Quick Facts About Ehime
Some 3,000 islands in the Inland Sea stretching north toward Hiroshima are also under the juridstiction of Ehime prefecture. Most of Ehime is mountainous and contains Western Japan’s highest peak, Mt. Ishizuchi, at 1,982 meters (6,503 feet). The Sadamisaki Peninsula is also the narrowest peninsula in Japan. The Seto Inland Sea is famous for its breathtaking views and seemingly placid water, but do not let its seemingly calmness fool you. Underneath the water are raging currents and an abundance of sea life. Ehime had its fair share of shark attacks, though it has not happened recently.
The capital of Ehime Prefecture is Matsuyama, which also happens to be the largest city on Shikoku. The bulk of Ehime’s population is centered around the cities of Matsuyama, Uwajima, and Imabari with the rest spread across many small mountain and fishing villages. As a result, you’ll often hear Ehime touted as one of the most inaka (countryside/rural) prefectures in Japan. Don’t let that fool you, Ehime offers plenty of charm away from the big urban centers like Osaka and Tokyo.
Until the Meiji Restoration, Ehime was known as Iyo Province (伊予の国 Iyo-no-kuni). Only the city of Iyo, actually formed after the dissolution of the province (in 1955), retains this name; but you’ll find other references to the name “Iyo” in many of the local businesses (such as Iyo Bank and Iyotetsu).
Ehime has continuously been populated since prehistoric times, this is evidenced by countless Jomon pottery found throughout the region and one of the earliest known dog burials found at the Kamikuroiwa Site in Kumakogen.
Due to the vast number of islands and strong inconspicuous currents, the area was dominated by fishermen and sailors who played an important role in the region. Islanders familiar with the currents became pirates robbing merchant ships unfamiliar to the area. Eventually they banded together and became more of a coastguard like service known as the Murakami Suigun. This group was active until the beginning of the Edo Period, when it was disbanded by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Today, you can see their crest all over coastal areas.
The Ehime baseball team gets their name from them, The Mandarin Pirates. There is even a pirate museum on the Omishima island in Imabari. Don’t be surprised if some of your teachers claim they come from a family of pirates!
Access to Ehime
Flying by Plane?
There is one airport in Ehime, located in Matsuyama. ANA and JAL fly out of Matsuyama and service most major cities in Japan. There are also some international flights that fly to Matsuyama. These include Seoul in South Korea, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Taipei in Taiwan.
Taking the Train?
Taking the Bus?
There are numerous local buses that service their various towns, as well as many long-distance buses that will take you to the rest of Shikoku or to mainland Honshu. The main bus operators of Ehime include Iyotetsu (out of Matsuyama), Setouchi Bus (out of Imabari), Uwajima Bus (out of Uwajima)
Going by Ferry?
Driving to Ehime?
There is a main highway connecting most of Ehime. To get to mainland Honshu you can take the Shimanami Kaido (しまなみ海道) from Imabari (which will connect you to Hiroshima) or follow the Matsuyama Expressway east through Kagawa (to get to Okayama and the Great Seto Bridge), or farther east through Tokushima (to get to Kobe/Osaka). Be aware that there are toll charges, though.
Food of Ehime
You’ll probably notice very quickly that every prefecture in Japan is known for some kind of special cuisine. In Ehime it is the mikan, or mandarin oranges. Mikans are usually harvested from fall to spring, so don’t be surprised if you are gifted boxes of mikans by your teachers or local neighbors. Ehime is also famous for its POM Orange Juice (made from mikans), which you will see in convenience stores across Japan. Mikans are the symbol of Ehime and are featured in the logos of the prefectural sports teams and, of course, your local AJET chapter.
A favorite fish in the prefecture is “Tai” or Red Sea Bream, a type of Snapper; often eaten raw as sashimi or cooked in rice as tai-meshi. There are two kinds of tai-meshi. Uwajima tai-meshi is usually served with a sashimi of “Tai”, while the Matsuyama version is served with cooked “Tai”.
While not a fish itself, Jakoten is another local favorite, while it’s unfortunate brownish grey color may be a bit off-putting, do not let that deter you! This fried mashed fishcake is a delicious treat famous in the region. Just like tai-meshi, there are two kinds of Jakoten: the Iyo Jakoten and the Uwajima Jakoten.
When it comes to sweets you can find Ichiroku Tart and Botchan dango (a kind of colored rice cake). Be sure you try them!