By Rod Walters
Suppose you want to spend a few days in Matsuyama to take a dip in Dogo Onsen, walk up to the castle, see one of the seasonal festivals, or visit the Shikoku Pilgrimage temples in Matsuyama. Where could you stay without spending all of your budget on accommodation? To answer that question, Matt Iannarone from Texas and his wife Nori opened the Sen Guesthouse in Dogo, conveniently located for doing all of the sights and attractions of Matsuyama and its environs.
Sen Guesthouse stands on a narrow lane that leads up to Matsuyama Shrine, and from the front of the guesthouse, you can see the stone steps to the shrine disappearing up the hill into the trees. Dogo Onsen Honkan is just five minutes’ walk away, and Dogo tram station is a similar distance, providing a convenient link to Matsuyama’s two railway stations.
Prices start from 2,700 yen for a “memory foam” mattress on the tatami flooring in a shared, mixed dormitory-style room sleeping six guests. A single private room can be had for 4,500 yen, while twin and double rooms are 7,000 yen. There’s also a female-only dormitory room with bunk beds at 2,700 yen. Sen has its own sento style bathrooms with showers and communal tub, and a very comfortable café and lounge area on the ground floor lobby. Meals are not provided but there’s a kitchen with everything required for preparing your own food. The flat rooftop terrace affords an interesting view in all directions, including Matsuyama Castle, making it a good place to spend a spare moment.
Other services and facilities include free Wi-Fi throughout the building, a laundry, safe storage and rental of bicycles. You can also rent yukata robe for lounging around in. One of the particular advantages of Sen is the availability of tourist information in English from Matt or Nori. Matt has completed the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage himself and is keen to introduce others to the eye-opening experience. In addition to free advice about where to see in Ehime, Sen offers a class on how to get started on the pilgrimage, explaining where else to stay, what to do at the temples, and how to get the most out of it, whether you do the whole thing, or just a portion of it. The class itself costs 5,000 yen, and there are further options for delivery of luggage and other considerations for making the pilgrimage more doable.
I’ve seen all the rooms and spent some time lounging with the guests at Sen, and it would be hard to find a more homely and agreeable place to bide a while.
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I was born in Bristol, England, and I came to Japan in 1991 … which means I’ve lived half my life in this island nation on the other side of the world. The theme of my career in Japan has been communication. I started as an English teacher, and moved into translation as I learned Japanese. I worked at a well-known electronics manufacturer, facilitating their multinational communications before I became a freelance translator. As such, I translated a lot of tourism-related information. It was obvious to me that most of this isn’t sufficient to convey the excitement and wonder of Japan. In 2011, I established Knowledge Travel Partners, an inbound tourism consultancy. After living in several regions of Japan, I settled in Ehime where my wife is from. It’s on the southern island of Shikoku facing the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, Japan’s Mediterranean. The pace of life here is slow and peaceful, but we do like to throw a raucous festival now and again.