Tag Archives: hot springs

Exploring Ehime

This week’s Exploring Japan goes to Shikoku, the smallest of the main islands of Japan.  This time, it’s Ehime prefecture.

Ehime is situated on the northwestern part of Shikoku.  It has a population of 1,430,086.  The capital city is Matsuyama.  The five largest cities are:

  1. Matsuyama (516,637)
  2. Imabari (172,384)
  3. Niihama (125,711)
  4. Saijo (114,227)
  5. Shikokuchuo (92,486)

Ehime is a very mountainous prefecture, and also has a lot of islands on the Seto Inland Sea.


Matsuyama Castle  – This is one of the two original castles in Ehime and one of 12 original castles in Japan.  It’s said to be one of the best castles in Japan.  I would love to see it!

Uwajima Castle – This is the other original castle in Ehime.  It’s a smaller castle, and can be found in Uwajima.

Imabari Castle – This castle in Imabari is a recent reconstruction, having been built in 1980.

Ozu Castle – This castle is a very recent reconstruction, having been completed in only 2004.  It’s a completely authentic reconstruction, being faithful to the original design. I’d really like to see this castle in Ozu.


Ehime is home to the J League soccer team Ehime F.C.

Things to see and do

Ehime is a great place to see castles, of course.  But I’d also like to see Mount Ishizuchi, the tallest mountain on Shikoku.  The summit is possible to reach, but requires the use of chains to pull yourself up.  Also famous is Dogo Onsen, the oldest hot springs in Japan.  Shikoku has 88 temples that are part of a pilgrimage, and you can find several of them in Ehime.

In Matsuyama, apart from Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Onsen, you can find the Yuzuki Castle Ruins and Dogo Park.  Isaniwa Shrine is an impressive shrine to see. Matsuyama Central Park has a European style castle. Other places I think I’d like to see are the Ehime Museum of Art and Ninomaru Historical Garden.

Uwajima is probably one of the more interesting cities in Ehime.  Taga Shrine is a fertility shrine with many large phalluses, as well as a sex museum.  Nearby is a big shrine called Warei Shrine, which is one of the more famous ones in the city.  You can also see the Warei Ushi-oni Festival, which features one of the 6 bull sumo tournaments.  Uwajima has 6 sumo tournaments that are fought by bulls.  It’s fairly straightforward.

Saijo is a decent city to see.  It’s where you can access Mt. Ishizuchi, but there’s more than that. You can also see Komyoji temple and Ishizuchi Shrine.  But Saijo is also home to the only Asahi beer brewery in Japan.  You can also drink fresh spring water from the Aqua Route.  And finally, if you like trains, check out the Shikoku Railway Culture Museum.

Niihama is famous for the Niihama Taiko Festival.  It features a parade with 47 taiko drum floats, and it’s considered to be a man’s festival.

Ikata is a very picturesque town that is on a very narrow peninsula.  You can see Sadamisaki Lighthouse, as well as the Seto Wind Hill Park, which has many windmills.  It’s also home to a nuclear power museum, at the Ikata Visitors Center.

Seiyo features the Museum of Ehime History and Culture.


Ehime is famous for mikan, or tangerines.  Also popular are iyokan, which are similar to mikan, but more sour.

Have you been to Ehime?  What would you suggest to see there?

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Exploring Akita

Akita is our second stop in the Exploring Japan series.

Akita Prefecture is in the Tohoku region on the main island Honshu.  It’s in the northwestern part of Japan.  It has a population of 1,106,050, so it’s not densely populated.  The capital city is Akita.  The five largest cities are:

  1. Akita (323,310)
  2. Yokote (96,955)
  3. Daisen (87,497)
  4. Yurihonjo (84,046)
  5. Odate (77,703)

Akita has a very low number of children, so the population is declining.  Many younger people are moving away, so the population is quite old.  The Akita breed of dog is also from Akita.


Kubota Castle – This is a replica of the original castle, which actually has no main tower. It’s in Akita City.

Yokote Castle – This is a small reconstructed castle in the city of Yokote.

Things to see and do

A popular place to go is Lake Tazawa, which has beautiful mountain scenery and the famous Nyuto Onsen (hot springs) are nearby.  It’s a very deep volcanic crater lake.

In Akita city, I’m particularly interested in Senshu Park (with Kubota Castle) and the Akita Prefectural Museum, which has science and history exhibits.

Kakunodate is an old samurai town with very well preserved samurai houses.  Very historic.

Odate is the hometown of Hachiko, the famous dog whose statue is outside of Shibuya station in Tokyo.  Nearby is Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge, places where you can see the natural countryside.

Oga seems like an interesting place to go.  It has Goshado, a set of 5 shrines with a view of the coastline.  Also there is the Namahage Museum, which is dedicated to demons that scare children at New Year’s.  And finally is Akita’s only aquarium, Oga Aquarium GAO.  But this town seems good for walking and hiking.

Semboku is a place you want to go for hot springs.  It’s also near Lake Tazawa.

In Yokote, apart from the castle, there’s a festival called the Kamakura Festival.  Kamakura are like a small igloo.  Some of them are big enough to enter, and some of those even become tiny little places to eat.

There’s plenty to see and do in Yurihonjo.  Apart from several hot springs and ski areas, there’s also a lot of hiking at Mt. Chokai and Mt. Hinoto.  You can also see the Akata Giant Buddha a large Buddha statue.  Hottai waterfall is a pretty big waterfall.  Iwaki Local History Museum is a reproduction of a village, something I would love to see.

Yuzawa has several hot springs, but also the Akinomiya Museum, which has a lot of old relics, including toys, records, pachinko machines and more.  Sounds interesting.


Akita is very well known for its rice, and several of its local foods are made of rice.  One is kiritanpo, a tube of rice that is often roasted, but is also eaten in kiritanpo nabe.  Nabe is a hot pot dish with many ingredients, including vegetables, meat, and fish.  This variety contains kiritanpo.  Also, Akita is well known for its sake, which is made from the local rice.  Hard to choose, but I really do like sake.

So, have you been to Akita?  If so, do you have any recommendations?


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