Matsuyama and Dogo Onsen – Shikoku’s special hot spring city

Matsuyama (松山) is a popular tourist city in Shikoku, best known for Dogo Onsen (道後温泉). Considered to be the best hot spring town in the prefecture, it makes the city a great place to spend a day. Located on the north-west of Kyushu, it Matsuyama is also easily accessible from the main island (such as via cheap night buses).

Budget travel tips

  • Bring your own towel and soap to the hot springs, as most charge a lot extra for these.
  • Check out the free foot baths, especially if you are too nervous about getting naked in the hot spring baths. See the map below for locations.
  • Pick up a tram day pass for unlimited use of the trams (500 yen). Worth it if traveling 3 or more times on the trams. Available from train stations and tourist information centers.

Things to do

Matsuyama city

Matsuyama Castle

Get a view over the city from this rather unique hill top, wooden construction castle. Completed in 1627, the building has been restored to its former glory after fires or bombardments over the centuries.

Open: 9 am to 5 pm

Price: 510 yen (park 200 yen extra)

Access: Take the tram to Okaido stop (10 mins, 160 yen). From here you can walk up or take the cable car (270 yen one way, 510 yen round trip).

One of the free footbaths in Matsuyama

Dogo Onsen

Dogo Onsen has its own station on the tram line, and it is worth buying the day-pass mentioned above if you want to come back into the city for dinner or such.

Dogu Onsen Honkan (Main Building)

Experience a real onsen (hot spring) time at this 100% authentic hot spring. Only has one type of bath, but the place is a wonderful step back in time and a must-visit. A 5 minute walk from the tram stop.

Open: 6 am to 11 pm

Cost: From 410 yen

Free footbaths

There are some excellent free footbaths around town. The main one is just outside the tram station, while there is another up the road, north of the main onsen building outside a posh café.

Botchan Karakuri clock tower (FREE)

Just besides the footbath outside Dogo Onsen station is a cute clock tower, that moves about to some lovely cheesy music on the top of the hour. A big hit with tourists.

Shopping arcade

Lots of little treats to pick up along the way to the hot springs. Not the best in terms of getting some free samples, but prices are not too bad for a tourist area.

Dogu Park (FREE)

A nice place to sit down and eat a bento or to enjoy cherry blossoms. Just east of the shopping arcade.

Isaniwa Shrine (FREE)

On the way up to the Youth Hostel is this not often visited shrine. The tall flight of stairs will reward you with a pretty shrine, consisting of traditional ‘Hachiman’ style pillars, halls and roofs.

Recommended hostels and cheap hotels

Matsuyama Youth Hostel

Decent hostels with small 4 bed dorms, big lounge with free computers and lots of decent maps and brochures to help you travel around. Also a minute walk from Dogo Onsen. Check prices at HostelWorld.

More at HostelWorldBooking.com and Agoda.

How to get there

With Japan Rail Pass or Shikoku Rail Pass

From any major city in Shikoku, take a Limited Express train (about hourly). From Takamatsu it takes 70 minutes.

Without a rail pass

Willer Bus has buses to Matsuyama from outside Shikoku (included in Bus Pass). JR Shikoku Bus has a range of routes, but Japan Bus Lines is the best way to search for the cheapest buses from all locations.

Map

Links

Matsuyama City

Ehime official tourism site

Got a comment, a tip or some advice?