Matsuyama City is a city of roughly 500,000 people—big enough to contain copious entertainment, shopping, nightlife, culture, and city buzz whilst still compact enough to retain its country roots and hospitality. It is famous for its castle, and a variety of hot springs including Dogo Onsen—the oldest one in Japan which also inspired the onsen in the popular animated movie Spirited Away. Matsuyama is also the setting of Natsume Soseki’s widely read 19th century novel Botchan, about a young teacher who arrives from Tokyo and gets up to many shenanigans. Dogo, the main historical tourist area of Matsuyama, is filled with Botchan attractions and memoribilia, such as the sweet old-timey Botchan train, hourly-animated Botchan clock, and several delightful shops selling Botchan Dango—three small coloured sweet dumplings on a stick. In Matsuyama, you can also shop, eat and drink to your heart’s content, with the city centre hosting Japanese, Korean, Indian, French and Italian cuisine as well as a bucket load of bars, karaoke, bowling, cinemas, parks, shrines, and festivals.
- Train: Matsuyama station – express and local train stop on the JR Yosan line.
- Bus: Numerous buses leading to many major cities in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Imabari).
- Ferry: services to Hiroshima and Fukuoka run from the main ferry port on the east side of town.
- Plane: Matsuyama airport has services to most major airports in Japan and two international flights are available to Shanghai and Seoul. Both Jetstar and Peach Airlines operate out of Matsuyama Airport.
- On Foot: walking between the major areas of the city should take no longer than 30 minutes.
- Bike Rentals: there are several places that have bike rentals – EPIC has free rentals for foreigners, but you need to pay a deposit (\1000 and bring your passport or residence card) and book ahead if you can. You are also required to agree to wear a helmet. “Monkeys” in an alleyway opposite the Starbucks by Okaido and near Flankey’s bar has bikes available at a small fee.
- Trams: 160 yen/adult set price. You can purchase a day pass for 500 yen. You can also purchase a re-chargable fare card (IC Card) that can be used on all Iyotetsu trains, buses and trams. They can be bought from the Iyotetsu office near Shieki train station, there is a short form to fill in but it is relatively self explanatory and easy to do.
Tourism / Highlights / Festivals
- Matsuyama Castle – located to the north of the prefectural building, accessible by foot or chairlift. The castle has a beautiful view of the city, as well as a place to dress up like a samurai inside. A great (but sometimes crowded) place to do hanami in the spring. Get there early to claim a spot!
- Dogo Onsen – a hot spring famous for being the oldest in Japan. Surrounded by shopping and several high-class hotels. It was the inspiration for the onsen in Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’.
- Dogo Park – a beautiful park located just across the street from Dogo Onsen Station. You can walk to an observatory at the top for great views of Matsuyama City (especially good views at night time). There is also a small open field for sports and a small playground. Dogo Park is an excellent location for cherry blossom viewing in the spring time. You can rent mats, barbeques and there are food stalls set up throughout the hanami season.
- Matsuyama Community Centre – home to a library, swimming pool and gym.
- Shiroyama Koen – located in the center of the castle moat, and contains the prefectural art museum and traditional gardens.
- Ishiteji – a famous temple located south of the Dogo area of town. Several festivals are held there at various times of the year. It is number 51 of the 88 temple pilgrimage round Shikoku. There are plenty of trails up behind the temple as well, and you can hike up to a large statue of Kobo Daishi in the hills.
- Sogo Koen – European-style park with a mini castle west of JR station. It’s a long hike up to a grassy area where you can picnic and see a nice view of Matsuyama. It is also home to a fantastic slide and great views of the Seto Inland sea.
- Tsubaki Shrine – arguably the shrine to visit while in Matsuyama. There’s a huge festival held there every year around February.
- Matsuyama Autumn Festival- this is held in October to celebrate the harvest. Local Shinto shrines fight it out by hoisting Mikoshi onto their shoulders and smashing into each other. It’s an amazing sight and well worth a look. If you live in the city you will be serenaded daily for a week or so by cries of “washoi washoi!” as they practice for the main battles. In the past ALTs have taken part in both the children’s and adults divisions. Ask your sempai for details.
- Mitsuhama Fireworks display- this is held at Mitsuhama port, one stop away from Matsuyama, in summer. You can take the train from Shieki or JR. If you get the train from shieki, you can take the train one stop further to Baishinji and enjoy the display in relative comfort on the beach. If you go to the port itself you can partake in the crush of people and delicious food stalls while you wait for the spectacular fireworks display later in the evening.
- Matsuyama Summer Festival- this runs for three days during mid-August and involves a lot of food stalls in the castle park and the shopping district, music and a uniquely baseball-centric samba parade. Matsuyama, like most cities in Japan, is totally baseball mad. The parade is made up of a number of community groups, small and large businesses , as well as local sports teams who dance down Okaidao and the streets near Gintengai in an array of colourful costumes. This typically happens a week or so after the group B ALTs arrive and is an awesome introduction to some of the local culture.
This is just to get you started. There are many great local places that the people who live in Matsuyama will be able to tell you about.
- Starbucks – Okaido’s entrance and Minatomachi. Great for meeting with teachers or for finding other foreigners on the weekends.
- Chococro (St. Marcs) – there`s one in Okaido, and one in Gintengai. Great chocolate filled croissants!
- Santo Santo – variety of foods and desserts, two locations downtown. One is in the Takashimaya Building on the third floor with a nice view of the station area and in the alley behind Mitsukoshi.
- Amanda’s Coffee – a 3 story café located in Okaido. You can get coffee, tea, iced beverages, alcohol, muffins, donuts, santo santo cakes and set meals – basically everything!
- Cat Cafe – near the intersection of Okaido and Gintengai, on the Okaido side. Second floor, you can see it from the combini on the main street. Price includes a drink and you can sit and play with about 10 different cats.
- Wataminchi – one of the best izakayas in town, Wataminchi is located at the entrance to Okaido.
- 300 Yen Bars – quite a few around Matsyuama, advertised by the huge “300円” signs out front. All food and drink is 300 yen (plus tax).
- Ippudo – excellent ramen place near Okaido. Lunch sets are particularly good value (free gyoza included!)
- Sushi Ro – chain kaiten sushi restaurant that is great quality starting at 105 yen a plate.
- Dogo Brewery – a place to get the famous beer made in Dogo. Some really nice food is available too, as well as other beverages. Located directly next to Dogo Onsen!
- Hanbey- A 1950’s retro style Japanese bar located in the middle of Okaido. Hanbey has chains in major cities throughout Japan. Hanbey offers cheap meals and great atmosphere. Try the Nagasaki chicken wings, you won’t regret it! Hanbey serves a variety of old style Japanese bar foods, including frog legs and grasshoppers! Women also get a free ice-cream for visiting. The manager is very friendly and enjoys practicing English almost as much as he loves “Japanese water”.
- Kiyomaru – a tonkatsu restaurant that sells an array of delicious and at times wacky tonkatsu dishes. The food is hearty and delicious, and portions are a decent size for what you pay. Located on Hanazonomachi, it is super easy to get to from Shi-eki.
- Delivery pizza places include Pizza Hut, Royal Hat, two Domino’s Pizza (one by Matsuyama airport, the other by Matsuyama castle) and Chicago Town Pizza. Domino’s has an English website to order from.
- The best pizza is found at either “Da Bocciano” or “Paradiso”, both on Nibancho.
- Venti de Mer – a cute wee pizza place on Hanazonomachi. The menu is always changing and the price is pretty decent.
- La Sera – has the best lasagna in town, along with very good chicken dishes.
- Duet – a small but nice pasta place with huge portions.
- Amare Amare – has excellent pastas and salads.
- Ladki – has a great lunch set.
- Everest – (Kinuyama, Okaido, Shigenobu) has great Indian/Nepalese food, the garlic cheese naan is to die for.
- Namaste – offers excellent Indian food with free naan or rice refills.
- Amitie – delicious but slightly pricey. Try lunch, just as good and half the cost.
- Cabaret – next to the Yamaha piano store near Shieki on the 3rd floor.
- Ansan. A small Korean restaurant north of Gintengai. Cheap and delicious.
- Buffet (“Viking”)
- Okudogo Buffet – for a weekend feast, this “Viking” is a great deal for 1500yen. It comes with a ticket to the “Jungle Onsen” which has about 10 different hot springs in a jungle-like atmosphere.
- Charlie’s Vegetable – a nice vegetarian buffet. Much cheaper at lunch.
- C’s Bar- Open in the evening it is an izakaya offering Tex-Mex fairs just outside of Okaido. The owner previously lived in San Antonio and opened up a small little bar serving nachos, burritos, flautas, tacos and your choice of salsa! After countless misses of Mexican food in Japan, this bar is great place to get your fix!
- Four Seasons- A Thai restaurant that cannot be missed, with its traditional Thai shape and décor along with the many Thai flags outside. A bit further away from the center of Matsuyama, this place is definitely worth the trip! It offers a wide variety of dishes to choose from allowing for substitutions as well.
- Greasers- A 1950’s retro style American diner located on the way to the Drivers Licensing Center. A great place to get a big greasy American style burger with a side of fries and onion rings. It also just so happens that the owner also has an old timey barber shop on the side of the building, so if you are on your way to get your driver’s license why not stop by for a burger and get a haircut as well!
- Gintengai – shopping arcade running from Takashimaya Department Store to the Sunkus convenience store and Levi’s store. Some things to check out – A-One foreign foods and GET (big 100 yen store on the 3rd floor, crazy clothes shop on the 2nd and groceries in the basement). There’s also a Zara here.
- Okaido – shopping arcade running from the Sunkus convenience store and clothes stores to Starbucks. Even a Melon books for the otaku-inclined. There is a cinema, numerous restaurants, a games arcade and some cool shops.
- Kinuyama – this area has many stores. You can basically get anything you need. Nitori and Daiki for home supplies and improvement. Media Cafe (pool tables, darts, computer access, manga rentals), a really large Daiso (100 yen store), men’s business clothing (Yofuku no Aoyama), Hard Off/Book Off and a movie theatre. Check out Village Vanguard (books and quirky things) under the cinema too.
- Dogo Shotengai – this is a fantastic place to go when shopping for souvenirs to send home. It is focused at tourists – you can buy food, pottery, clothes and Japanese souvenirs.
- Takashimaya – department store attached to Matsuyama Shieki station. There is some grocery shopping in the basement, with sections carrying foreign foods. There are restaurants and plenty of other shops upstairs.
- Mitsukoshi – similar to Takashimaya and located in Okaido near Starbucks. Food is in the basement with two pastry stores, a meat store and another small section of foreign foods and cheeses. They sell amazing mochi (rice balls) that are filled with different flavoured creams.
- Masaki Emifull- the largest shopping mall in Western Japan. Here you can find many shops (including some Western brands such as American Outfitters), a cinema, game centre and a huge food hall. Places of note include Muji, Lush, Loft, Kaldi, Village Vanguard and one of only two Subways in Matsuyama.
- Fuji Grand – large shopping centre 5 minutes’ walk north of JR station; has groceries, fast-food outlets (including KFC and Subway), clothing, fitness center, foreign foods and homewares. Also nearby are an Edeon electronics store and a Book Off/Hard Off.
- AEON – 25 minute walk south of Gintengai’s eastern entrance. It has groceries, clothing and home-wares.
- Jow-Pla- is a shopping center similar to AEON. They have a stationary store, a craft store and a few shops that sell cheap large size clothes.
- Donkihote – Doidamachi, about a 35 minute walk from Shieki. Donki is packed from floor to roof with random goods – clothes, makeup, snacks, alcohol, electronics, phone accessories, toys and homeware. The store also has seasonal goods like Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations.
- Restation – various locations throughout the city. This is a great second hand store where you can get many appliances and other things that you will need for daily life.
- Book Off, Hard Off, Off House- With locations across Japan and several locations throughout Ehime; it is a good place to find cheap used goods, from books, computers, movies, furniture, games, clothes, kimono, instruments, etc. There are a few large branches in Matsuyama, including one near Matsuyama JR which is on the way to Fuji Grand.
- 2nd Street- Another second hand store which happens to carry some foreign sizes.
- Fresh Value – basement level of GET in Gintengai. Good prices. There are other Fresh Value locations around town that you have to cycle to.
- Fuji Vesta and Palty Fuji – lots of produce and some western items. They’re everywhere including Dogo, Tachibana and Fujiwara. Get a point card to get discount coupons.
- Seven Star – always has cheap cheese and good lunch foods.
- Gyomu Super – wholesale supermarket that sells cheaper meat. There’s one right next to Jow-pla, and another 15 minutes north of Kinuyama by bicycle. They also have a great selection of frozen foods at low prices.
- Lamu – 24-hour grocery store located near Kinuyama beside Hamazushi. Probably the cheapest place in town to get groceries though their selection isn’t as wide as other supermarkets.
- South Gintengai – there are two locally owned produce shops near the south end of Gintengai. Their fruits and veggies are much cheaper compared to those you get in grocery stores.
- Kayamatchi Shotengai – street near Fuji Grand, that is famous for their cheap, locally grown produce shops.
- A-One – in Gintengai. Go here for things like popcorn, Mexican food fixings or candy. A good place for gifts!
- A-Price – off the airport road. This is the best place to go for getting lots of stuff at a good price. Tortillas, spices, pasta, canned beans and fruits etc. It is a restaurant supply store, but you can shop there. They also have alcohol and frozen foods. The sign is written in katakana (エープライス).
- Kaldi – locations in Emifull and Fuji Grand. Imported foods from all over the world, many different kinds of coffee and a great selection of cheese wine.
- Cinemas – Kinuyama Cinema Sunshine, Okaido Cinema Sunshine. Cinema Lunatic located near Gintengai shows cult films and music films, often in English with Japanese subtitles (Website- Japanese only http://movie.geocities.jp/cine_luna/ )
- Kisuke Box – located across from the JR Station; has bowling, an arcade, billiards and an onsen.
- Soratomori – onsen located near Kume station. One of the nicest in Ehime! Besides standard onsen pools there are multiple steamrooms, hot and ice rooms to experience. Massages and Korean body scrubs are also available. The food is amazing too.
- Comi-Cen – Community Centre. There is a great lap swimming pool, a free weight gym, a nautilus-type machine as well as a cardio gym and squash/badminton/ping pong courts available to be rented.
- Tennis Courts – places to play tennis all over town. Many parks have tennis areas. Botchan Stadium has nice ones, but they are often in use by university clubs.
- Botchan Stadium – very nice sports arena and area of Matsuyama City. There is a baseball stadium, soccer fields, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a martial arts area.
- Private gyms – there are lots of private gyms where you can pay if you want an alternative to comi-cen.
- Martial Arts – there are a large number of martial arts groups in Matsuyama especially Kyokushin Karate. Ashihara is a very popular off shoot of kyokushin and Matsuyama is home to the Hombo Dojo. Ask at your local communities halls and centers for more information.
- EPIC (Ehime Prefecture International Centre) – Omori-san speaks English and will help you find a doctor, understand a bill or do anything else she can to assist you. Intensive Japanese classes are held twice a year for two weeks each for summer and spring. Internet and good lending library too! You can also rent bicycles from EPIC.
- Bibros – club located to the east of Okaido, on the 7th floor of a building (usually 1500yen+ cover).
- Flankee’s Bar – located one block east of the McDonald’s in Okaido. Cheapest beer in town at 300yen. Standing room only.
- 14 – 1 – in the building opposite Flankee’s on the third floor. Pool table, darts board, karaoke, Wii games, a wide selection of cocktails and a generous nomihodai.
- Sala Sol – one of the few places to go dancing in Matsuyama. Located to the east of Okaido, between Sanbancho and the Levi Jeans store.
- Salon Kitty – a small local live venue where many bands come and play. You can’t miss the giant stripper painted on the front wall.
- Jett – a small bar located about a five minute walk from Flankees. A rock venue which converts to a dance bar when DJs come.
- Linda Linda – a great bar for organizing events just down the street from Jett. Very friendly staff, darts, karaoke and you can bring your own music.
- Hungry’s – one of the only truly “pub style” bars in Matsuyama with plenty of Irish and British paraphernalia on the walls. They have great food and drinks at mid range prices. They also have a dart board and a few TVs.