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Trip Report Cherry blossom - Matsuyama!

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As we all know, Japan is comprised of four main islands; while only the Shikoku is not connected to the Shinkansen (the new trunk line high-rapid railway) network, it is kind of left out in most travel planning. The up-side to of this situation to me, is there are some kinds of mysteriousness and mystics to this island (I think not only to me). In fact, many locations in Shikoku are listed in the Japanese national “hidden treasures”

That time I was exploring Hiroshima and ultimately I put Matsuyama and the Togo Onsen (Hotspring) on my itinerary. If you are looking for something new, I would recommend this city and I had a great experience! Matsuyama is the capital of the Ehime prefecture and the largest city in Shikoku. Developed as a typical Japanese castle town, the city has certain historic flavors from different eras.

In a nutshell, I took off from Okayama and spent 2 days in Matsuyama. Day 1 we went to city center – Matsuyama Castle Town (for the cherry blossom) and the main shopping streets; for Day 2, I visited the Dogo-onsen shopping street, Ishite Temple and Dogo park for more cherry blossom excitement.

++++ Part 1

Matsuyama is located at the corner of Northeast Shikoku and charmingly surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea. In fact, it’s a little far from the other two main cities in the country (both three hours away from Takamatsu or Okayama). But well, I thought my plan was perfect for hitting one bird with two stones – #Okayama > 3 hours train to Matsuyama > 2.5 hours ferry to Hiroshima, and then I met the most amazing cherry blossom I have even seen. No complaints.

Both rapid bus and #JR trains are available @ the Okayama station. The costs were roughly the same, the time required was roughly the same, the level of comfortableness was also the same – basically it’s up to your personal choice. If I really have to point out each method’s problem, I didn’t have to change vehicles taking buses or enjoyed higher flexibility with my travelling schedule taking the train.

1. The “Botchan Ressha” 坊っちゃん列車...
2. Matsuyama Castle Town...
3. Saka no Ue no Kumo Museum and Bansuiso...

Full story of Part 1:
You are welcome to visit my blog for the pictures and leave comments :)

After spending a day in the Matsuyama Castle and the city centre, we reached the better part of our stay in the city – The Dōgo Onsen.

Why is Dōgo Onsen special? It is, to me, for these “tri-factors” –

First, it is one of the oldest hot springs in Japan with over 3000-year history. The hot spring has a record in literature back to the 600 A.D.; and it’s been the most visited, historic and popular hot spring area in Japan.

Second, it has a deep connection with the one of the most influential Japanese writer, Natsume Sōseki (who in fact was printed on the 1000 yen-dollar notes). Born in Matsuyama, the Dōgo Onsen bathhouse was the Natsume’s favourite retreat, and his famous autobiography – “Botchan” took place in #Matsuyama, which explains why the figure of the characters in this book are displayed everywhere in the area.

Lastly, the Dōgo Onsen served as the backdrop of Natsume’s novel stories; the public bathhouse – also served as an inspiration of Miyazaki’s animated film “#SpiritedAway”. The entire hot spring area was the blueprint of the blockbuster, and the bathhouse is definitely the icon of a traditional, hot spring experience.

The Dōgo #Onsen is situated with close proximity to the Matsuyama city area and its conveniently connected by tram. We found a very nice hot spring hotel in the district – Chaharu. It has a very nice hot spring on the top floor, which connects to the roof-top outdoor hot spring area. The hotel is basically the tallest building in the area, and I did enjoy very much the peace and quiet soaking in the hot spring, looking over the city lights and feeling the crispy spring Japanese breeze.

As we did stay in the nearby hot spring hotel, the entrance to the bathhouse was probably more about “looking” at the interior and had an experience of what it’s like. We did dressed in out bathrobes and outdoor slippers and walked around the area��.

But this was not the end… the next day we explored a little bit further to the ishite-ji (Shrine), which is part of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Have you heard of the Shikoku Pilgrimage? It is a multi-site pilgrimage of a total of eighty-eight temples once started by the Japanese Buddhist monk Kūkai. It was considered an important part of Japanese religious practice and until now, lots of believers (or pilgrims) would still dress in a distinctive sedge hat, white suit and wooden stick to walk through the 1200 km trail that was once done a thousand years ago. The shrine was probably not much, but the story behind it was quite powerful… with strength and faith, human beings overcome everything.

Nearby the hotspring area was the #Dōgo Onsen park – which is also a popular cherry blossom viewing location. Luckily we did visit there during the full bloom and the locals waste no time celebrating the festivals under the beautiful trees....

Full story of Part 2:
You are welcome to share your experience, look at the full pictures and leave comments :)

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