Learn about the modernization of haiku poetry, bathe where emperors relaxed and ascend hills for stunning views of a traditional island city crowned by a castle.
As the largest city on the island of Shikoku, Matsuyama is a cultural and historical hub. Look for the rich Japanese traditions here in the form of hot springs, glass art and Buddhist shrines. Learn about the tumultuous and complex history through myriad museums.
Note that Matsuyama is famous in Japan as the setting of Natsume Soseki’s novel Botchan. To understand the city’s affection for the literary work, visit the Botchan Karakuri Clock, which presents the book’s characters hourly.
The novel pays particular attention to the city’s northeastern Dōgo Onsen (Dōgo Hot Spring) area. Relax in the thermal waters of the Dōgo Onsen Honkan (bath house), where the imperial family sometimes bathed. It is one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Japan and apparently inspired the drawings of the iconic movie Spirited Away.
Observe local customs at the Dōgo Giyaman Glass Museum. Among its prized pieces are its glass animals. Dine at the café overlooking the scenic pond. Head south to Dōgo Park and climb up the viewing deck for a wonderful vista. Here, you’ll find the Yuzuki Castle Ruins and the Yuzuki-jō Museum, with exhibits illustrating the former fortress.
The Matsuyama Castle still stands at the crest of undulating Matsuyama Central Park. Ascend via the Matsuyama Castle Ropeway in spring, when the castle is surrounded by a pink moat of cherry blossom trees. Head back down to the hill’s base for the Ninomaru Historical Garden, which traces the layout of a former palace. Attend a theater performance in the adjacent Shinonome Shrine, while making sure to visit the Ishite-ji Temple and the Yasaka Temple.
Find Matsuyama in the Ehime province in the northwestern corner of Shikoku Island. Drive south for around 50 miles (80 kilometers) from nearby Hiroshima to get here in a little under 3 hours. Explore the region for other cities including Yamaguchi, Imabari and Iyo.