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This small farming town in the mountains south of Matsuyama was a major producer of Japanese paper and wax until the early 20th century. Now, it's a peaceful mountain town of old merchant houses, candle and umbrella workshops, and an impressive turn-of-the-20th-century Kabuki theater. Mid-century, it also became famous as the hometown of novelist Oe Kenzaburo, the second Japanese writer to win the Noble Prize in literature.
Uchiko is small enough to cover on foot, and strolling through this old town is the best way to experience it. From Uchiko Station, follow a wooden sign pointing left to the old shopping street Y okaichi, where the only change for centuries has been the height of plants against the beige-orange walls. You won't need more than a morning to poke through the fun shops, full of good, cheap omiyage souvenirs: straw pinwheels, tea leaves, sour tsukemono pickles, and local sake.
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