By Rod Walters
Welcome to Matsuyama! Matsuyama City is the largest on Shikoku, gazing out over the Seto Inland Sea to Hiroshima. It is famous for Dogo Onsen, Dogo Park, Isshite Temple, and Matsuyama Castle, as well as its culinary offerings of all things mikan (Ehime’s famed tangerine), Botchan dango (sweet dumplings named after the protagonist of Natsume Soseki’s Matsuyama based novel), and taimeshi dishes (local sea bream).
Matsuyama has been gaining tourist popularity, particularly with some European travellers who favour more compact, historical, relaxing locations to the Tokyo metropolis. That said, Matsuyama has a population of around half a million people, so there is more than enough food, drink, and frivolity to go around.
Getting the plane to Matsuyama is very convenient from Tokyo and Osaka, but there are also services from Nagoya, Taipei, and Korea. Peach and Jetstar are the budget domestic carriers of choice, and both offer daily flights to Matsuyama. JAL and ANA also have charter flights to Matsuyama.
For Matsuyama – Osaka (50 minutes)
For Matsuyama – Tokyo Narita (80 minutes)
Getting to Matsuyama by ferry is perhaps the fasted and most relaxing option available from Honshu. Matsuyama has a tourist port that has a frequent daily schedule to Hiroshima, which takes 60 minutes on the Super Jet or 2.5 hours by regular ferry. These cost ¥6,900 and ¥3,500 one way, respectively. A reasonable discount is available for travellers with foreign passports. Tickets can easily be purchased at the port on the day without reservation.
Ferries also run to Kokura on Kyushu Island.
Iyotetsu Bus Company reliably serves Ehime prefecture and surrounding areas, and has daily schedules coaches that run between Matsuyama and Tokushima, Kochi, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, and Tokyo, to name a few. This is a less expensive but slower mode of travel: Matsuyama to Kobe takes approximately 4 hours by bus, and the Tokyo overnight service takes about 10 hours. Bus tickets can be reserved by phone (in Japanese), or at the ticket offices in the respective cities. The Iyotetsu ticket office and departure point in Matsuyama is located at Matsuyama City Station (Shieki).
Here’s the link to the Iyotetsu website and schedule (in Japanese):
There are several car rental companies in Matsuyama, which would allow you to explore Shikoku at your leisure. Times Car Rental is a partner with JapanTravel and provides value added rentals all over Japan.
Shinkansen services do not operate on Shikoku but the area is covered by JR trains. As with the rest of Japan, travelling exclusively by train can be expensive – if you are a non-resident, an option may be to purchase a rail pass. If you have the pass and want to get to Matsuyama, the route from Osaka is perhaps the most convenient. This train line doesn’t pass too far from the Naruto whirlpools and the beautiful views of Imabari’s Shimanami Kaido (island bridge network), both of which are worth a visit.
Estimated time and price from Osaka: ¥10,410, 229 minutes.
Estimated time and price from Tokyo: ¥19,260, 387 minutes.
A cost effective and hassle free option if you are travelling during school vacation periods is the Seishun 18 Ticket – ¥11,850 for 5 days unlimited travel on JR throughout Japan during selected dates.
The best way to check train times and prices (in English) is with Hyperdia.
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Based in Matsuyama, Ehime. Life here in the biggest city on Shikoku combines all of the warmth of a more rural region with the conveniences of a metropolitan environment. For a taste of what the region has to offer, check out Awagami paper making and the annual Tsubaki Matsuri. My areas of interest include traditional Japanese crafts, ramen, onsen, and of course all things Shikoku.