Introducing Hojo and Nakajima.
Hojo is a community located about 20 minutes north of Matsuyama by the JR line and is part of Matsuyama City.
Location / Access / Transport
- Train: To/From Matsuyama – from Matsuyama JR station, take the train bound north to Iyo-Hojo. This costs 360 yen and takes between 20-30 minutes. You can also opt for the JR Ishizuchi Express, it is more expensive but only takes around 12 minutes. Also, be sure to check that it stops in Hojo as some only pass through. A PDF of the Iyo-Hojo train schuedle can be found here.
Tourism / Festivals / Highlights
- Kashima Island – this small island is home to deer! Some graze the island freely but most are kept in an enclosure near the ferry port, in order to protect rare plants and flowers. There is also a beautiful view of Hojo and the Seto Inland Sea from the top of the hill, which takes around 45 minutes to walk up. Kashima is a designated ‘Lover’s sanctuary’, with a lover’s bell at the top of the hill on an observation point. Kashima is an uninhabitated island but is home to a delicious taimeshi restaurant called ‘Otaya’ which opens in spring and summer. There is also cafe on the island which serves drinks and light snacks. During spring and summer they are open most weekends, but their opening times are irregular and weather dependent. The small campsite on the island is free, but the facilities are minimial. In the summer, you can access the showers, but during other seasons they are out of action. There is a small shop on the island that sells drinks, snacks and some beach items but it is worth bringing everything you need with you. AJET hosts a barbecue/camping Sayonara Party here in summer for leaving ALTs. It costs 210 yen for the ferry (return) and during peak season run from 7am-10pm, every half hour. More information including a detailed timetable can be found here. The Kashima Island Ferry Port can be found here.
- Kashima Matsuri – this held in spring and consists of lots of precarious dancing on boats, local entertainment and stalls with delicious snacks. It begins with danjiri being carried around the island to the sound of taiko drums, to finally being loaded on small to boats to sail around the harbour. For the best view of the boats, in the you can ride alongside the water borne danjiri for a small fee, around 600 yen.
- Fuwari Beach – located in the northern part of Hojo and is quite popular in the summer, due to its convenient location and good facilities. There are two ice cream shops here: a Blue Heaven store and Monsanto, who use locally sourced ingredients to make THE most delicious ice cream. In addition, at weekends many stalls set up, selling bento, karage , hot dogs and other delicious morsels. A small farm shop sells local produce, plants, amazing bento and baked goods. Their honey and umeboshi are particularly special. There is also a family restaurant, Ajikobo Hanahenro, which serves lots of seafood including octopus tempura and taimeshi. Betty Crocker`s has a cafe just along the road, mainly serving pancakes, waffles and pasta dishes. From Oura Station it’s a short walk to the beach, take the train heading towards Imabari or Kanonji from Matsuyama JR station.
- Hojo Strawberry Farms- Hojo is home to two branches of strawberry farms, one near Hojo Kita JHS and one near to Awai JR Station. Here you can pick strawberries when they’re in season (spring) and the farm near Awai has a small petting zoo, with goats.
It’s 1000 yen for 60 minutes of all you can pick and eat on weekdays and 1200 yen for all you can pick and eat on weekends. You have to phone in and make a reservation if you want to go. It’s open from 9-4 and closed on Wednesdays! See their website for more information.
- Hojo Matsuri – held during mid-October for three days around the town and at the Kunitsu Hiko no Mikoto shrine. On the first day, the Mikoshi shrine is dropped from the top of the stone stairway and the festival goers fight to find the sacred object which symbolizes the shrine’s god, as it breaks from the portable shrine. Then the shrines are repeatedly dunked into the sea or river (weather conditions depending) to be cleansed, with the festival goers often joining them for a dunk. It is usually held on the Health and Sports Day national holiday and the preceding Saturday and Sunday.
- Irohaya – delicious bakery right in front of the ALT apartment block. Great spot to get a last minute breakfast. Their strawberry pastries and okonomiyaki bread come highly recommended. Irohaya is located here.
- Ichiya – best ramen spot in town! Good prices and very delicious.
- Otosan – Japanese restaurant serving the most delicious karage and fantastic tonyu (soy milk) nabe in the winter. It is a run by a lovely mother and son who are very accommodating. The restaurant is small but they have a back room for larger parties. You’d have to go in to make a reservation for this and also give them an idea of what you’d want to eat, so it’d be worth contacting the local ALTs to give you some advice/help. Otosan is located here.
- Tabensai – delicious and reasonably priced okonomiyaki.
- Cosmos – Okonomiyaki restaurant near Hojo Kita JHS. Their okonomiyaki is off the chain. They even do their own ‘Hojo style’ which is particularly delicious. The owner is a lovely chap with a love of sake, he often will let you try a snifter free of charge or maybe even give you a free plate of egg rolls. Cosmos is located here.
- McDonalds – located next to Marunaka, here.
- Joyfull – located at the Hojo Shopping Complex. A mix of western and Japanese cheap, simple meals. Located here.
- Otayasan’s- Taimeshi restaurant with two branches; one located just past the Hojo Toy Store near the small canal on the Imabari Highway and one more seasonal restaurant located on Kashima island. This restaurant is highly recommended by Hojo’s JHS student cohort.
- The Nitta’s – For more expensive food, local teachers recomment The Nitta’s, a French restaurant on the Imabari Highway between Awai and Yanagihara train stations. The lunch will hit around ￥1500, but dinner is a little more expensive. Reservations are recommended. The Nitta’s is located here, where you can also find the phone number for reservations.
- Chez Tachibana – Another, more expensive, French restaurant. Chez Tachibana has a wonderful seaside view, and a balcony for watching the ocean. Once again, reservations are recommended. Chez Tachibana, and contact details, can be found here.
- ZY – simple selection of your regular groceries and bento. Upstairs is home to a branch of Daiso with homeware, clothes, stationary and seasonal goods, located here. Both Daiso and ZY have been closed since late 2018 for renovations until Summer 2019. Another Daiso can be found at the Hojo Shopping Complex, here.
- Hato Mart (also known as A-Coop)- wider selection of fruit and vegetables. This supermarket is bigger but much more expensive than ZY. There is a very small Daiso, too. A restaurant attached to the side serves delicious takoyaki, and there is a small bakery section as well. Located here.
- Marunaka – biggest supermarket of the three but is the furthest away. You can buy clothes, shoes, toys, alcohol and some electronics. The food selection here is by far the best. Marunaka is located across the river, here.
- Hojo Shopping Complex – not as big as the name would have you imagine. The complex is about a 10-15 minute walk from either Awai or Yanagihara stations. The Complex can be found here.
- Fuji Palty – located near Hojo Shopping Complex; has a better selection than the three grocery stores listed above. Can be found here.
- Daiki – located here, across from the Hato Mart, Daiki is the place to go to buy home improvement goods, furniture and other household items. A very convenient drugstore is located next door.
- Gym – Located in St Catherines University. You must go on a Friday to sign up, and you will need your hanko. It’s 200 yen per visit.
- Onsen – right near the Kashima Island Port, called Makoto Seapa. They use salt water in their onsen which is purported to do wonders for the skin. It has fantastic views and the restaurant serves good taimeshi.
Nakajima Town [中島町]
Nakajima “The Island in the Seto Sun” is a very friendly rural community consisting of mikan farmers and fishermen, located off the coast of Matsuyama. If you fancy a glimpse of old Japan then look no further. It is home to about 6,000 people. The main attractions are peace and quiet, the beaches and the mountains. Nakajima is an excellent spot to visit and spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Location / Access / Transport
- Boat: to/from Matsuyama – get to Takahama Port and take the high-speed or slow ferry to Nakajima`s ports.
- Bus: there are buses that leave from the port to various places around the island but they are few and far between.
- Bicycle: it’s possible to hire bikes from the port for 200 yen a day.
Tourism / Festivals / Highlights
- Himegahama – the most popular of Nakajima’s beaches.
- Nakajima Triathlon – every August Nakajima plays host to a nationwide triathlon which people from throughout the land flock to in order to compete! The night before there is a bit of a shindig to celebrate, so head over the night before and make the most of it. Find out more here.
- Historic Buildings – Nakajima has a small smattering of points of interest: several shrines and a collection of artifacts from the Edo period.
- Nakajima Culture Centre – it`s new and features a pretty decent library, art gallery and museum and an amazing auditorium.
There are a few restaurants and hotels around the island. A restaurant called Seto offers delicious udon sets. There is also a family restaurant near a business hotel. Both restaurants are located on the main street in Oura, close to the ferry port. There’s a delicious yakiniku place attached to a small supermarket in Obama.
- Tominaga – the biggest and easiest to find of the island’s grocery stores. Turn right out of the port and then immediately left and it will be on your left.
- Night – an awesome karaoke place situated (rather bizarrely) right behind a graveyard. You won’t miss it since it has some serious lighting going on. You can adorn yourself in an array of dodgy accessories and then prance about!