Shimanami Kaido, and our limited time along with the slow train connections restricted us to visiting only Ehime Prefecture, which is located in the northwestern part of the island. As the surrounding areas, Ehime is a land of castles. We have seen three of them in two days.Shikoku is famous for its 88 temple pilgrimage. Unfortunately, we have seen none of those temples during our last trip! Our tour of Shikoku had to connect up with the
Matsuyama (松山) is the biggest of the towns we visited. To get up the castle hill, you can use either a ropeway or a chairlift. Another tourist hot spot is the spa area of Dogo Onsen.
The second town we visited was Oozu (大洲). Much smaller than Matsuyama, it is located on the Kiji river and famous for its cormorant night fishing. I’m a bit sorry we were too early to see the cormorant fishing, which only takes place from June to September. Oozu castle overlooks the river. It is actually a very recent reconstruction finished in 2003, but using only historical techniques. Videos on display which were shot during the reconstruction are quite interesting. Oozu goes by the name of “Little Kyoto of Iyo” (where Iyo is the old name of the Ehime region), which in my opinion is somewhat exaggerated. It is true that traditional Japanese houses dominate the town, but it comes nowhere near Kyoto. Apart from the castle, there is an old villa, Garyu-sanso, also overlooking the river, with a lovely garden, that is well worth visiting.
Our final stop was Uwajima (宇和島), located on the coast. Of course, also Uwajima has a castle which we duly visited. We also visited Tenshaen, a beautiful garden that belonged to the Date clan and boasts 22 different kinds of bamboo. Uwajima is furthermore famous for a variety of seafood specialties and cultured pearls.
I’m a bit sorry that we only had two days to visit Shikoku and would definitely like to go back to see the other parts of the island. On the whole, Shikoku seemed more rustic than the rest of Japan, and a bit more off the beaten touristic track. Its rugged green hills and coastline looked very appealing.