Situated in the northwestern area of Shikoku, Japan’s 4th largest island, Ehime seamlessly blends history, culture, and rustic beauty with the right touch of modernity. Well, while that’s actually true for all of Japan, Ehime is particularly known for being home to many fishermen and sailors, who were instrumental in defending Japan from pirates and Mongolian invasions.
The right time to visit? Anytime, we reckon. Ehime is known for its mild, pleasant weather throughout the year.
Reasons to visit Ehime
There’s never quite a reason not to visit any part of Japan, and this stands true for Ehime too. Looking for some history? Ehime is home to Dōgo Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. It’s among the most popular tourist attractions, and even made its way into popular culture.
The building shown in the animated movie Spirited Away (which is the highest grossing film in Japanese history, even exceeding the Titanic) was modelled around the Dōgo Onsen public bathhouse. Another notable sight is Mount Ishizuchi, which at 6,503 feet is the highest mountain in Western Japan.
Things to do at Ehime
1.Matsuyama Castle (Matsuyama)
At first glance of this magnificent structure, you’re likely to be awestruck by the sheer brilliance of engineering at play here. While the castle remained relatively untouched during the Meiji restoration period, certain parts of it were destroyed during WWII. The government has been striving to restore it since 1966.
The place has an omnipresent feel to it since the tenshu (castle keep) can be viewed from all places in the city, owing to its staggering height of 132 metres. It also serves as one of the most picture-perfect Sakura spots, where around 200 pretty cherry trees dot the grounds of the castle.
Oh, and don’t let the enormity of the structure overwhelm you. A ropeway and chairlift enable easy accessibility, saving you the sweat and grind.
2. Kiro Observatory Park
Designed by famous Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the Mt. Kiro Observatory Park – located at the mountaintop of Mount Kirosan on Oshima Island – serves as the perfect point for a 360-degree panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea.
If one of your travel goals is to witness the most picturesque and stunning sunset imaginable, then look no further. At 308 metres above sea level, it doesn’t really get better than this.
The view from the top includes that of Shimanami Kaido, Kurushima Channel, the Kurushima Channel Bridge, and Imabari City.
3. Imabari Castle
Imabari Castle forms a part of the three Mizujiro, translated as “Castles on the Sea”. The then Meiji government ordered all buildings around the castle to be destroyed. Today, many reconstructed buildings surround this site, so soak it all in at leisure and make sure that time is not of the essence when you’re here.
As from the Mt. Kiro observatory park, the view of Seto Inland Sea and Kurushima bridges is pretty great from here, too.
4. Ehime Tobe Zoo
If you’re looking to get up-close views of some wildlife, then the Ehime Tobe Zoo must feature in your itinerary. It is home to over 750 animals of 163+ species – all in an environment that mimics their natural surroundings, and is conducive to their wellbeing. The zoo is highly organized, neatly bifurcated into 10 streets – with different animals comfortably housed in each one.
The star attraction here is Peace, an adorable polar bear. She was raised by zookeeper Atsuhiro Takaichi, after being rejected by her mother. Her birthday on 2nd December draws in huge crowds every year, and she’s a testimony to the loving bond between animals and humans.
5. Garyu Sanso
Mountain, forest, river, and flowers – no, that’s not the description of a postcard. But it’s a place that’s straight out of one. Perched above the Hiji River on the east edge of Ozu City, this villa – which is actually just a gorgeous garden and house with a lot of history – is the ultimate in historical prettiness. Be a little careful while being click-happy here since there are quite a few restrictions on photography. But that’s alright since its sheer beauty will not abandon your memory.
The building and planning of this structure took a decade, so one can imagine the level of thought that went behind it. The staff inside are friendly and hospitable (aren’t all Japanese?), and will be happy to take you through the detailed history of this place.
Interesting facts about Ehime
- Haiku, the famous Japanese style of poetry comprising 3 lines, originated in Ehime.
- Ehime is well known for having a region that specializes in making towels, and there’s even a towel musuem.
- The prefecture is known to have some of the best and juiciest oranges in Japan, so much so that it has earned the moniker of ‘citrus kingdom’.
- Ehime, translated in English, stands for “lovely princess.”
- About 70% of Ehime is forested land.
Staying in Ehime
Finding great accommodation is not a challenge in Ehime. But if you’d like a real feel to the place, it’s best to stay in a home that exudes a traditional vibe. To make that happen, HomeAway has partnered with the Destination Management Organization (DMO) to refurnish old historic houses and convert them to holiday homes, which can be rented on HomeAway. Check out these two options:
1.Renovated, historical townhouse in Uchiko Chō, Ehime Ken
Get a taste of traditional Japan at this century-old Machiya (townhouse) that accommodates 6 guests. There are 2 floors, and the 1st one operates as a café during the day. So all you need to do for that morning cuppa is walk down! Sip it in the gorgeous courtyard right outside.
Owing to its location on a shopping street, there are plenty of great restaurants nearby if you’re in the mood to tuck into some sumptuous sushi. Where else to eat this world-renowned dish than in Japan?
Average price per night: MYR 711
2. Romantic Japanese House in Matsuyama
Located perfectly if you’re the sightseeing sorts (of course you are), this classic, traditional Japanese home is nestled in an area near the Dōgo Onsen hot spring that witnesses activity through the day but is peaceful and tranquil in the evenings – giving you the best of both worlds.
There is a limousine bus from the airport to the Dōgo hot spring, and the last stop is the Dōgo Onsen station, where the owner will welcome you at the Dōgo arch! It’s a Dōgo delight, really.
Average price per night: MYR 158
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