Ehime Prefecture

Ehime Prefecture is one of four prefectures on Shikoku Island, connected to Hiroshima Prefecture on Honshu Island by the Nishiseto Expressway, commonly known as the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway, which is also a popular cycling route. Notably, Ehime Prefecture is also home to 26 of the 88 temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Other Ehime tourism highlights include Matsuyama and Uwajima castles (two of Japan's twelve remaining original castle structures), and Dogo Onsen (one of Japan's oldest hot spring resorts). The Dogo Onsen Honkan served as inspiration for the award-winning animated film Spirited Away, produced by famed director Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli. Blessed with the temperate climate of the Seto Inland Sea, Ehime Prefecture is Japan's leading producer of citrus, particularly mikan (Japanese tangerines). Moreover, some Ehime-produced traditional crafts and industrial products have attained global recognition, including Imabari's towels and shipbuilding, Tobe ware porcelain, and Ozu washi (traditional Japanese paper).

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ACCESS

1. Airline Tokyo (Haneda/Narita) to Ehime (Matsuyama)APPROX 1.5h

2. Airline Osaka (KIX/Itami) to Ehime (Matsuyama)APPROX 55min

3. JR Seto-Ohashi Line Okayama to MatsuyamaAPPROX 2h 40min

4. Setouchi Liner Highway Bus Fukuyama to Onomichi - ImabariAPPROX 1h 20min

5. Shimanami Liner Highway Bus Hiroshima to ImabariAPPROX 2h 50min

6. Super Jet Ferry Hiroshima to MatsuyamaAPPROX 1h 15min

7. Ferry Usuki to YawatahamaAPPROX 2h 25min / Beppu to YawatahamaAPPROX 2h 50min

8. Ferry Saganoseki to MisakikoAPPROX 1h 10min

Toyo Area

Eastern Ehime

Shimanami Kaido

The Shimanami Kaido is a popular 70-kilometer cycling route along the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway connecting Ehime Prefecture to Hiroshima Prefecture on Honshu Island. CNN Travel calls the Shimanami Kaido "one of the world's most incredible bike routes." The scenic Shimanami Kaido cycling route traverses six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea via seven bridges, including the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge—the world’s strongest and longest suspension bridge. The route offers dedicated lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. Rent a bicycle at either end of the Shimanami Kaido to explore the islands at your own pace. Tourist highlights include the tidal currents (rapids) between some of the islands and the Murakami Suigun Museum dedicated to the history of the Murakami Kaizoku (Murakami Pirates). Unlike most pirates throughout history, the Murakami Kaizoku famously acted as like a modern coastguard maintaining peace and order for safe navigation and stable trade throughout the Seto Inland Sea during Japan's Warring States period (1467–1603).

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Mount Ishizuchi

Mount Ishizuchi (1,982 meters) is the highest mountain not only in Shikoku, but in the entire West Japan. A place of worship since ancient times, it is also known as one of Japan's Seven Holy Mountains. The year-long climbing season begins in July with a special Shinto ceremony in which—for religious reasons—only men are allowed to participate. Reaching the peak is a challenging task, however, there is a ropeway halfway up the mountain. Climbers pull themselves up over vertical rock walls using three sets of iron chains. If you visit Mount Ishizuchi by car, be sure to drive along the panoramic UFO Line—a winding road offering splendid views of the mountain ridge.

Chuyo Area

Central Ehime

Matsuyama City

The capital of Ehime Prefecture, Matsuyama City is the largest municipality on Shikoku Island. Matsuyama first developed as a castle town supporting Matsuyama Castle, one of only twelve surviving original feudal era castles in Japan. Matsuyama Castle still offers splendid views of the Seto Inland Sea. Matsuyama has a thriving downtown shopping area, with many restaurants and bars open late into the night. The Iyo Railway system’s five interconnected tram lines are a convenient way to get around central Matsuyama. Iyo Railway operates special Botchan trains (named after Natsume Soseki’s popular 1906 novel set in Matsuyama) eight times a day on weekdays and ten times a day on weekends. The Botchan trains are diesel-powered replicas of the original Iyo Railway steam locomotives. These nostalgic Botchan locomotives and carriages evoke a bygone era as they slowly make their way around the Matsuyama Castle moat and into the period design station at Dogo Onsen. Here you can see the world as depicted by Japanese literary giants Soseki and Masaoka Shiki, who shared significant experiences in Matsuyama City in the 19th century.

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Dogo Onsen

With over 3,000 years of history, Dogo Onsen is one of Japan's oldest hot spring resorts. Built in 1894, Michelin Green Guide Japan awarded the iconic wooden Dogo Onsen Honkan bathhouse three stars. Containing a maze of corridors and stairways, Dogo Onsen Honkan attracts high profile guests, most notably, members of Japan's Imperial Family who have a dedicated room and private bath. The unique and nostalgic Dogo Onsen Honkan interior is said to be the inspiration for noted Japanese director, Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 award-winning Studio Ghibli animated fantasy mystery feature, Spirited Away. The bathhouse is open to visitors as well as guests, so feel free to enter the hot spring baths or relax while enjoying green tea and snacks. On the other end of the busy Dogo Onsen shopping arcade, you will find the newly opened Asuka no Yu bathhouse—a modern version of the Dogo Onsen Honkan, offering private baths modeled after those serving members of Japan's Imperial Family in the Dogo Onsen Honkan bathhouse. At Dogo Onsen, you can experience Meiji era (1868–1912) Japan today. Stay in one of the many ryokan inns featuring artistic designs or traditional Japanese decor.

Nanyo Area

Southern Ehime

Uchiko Town

During Japan's Edo period (1603–1868) Uchiko flourished as a merchant town, serving as Japan's leading production center for wax and washi (Japanese paper). To this day, the people of Uchiko have made great efforts to preserve a traditional Japanese feel through the quaint buildings lining the streets of Yokaichi Old Town. Explore the pride of Uchiko, the 100-year-old Uchiko-za Kabuki Theater. Built in 1916, this building is a fully operational kabuki theater located in the center of town. Explore the backstage area of this traditional theater, with numerous trap doors and underground passages still used by performers today. South of Uchiko Town, you will find Ozu City and Seiyo City. Both of these small cities offer the quaint traditional streets typical of rural Japan. Rent a beautiful kimono to wear as you stroll the old streets of these lovely off-the-beaten-track locations.

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Uwajima City

Uwajima is a port city in southern Ehime Prefecture and Japan's leading production center for pearls. Its location and rugged coastline have contributed to the development of a thriving fishing industry. The largest producer of sea bream, Uwajima is also known for seafood specialties like Taimeshi (rice with sea bream) and Jakoten (fish cakes). Vistas of Mikan (Japanese tangerine) plantations and Danbata terraced rice fields contribute to the beauty of Uwajima City. The city center offers several highlights, including Uwajima Castle—one of only twelve remaining feudal era castles in Japan—and Uwajima Togyujo, a Japanese bullfighting arena holding five annual tournaments each year.

Ehime Prefecture Recommendations

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88 Temples of The Shikoku Pilgrimage

The Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage is said to have originated some 1,200 years ago, when the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi (Kukai) visited 88 sacred places on Shikoku Island. Now, henro (pilgrims) travel over 1,200 kilometers to visit all 88 temples, starting in Tokushima and on through Kochi, Ehime, and Kagawa. Ehime Prefecture is home to 26 of the 88 temples of the pilgrimage. The most famous, Ishiteji, is located just a short walk from Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama City. Here, you can see modern-day pilgrims wearing distinctive white clothes and straw hats. It is common practice to welcome them warmly and offer small gifts as tokens of hospitality. The extensive grounds of Ishiteji are home to several National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties, and Michelin Green Guide Japan awarded Ishiteji one star. A remarkable 200-meter long cave behind the main temple branches off in two directions, and contains many Buddhist statues, carvings, and drawings. The passage also leads to a secluded spiritual sanctuary featuring a large, golden dome.

Local Specialties

Ehime Prefecture is home to several traditional craft producers and delicious food products. Japan’s leading producer of mikan (Japanese tangerines), Ehime is also a major producer of high-quality pearls cultivated in the thriving pearl farms of Uwajima City. The site of Japan's largest shipyard, Imabari City is also gaining international recognition for the quality of its branded Imabari Towels. Tobe Town is famous for its Tobe-yaki (Tobe ware) porcelain items. And the small merchant town of Uchiko has long flourished as a production center for wax and high-quality Ozu washi (Japanese paper).

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Photography Locations

Ehime Prefecture offers many excellent photography locations attracting photography enthusiasts and Instagrammers from around the world. Beyond popular sightseeing spots like Matsuyama Castle, Dogo Onsen, and the Shimanami Kaido cycling route, Ehime offers many hidden treasures. Aoshima, also known as Cat Island, as only 15 human residents, but over 100 cats that freely roam the island. Shimo-Nada Station, a picturesque unmanned station located next to the sea, has appeared in several animated films. Near Shimo-Nada Station, you will find railroad tracks that mysteriously continue into the sea, just like a scene in Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 animated feature, Spirited Away. The Iyo-Nada Monogatari, a retro-modern sightseeing train running along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, offers brilliantly scenic vistas. For the ultimate instagrammable experience, enjoy the fabulous scenery while dining on fine food in one of the Iyo-Nada Monogatari dining cars.

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