Phew, that was a bit of a long train ride. It seems like Matsuyama is such a long way from most of the major cities in Japan. And it really feels like it too. I heard there are around 500,000 people here, but it is a pretty sleepy town. It’s good to get away from the crowds you know?
All right, well, that’s Matsuyama castle, but I’m a bit exhausted from the trip, I don’t really feel like hiking up there today. We will visit it tomorrow after we have had some time to relax and get a feel for the city. First things first, let’s take a tram to Dogoonsen station.
There are actually four tram lines that run through the city, but they all end at Dogo Onsen, which makes things pretty convenient for us. Do you have Y180 for the fare? It’s just one fee for any stop.
All right, that didn’t take too long. Here we are at Dogo Onsen. What’s that? Yeah, it does kind of look like the bathhouse in Spirited Away. I heard they used it as inspiration for the design of it. Pretty cool huh.
Look at this rock, I guess it is the rock that Sukunahikona danced on after he was cured in the bath. Have you heard that legend? No? Well, as I understand it the two gods Okuninushi no Mikoto and Sukunahikona no Mikoto came down from Izumo, which is home to the Gods of Japan. Sukunahikona was pretty sick with a fatal disease of some kind, but the waters healed him. And he danced a little jig on this rock to show off. That’s why there is that little dent in it.
Okay, so there are three baths – on the first floor there is a simple bath called the Kami no Yu. It has a slightly Mediterranean theme to it. On the 2nd floor they have a lounge where we can hang out in yukata and eat some sweets. And then on the 3rd floor is the Tama no Yu, which is suppose to be the highest class. It costs Y1200 but we get some dango and a nicer yukata apparently.
By the way, a yukata is kind of like a lighter, more generic kimono. Usually people where them to relax at an onsen like this or even at summer festivals. They can be quite comfy. And the dango is a doughy ball of rice flour. They kind of have the consistency of hard jelly. They are often coated with red bean paste or another type of sauce, that has a slightly sweet taste to it. Pretty good, I’ll give you the recipe when we get back.
Let’s try the highest class one, shall we? We may only get one chance to come here, so might as well go all out right?
All right, we are here. Look it’s a little statue of Bocchan. Do you know about him? He is a famous character from one of Natsume Sōseki‘s first books Bocchan. It is about a Tokyoite that comes to the backwaters of Japan to teach math. It is loosely autobiographical and based on Soseki’s life here. The whole town has Bocchan themed goods and food.
The main reason why there is a Bocchan room here though is that the character of the same name frequented Dogo Onsen in the book and was also addicted to the dango as well. So they ended up naming the dango after him and apparently this whole room as well.
Anyway, if you are interested, it is a short read, and there is even an audiobook in English and Japanese in the public domain that you can pick up and listen to the whole thing. Not the best translation, but it gives you the main idea.
I’ve been babbling along for too long lets go take a dip.
Ahh, kind of small to be honest. I kind of thought it was going to be a little more for being so famous. A little underwhelming, but it still feels pretty good after that long train ride. Can you scoot over a bit? I don’t want to be so close. No offense.
Yeah it feels nice to relax. Hopefully this bath will heal all my sore muscles. I really need it. Oh, do you know about the other legend of Dogo Onsen? No?
All right, so the other legend is that there was an egret with an injured leg that limped to the onsen and went for a little dip. And then of course, poof, the waters healed its leg perfectly. That’s why you will sometimes see an egret around town and in the onsen.
Aaaah , that was refreshing, but it is getting a little late, so let’s head to our place. It is really close. It’s called Eco Dogo. And get this! It’s only ¥2500! Well, if you have your own sleeping bag it is Y2200. Did you happen to pack one? Well, that’s okay, maybe next time.
All right let’s get some shut eye. We’re going to do some hiking tomorrow to the top of Matsuyama Castle. I’ll be sure to wake you up.
Did you sleep well? Let’s get out of here then, we have one more place to stop at before we head out of town.
Okay so the climb looks a little steep at first, but I’m sure it will be a lot of fun to hike it. This is only one of a few original castles in Japan. A lot of castles are reconstructions, but not this one. Matsuyama Castle was completed in 1627 after 25 years of construction by Kato Yoshiaki.
We could also take the ropeway, but c’mon, I think the hike will be a lot more scenic, don’t you? Oh, stop being such a wussy, let’s go for a walk.
And we are here. Wow, this is an amazing view of the city. You can see a lot from up here. I especially like the view of the bay and the sea. It was well worth it to hike up instead of just the ropeway.
You know, there are a lot of castles in Japan and after awhile they tend to just all blend together, especially the reconstructed ones. I mean some of them have elevators in them. That’s not very exciting in my opinion. But these handful of original castles really give you a feel of what it was like back then. There are only about a dozen like this one still left. The most famous of which is Himeji castle.
Remember that botchan dango I was talking to you about before? There is some for sale at the food stand over there. Let’s pick some up before we hop on the train back home.
Mmm, fresh dango, this looks great. They are three colored balls of rice flower and flavored bean paste mixed together. One is flavored with green tea making it green, one is flavored with egg yolk making it yellow, and the last one is flavored with adzuki beans making it brown. This is a kind of sanshoku (lit. 3 color) dango that are a kind of Japanese sweet. Another popular sanshoku dango that you might have seen before is hanami dango.
They taste great don’t they? I swear every city in Japan has some kind of famous food dish. Matsuyama is also famous for mikans and a special kind of tart that is basically a roll cake with sweet bean paste inside. We’ll have to try those later though, we need to catch the train out of here.
Phew, that was a great trip. What part did you like the best? Do you want to go back some day? Let me know in the comments.
Photo by Yoshikazu TAKADA