Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Japan Dec 2011 Day 4: Matsuyama 松山 in Ehime 愛媛

An almost 4-hour JR train ride from Tokushima 徳島 via Takamatsu 高松 brought us to Matsuyama 松山 in Ehime 愛媛, our last stop in Shikoku 四国. We took the anpanman train from Takamatsu to Matsuyama and I was very trilled to eat the cute ekiben! =)

To get to Matsuyama castle 松山城, take a ride (about 10-min) on streetcar No. 5 outside Matsuyama station, going towards Dogo Onsen 道後温泉 and stop at Okaido 大街道. Walk up a small street away from Okaido to the ropeway station. You may choose to go up either on the ropeway or lift but I strongly recommend the lift (unless you have small kids which is too bad for you haha) as it is way more fun and exciting!

After visiting the castle, you may return to Okaido streetcar stop where you alighted to take the same street car for another about 10 min to Dogo Onsen. Once you arrive, you can't miss the cuckoo clock and the busy street leading up to the big bath house, which is the model for the one in Hayao Miyazaki's animated film Spirited Away.

They offer various packages and you choose one that suits you, depending on whether you want a towel, snack and what kind of relaxation room you prefer (with the masses, moderate or private). Do bring your own toiletries as the onsen only provides the bare minimum of shampoo (no conditioner), CAKE soap (yucks!) and hairdryer. We bought the JPY1200 package that included entrance to two baths, tea and snacks in a room for about 10-12 people, and a tour of the emperor and imperial bath house. Dogo onsen is the only onsen in Japan with a bath house for the imperial family and it has been used only 10 times by the imperial family. I was astounded that the emperor's squat toilet is surrounded by tatami! Dogo onsen bath powder sachets known as yu-no-hana 湯の花 make excellent souvenirs.

Hello Kitty Dogo Onsen towel and notepad

What I like:
1. There is something very cool about having bathed in the oldest hot spring. 
2. You get a chance to see the imperial bath house, once used by the emperor, even if you don’t know him haha 
3. The quality of the water. It makes your skin tsuru tsuru smooth =)

What I hope was better:
1.  It’s really crowded because every tourist (especially Japanese) has the same great idea to bathe here.
2. The amenities are really bare minimum unlike in most other hot springs I have been to.
3.  The only view you get when soaking in the bath is that of other naked women (if that excites you, great). But I guess you can't change this since it's an old bath house.
4. The towel they gave doesn’t have “Dogo Onsen” printed on it. It only had タオルー which means towel -.-||| I had to buy another one with Dogo Onsen on it. At least the one I got in Gero Onsen had “Gero Onsen” printed on it.

We had dinner at a restaurant right beside the bath house and I scraped the bowl clean of ikura ochazuke. Chris slurped up his crab miso soup heartily too!

Oh, Ehime is well-known for Mikan so do try some! I had some in the hotel for breakfast and also bought a bottle of mikan juice =)

Hotel: Hotel Sunroute Matsuyama
About 2 min walk from the station, not the usual modern ones. Can try some place else.

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