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Japan’s Most Underrated City

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In my 7 years of travelling Japan, I’ve been fortunate to visit 40 of the country’s 47 prefectures, travelling from freezing Hokkaido to the turquoise seas that lap the shores of Okinawa. These are the memories, moments and experiences that I frequently find myself going back to; the ones that put a smile on a face that is typically riddled with cynicism and despair. Hopefully they’ll give you some fresh ideas and inspire you to go off the beaten path and experience Japan your own way. Memories travelling Japan is an ongoing series.

Japan’s Most Underrated City | Matsuyama, Ehime

Ask me what my favourite spot in Japan is and the one that comes racing to my mind first and foremost is the view from Matsuyama Castle, nestled in the heart of Matsuyama city atop Mount Katsuyama (132m).

Of the many castles I’ve visited in Japan, no other castle comes close to bagging such a spectacular view, and because it’s one of three places in the entire country where somebody had the great idea of installing a bench, it’s a view where you can perch yourself down and admire for hours.

Matsuyama feels like the kind of Japanese city I had in mind when I first applied to work in Japan; had I known then what I know now, when it came to writing my preferred locations to teach English down on my job application, I would’ve just written “Matsuyama” three times.

When you stand in the park immediately before the castle, overlooking the bustling city on all sides, with the mysterious mountains to the east and Japan’s glistening inland sea to the west, hopefully you too will quickly understand why it’s so special.

The people of Matsuyama are friendly, the streets vibrant and filled with romantic streetcars and the food is fantastic - particularly the region’s infamous oranges which the locals tend to obsess over.

I’ve been fortunate to visit Matsuyama twice; the second time I was lucky enough to be shown around by an eccentric Japanese woman called Kazu - who certainly loved the aforementioned oranges - and who offered to show me around the city for the day, having been put in touch by our mutual friend Ryotaro.

We wandered through the infamous Dogo Onsen Hot Spring, which inspired the bathhouse in Spirited Away, munched on Yakitori skewered chicken purchased at the town’s street market and of course, ate a staggering amount of oranges.

It felt like the perfect day. At one point, we even saw a cat.
- It was glorious.

Matsuyama.
Go there. Do it.

Enjoy it before the secret gets out.

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