Category: Matsuyama


Setting out from the hotel, I grabbed the local tram service to the JR station and headed out.  Takamatsu is about 2.5 hours from Matsuyama by train, so I grabbed some take-out lunch at the station.

Arriving at the JR Takamatsu station, I got my bearings and decided to walk to the hotel and drop of my luggage there.  It was early afternoon and rather than waste the rest of the day I immediately headed out to one of the two sites in town I was interested in, the Ritsurin-kōen, which apparently dates from the mid-1600’s and took more than a century to complete.

The garden was quite impressive – one of the best I’ve visited in Japan in all my trips, and I wandered my way through the park for two and a half hours before heading to Kikugetsu-tei, the largest tea house in the park for some matcha and sweet.

With the sun setting and the park closing, I headed back to the hotel and out to grab some dinner.  The speciality in Takamatsu is Udon, so I figured I should try that the first night.  Wandering around the entertainment district I finally located one of the recommended places.  About to wander inside,  a girls sports team of some type exited the restaurant and seemed startled by my (gaijin) presence.  I guess they don’t get many gaijin in Takamatsu.  They paused for a bit and we exchanged greetings and the typical “where are you from” type questions before their coach came out of the restaurant (presumably after paying the bill) and they wandered off with sayonara’s.

I ordered the curry udon with tempura and watched them make the noodles while eating dinner.  While it was good, I think I still prefer ramen.

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Arriving in Matsuyama on Sunday by ferry, I arrived at the hotel late afternoon and decided to take it easy, catch up on some blogging and photo processing, and, of course, laundry.  The one meal of consequence on Sunday night was straight out of the guidebooks – Tori-sen, a restaurant specializing in free-range gourmet-chicken.  Finding the place was a chore, but perserverence and a bit of luck paid off.

Tori-sen serves chicken just about anyway you can think of – except maybe fully cooked.  I couldn’t read the menu, so went with their recommended setto – but made sure I got the sashimi as well.  Yes, raw chicken – which, when raised and handled properly is just fine.  I’m still alive, and out of all the variety I had, the tori sashimi and the gyoza were the best – in fact, I think the gyoza were the best I’ve ever head.

The next day, I decided to stick around town and start by seeing the castle, Matsuyama-Jō.  The book said their was a ropeway you could take, which turned out to be a gondola or a chair lift.  I opted to walk.

The castle was, well, a castle – worth seeing, and interesting enough to browse around inside.  The light rain, on again off again, not withstanding, of course.

Following the castle I decided to head straight towards the Dōgo Onsen.  Arriving via streetcar, I decided to wander through the Dōogo-kōen park first – the best time to visit the onsen was apparently around dinner time (when most of the japanese tourists would be getting dinner), so I had a couple of hours to walk around.

One of the many reasons people come to Shikoku is to do the 88 temple pilgrimage, and it just so happened one was within walking distance so I treked out to the 51st of them, Ishite-ji.

After taking in the temple, I proceeded to locate the Dōgo Onsen Honkan building, the main building of the onsen.  This is one of the most famous onsens in japan, and one where royalty visited, including the emperor.  I paid the fee which gave me access to all three baths, and proceeded to experience each one in turn – with some tea and cookies in between soaks.

Afterwards I headed back towards the tram, and was lucky enough to experience the Botchan Karakuri Clock (坊ちゃんからくり時計) near the station doing it’s thing.

Dinner was simple – grilled meat (yakiniku).  Then, off to bed.

It’s Sunday, and after four days in Hiroshima I’ve decided to head to Matsuyama, Shikoku, where I will spend the week.  I checked in to my new hotel last night situated near Nagarekawa-dori, which was lit up with neon signs, taxis as far as you can see, and equally entertaining nightlife.  After a day spent in Miyajima I was in the mood for some sake and seafood, and a quick search on the internet turned up a few prospects.  One such place, Tamariba Tamaya, apparently carried 180 different varieties of sake, all from Hiroshima Prefecture, and wasn’t very far from the hotel.  It was already just after nine PM, so I grabbed my camera, threw on a wide angle lens and took to the streets.

Crossing the street to head into the nightlife district I noticed a walkway over the street that I hadn’t seen before.  I recalled seeing some night photography of Hiroshima and realized that they had been shot off of that very walkway.   Taking advantage of the situation, I figured I might as well take a few shots myself.  With no tripod in hand, I rested the camera on the railing and this is what I ended up with.

On my way to the restaurant, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of taxis waiting in queue, whether it was to pick up passengers or drop off I’m not sure, but they weren’t moving very quickly.

The description of the restaurant’s location basically said to take a left towards off the main drag and look for a shabby, run down establishment sandwiched between the neon lights of hostess clubs.  It was hard to miss – yet, looking at the unlit signage I started to wonder whether it was even open.  The hours posted were 7pm to 5am, and pulling on the door revealed the bar area and confirmation that yes, they were open for business.

I decided to start with some nigori, which is cloudy – I couldn’t read the menus at all here, so took their guidance and ended up with a sweet nigori.  A daiginjo was to follow that, along with some mixed sashimi (moriwase) which seemed a safe bet.  Pulling out my iPhone, I started hunting for the next sake to taste and came across Hattan Hishiki, which is a sake rice variety from Hiroshima Prefecture.  While all the sakes at this izakaya were made in Hiroshima Prefecture, not all were made using the local rice.

I asked for a sake that used the local rice, and it had a very distinctive flavour to it, must different than the daiginjo (dry, strong) or nigori (sweet, milky texture), and enjoyed some breaded/fried fish (whole fish, about two inches long – like fish french fries) along with it.  I finished off with a shiboritate, a just-pressed, very young sake, along with some edamame (needed some vegetables and salt) before heading back to the hotel at a (somewhat) reasonable hour.

This morning I had one stop to make before heading out, and that was to a camera store I spotted on the street car a few blocks from the hotel.  I’ve been looking at second hand stuff since it’s hard to beat the quality and variety available here, and there are a couple of older lenses you just can’t find anymore.  The camera store ended up being a bust, but on the walk back to the hotel I ended up the benefactor of a coffee and biscuit.  I was walking down a crowed covered shopping street when someone in front of me dropped a stuffed keepsake, something the japanese tend to hang from phones, bags, or just about anything they have with them.  A few people walked by and I wasn’t sure what it was until I got a closer look, but decided to pick it up and catch up to the owner to return it.

The owner turned out to be an elderly woman, who was surprised when I interrupted her walking but was immediately overwhelmed with gratitude for my returning her precious keepsake.  It seemed to hold some significance to her, so much so that she insisted on buying me a coffee, practically forcing a 5 dollar coin into my hand and directing me into the coffee shop while bowing and repeatedly saying thank you (in japanese) as she walked away.

I was in a bit of a rush to get back to my hotel, grab my luggage, and get the streetcar to the ferry port, so ordered an espresso and tea biscuit (sesame seed and sweet potato) to go.  The japanese has always been known for their attention to detail and this includes packaging.  What I was expected was a take out paper cup for the espresso (which I would drink right there), and the tea biscuit was already in plastic wrap.  Instead, the espresso went into a paper bag, the tea biscuit went into another paper bag, and the two paper bags went into a plastic one, all “packaged” for take-out.  Very elegant, and very japanese – but probably not very good for the environment, and totally not what I intended.

Needless to say, upon returning to the hotel I had to take a picture before consuming the goods and rushing for the streetcar.  I managed to just catch the streetcar in time to arrive at the ferry port eight minutes before the ferry was due to leave.  I bought the ticket, and with under five minutes to spare practically bolted for the ferry.  I was helped along by a couple of officials who noticed me dragging my suitcase, and upon boarding the ship immediately started to disembark.

So ends this entry.  It’s Sunday afternoon now, and my next stop is Matsuyama where the first order of business will be do to laundry.  The weather today is very foggy, and with a two to three hour ferry ride there’s not much to see – a good time to catch up on some much needed writing.

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