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Kururin Ferris Wheel

Magnificent views from high above central Matsuyama

The Iyotetsu Takashimaya department store is actually the terminus for the Iyo Railway Co., (Iyotetsu), the first railway in Shikoku and also the third private railway in Japan. This follows the Japanese tradition of major railway lines that built department stores at the terminus of their lines, so that they could literally feed warm bodies into the maw of Mammon from all directions with their steel conveyor belts. As a novel addition to this tendency, Iyotetsu has added an enormous Ferris wheel on the roof of its department store bringing an extra dimension to the travel options of the railway company. Known as Kururin, this wheel is a very visible landmark, especially at night when it’s illuminated in constantly changing patterns. For those who are interested in these things, the name Kururin is the diminutive form of “something that goes round”.

When you’re standing underneath the Ferris wheel, you can appreciate the irony of the name. Diminutive it ain’t. I’ve ridden Kururin numerous times, but I last went on a blustery spring day when the clouds were scudding across the sky. There was a notice posted in the lobby in Japanese to the effect that the gondola might shake in the wind, although this is not a matter for concern. Sometimes there’s a queue, and sometimes there isn’t. When I went there was a short line, and a girl of about four in front of me declared, “This is exciting! I’m getting more and more excited the longer I wait!”. So indeed was I.

You clamber into the gondola while it’s still moving. It seemed to take a long time for the gondola to clear the covered area. When my gondola rose out of the shadow of the station, it immediately began to shake, and I could hear the roar of the wind and feel a distinct breeze through the vents in the door.

Despite the rather scratched plastic windows, the view is magnificent. You can see the whole of Matsuyama laid out around you. The top of Kururin is one of the highest places in Matsuyama. Although the top floor of Matsuyama Castle is higher still, you can’t look down so directly on the streets from the castle, and so the effect is different. There’s an extra intensity to the view from Kururin. To my surprise, I could hear the sounds of the city with remarkable clarity—the train whistle of the Botchan Ressha and the screech of the trams on their rails. At the very top, there’s a bizarre and slightly alarming sensation of stopping, suspended in space above the city with the sea and the mountains in the distance. But the wheel goes on round, and soon you’re back at the bottom, wondering how long is a reasonable interval before going again.

Depending on your numbers, you can buy an individual ticket for 500 yen which gets you a gondola to yourself, or you can pay 1,000 yen for a gondola which seats four people. One rotation takes 15 minutes. Daytime is great, but dusk is also an interesting time, when the sun is fading and lights are coming on below you.

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