From scaling the region’s highest mountain to trying your hand at canyoneering, Ehime Prefecture is jam-packed with a whole host of exhilarating activities for even the most jaded of travellers.
Situated in the northwestern part of Shikoku in Japan, Ehime Prefecture is home to some of the highest mountains in the inland region, a long and scenic coastline, as well as a good number of historic castles and Buddhist temples. Because of its strategic location, Ehime also produces some of the finest foods (it is the top producer of mikans, or mandarin oranges), yet not many of us have heard about this prefecture. Now, thanks to Emporium Shokuhin, Singapore’s first integrated Japanese emporium, Ehime Prefecture is finally getting some deserved attention – a small section of the emporium is dedicated to showcasing more than 200 produce specially flown in from Ehime, from mikans and natural sea salt to frozen seafood and sake.
Here, reps from Ehime Prefecture give us their top 9 recommendations of activities you should check out there.
Enjoy a hot spring at Dogo Onsen
At 3, 000 years old, Dogo Onsen is the oldest hot spring in Japan. The Main Building, the symbol of Dogo Spa Resort and completed in 1894 (designated as an Important Cultural Property), is surrounded by many hotels and traditional Japanese-style inns and shopping arcades, and allures many residents and tourists into the bath. The three-storey timber structure is said to be a model of the bathhouse of the gods in the film Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki. It was also given three stars in the Michelin Guide 2009. Take a bath, and relax in cotton yukata (kimono-style bathrobe) in either a spacious room or a private room. You can also take a peek at Yushinden, the one-of-its-kind bath exclusive to the Imperial Family! Take in the majestic sights of Matsuyama Castle
The castle, originally built on Katsuyama Hill in 1627, is one of the 12 surviving castles built before Edo Period (1603 – 1867), although the castle was re-built in 1854 after a fire. You can go up to the hilltop square by ropeway or chair lift. Want to bring home some souvenirs? The Ropeway Street at the bottom of the hill is lined with retro shops on both sides.
Cycle along Shimanami Sea Route
Shimanami Sea Route is the collective name of the motor highway over the Seto Inland Sea to connect Imabari (Ehime) and Onomichi (Hiroshima), as well as some of the islands in between. The total length is 59.4km. The islands are linked by 9 splendid bridges such as a triple-suspension bridge and an arch bridge. One activity you should try is either cycle (there are 14 cycling terminals where you can rent and drop-off bicycles) or take a walk along the scenic route. Soak up the historic Ishite-ji Temple
Ishite-ji Temple is one of the 88 temples along the Shikoku Pilgrimage – a religious trail designed by the famous Buddhist monk Kobo-Daishi to seek spiritual peace. Ishite-ji temple was founded in 728. The Niomon gate, completed in 1318, is a National Treasure. At this temple, you can also find many Important Cultural Properties such as the three-storey pagoda and the five-storey stone stupa.
Get Instagram-worthy shots at Omogokei Gorge
Located 60km away from Matsuyama and at the foot of Mt. Ishizuchi — the highest mountain in western Japan — the 8km-long Omogokei Gorge is a must-visit for nature lovers. Under the canopy of virgin forest, fantastically shaped rocks, waterfalls, and ravines with towering cliffs, the gorge is designated as one of the most beautiful scenic spots in Japan. Visit Omogokei Gorge during autumn for an even more stunning visual treat, what with the colourful autumn leaves covering the area. Take the exhilarating tidal current boat ride at Kurushima Kaikyo Strait
Game for an adventure? Experience the thrills and spills of Kurushima Kaikyo Strait, home to one of the three fastest currents in Japan! The boat also takes you on a cruise around a few islands as well as under the popular Kurushima Kaikyo Ohashi Bridge – the world’s first triple-suspension bridge.
Revisit Japan’s past at Uchiko
As the centre for traditional wax- and paper-making, Uchiko thrived from the late Edo Period right through Meiji era (1868 – 1912). Fortunately, its history is not lost; take a stroll along Yokaichi & Gokoku Quarters, a 600-metre-long antique district at Uchiko that’s designated as an Important Traditional Construction Preservation Area, and check out picturesque white plaster-walled merchant’s houses and private dwellings. Scale Mt. Ishizuchi
At 1, 982m, Mt. Ishizuchi is the highest mountain in western Japan, and has been known as a sacred place since ancient times. Blessed with incredible natural beauty, this mountain is mentioned in 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, a book written in 1964 by mountaineer Kyuya Fukada. Visit during spring or autumn if you’d like to try your hand at climbing to the peak of Mt. Ishizuchi!
Try canyoneering at Nametoko Gorge
An adventurous outdoor sport that involves a variety of techniques like abseiling, technical climbing, and swimming, canyoneering is certainly not for the weak-hearted. Nametoko Gorge in Ehime is well-known to only a few people as a sanctuary for canyoneering. The highlight here has got to be the 40-metre-long natural water slide!