The village of Sotodomari was built in the late 1800's on a slope overlooking the Uchiumi Sea. To protect them from seasonal winds and typhoons, homes and fields were surrounded by tall stone walls. Although many of the homes are gone, the walls remain. For tourists visiting the southwest corner of Shikoku, this Ishigaki-no-sato (stone wall village) is a recommended stop - especially for photographers.
Sotodomari is located on a peninsula in the town of Ainan, Ehime Prefecture, very close to the border with Kochi Prefecture. The village sits along scenic Route 34, but it is very tiny and easy to miss. Although selected as one of Japan's 100 most beautiful historic environments, it is not a sightseeing spot to go out of your way to see. However, if you are in the area, it is worth stopping for an hour or so.
There is a free parking area beside a community center at the edge of the ocean. Walk up into the village and wander around the narrow alleys. Keep an eye out for stones painted by local children - most are decorated to celebrate Japan's Hina Matsuri (doll festival). Sotodomari's 'Dandan Hina Matsuri' runs from the beginning of March to the beginning of April. However, on my visit in mid-winter, many of the decorated stones were still on display.
There are no restaurants, cafes, or shops within the village - only a small building called the Dandankan where visitors can rest, chat with a local, buy a light snack and drink, or use the bathroom. Be aware it is closed on Tuesdays and during the New Year holidays.
It is possible to stay overnight in the village. There are two small family-run inns, both of which specialize in serving a variety of local seafood. Minshuku Tsutaya has only two Japanese rooms, for a maximum of six guests (0895-82-1077, Japanese only). Minshuku Ishigaki-sou has seven Japanese style rooms and one Western (0895-82-0114, Japanese only). At either establishment, accommodations plus two meals costs around 8000 yen.
It is best to travel to Sotodomari Ishigaki-no-sato by car. There is little or no mass transportation in the area.
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