining Out

Fairly limited on the dining scene. Restaurants owned by locals often open and close at irregular times. For cheap fast food dining there is a Joyfull restaurant and for a warming bowl of noodles there is an udon eatery. However, it is recommended to go to Imabari or Matsuyama.

  •  So To Su – coffee shop owned by a local family. Go in for a delicious fresh-baked cake and tea/coffee set. They also sell hand-made crafts and arts.

Shopping

Supermarkets
  • Shoppers.
  • Co-op.
  • Ashista - has a decent 100-yen shop inside. Also hosts a daily farmer’s market that closes at 4 pm.

Leisure

  • Community Sports Centre - has a very minimal gym but a spacious hall for games and practices. Martial arts and other sports classes are held here, usually for school students.
  • Onishi Town Hall - the center for a number of community activities such as cooking and dancing, and it also has a small but very well kept library.

 

Kikuma Town [菊間町]

Kikuma is a small seaside town on the very outskirts of Imabari City. Famous for its kawara (roof tiles) and its spectacular autumn festival, this quaint town is pretty quiet most days and only fills up during community events or matsuri.

Location / Access / Transport

  • Car: 25 minutes from Central Imabari
  • Train: JR local trains stop at Kikuma Station.

Tourism / Festivals / Highlights

  • Otomouma Autumn Festival – elementary and junior high school boys in traditional garb race brightly bedecked horses up the hill to Kamo Shrine. Cameramen and reporters come from all over to get some breathtaking photos of this event. It’s sure to be one of the most unique festivals you see in Japan.

Dining Out

  • Sangorou – a wonderful sushi restaurant located on the main street. A high quality sushi experience served up by a chef who has been crafting his art for over 40 years. Make sure to say hello to the owners Watanabe Yoshihiro and his wife Fumiko! They are very warmhearted people and are always trying to practice a little English. They’ll be delighted to meet you!

Shopping

Circle K and Lawson convenience stores located on Route 196.

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