Photo By: Audrey Foo
Region
Shikoku
Island
Shikoku
Largest City
Matsuyama
Population
1,493,126

Uwajima

Home to one of Japan's original castles.

Travelers seeking a relaxed, remote retreat should visit Ehime Prefecture in the rustic Shikoku region, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. On its south-west coast, Uwajima lies gracefully placed between mountain and sea with awesome scenery, including a rare original castle.

Uwajima Castle

Uwajima Castle is one of only 12 remaining Japanese castles with the main tower built before the end of the Edo period. The castle appears square, but it’s a pentagon, with a secret escape side. It was completed in 1601 by master architect Takatora Todo, who also designed Tokyo’s Edo Castle.

Surrounded by lush forest, this hilltop castle appears to float above the town. There’s a good chance you’ll have the top floor to yourself; from there, you can soak in coastline and mountain views in blissful solitude.

Uwajima Castle

Photo by: Audrey Foo Uwajima Castle is one of the few original castles left in Japan.

About the area

Space, silence and soothing nature are a large part of Uwajima’s charm. Japan’s annual cherry blossoms have bloomed there well ahead of the blossoms in the rest of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

It’s blessed with a mild, warm climate, ideal for growing citrus and its coastal inlets teem with pearl farms and fish like sea bream and yellowtail.

Its distinctive cuisine includes tai-meshi — raw sea bream dipped in egg and soy sauce broth, eaten over rice. Or jakoten — deep-fried fish cakes, commonly served on a stick like savory pescatarian popsicles.

Striated clouds at Uwajima, Shikoku, Japan

A brooding sky lies over Uwajima, in western Shikoku, and the mountain range behind it is partially hidden with striations of low cloud.

Traditional festivals

The three-day Ushioni Festival runs yearly from July 22. Floats of giant, shaggy, long-necked monsters poke their demon heads into shops and homes to dispel evil spirits. When two of these “bull-ogres” meet, they spin and clash in furious battle.

The Gaiya dance carnival coincides with the festival. Brightly-costumed troupes of all ages compete, accompanied by prancing traditional horned-deer-masked folk performers.

Togyu bullfights are a unique experience dating from the 17th century. No bulls are killed in the matches, held five times a year. Two bulls tussle until one flees. Some crowd favorites even have their own theme song. The tournaments mimic sumo wrestling with similarities in umpiring, rituals and the ornamental aprons worn by the bulls.

Uwajima Castle

Steep terraced fields in Uwajima give it a remote but beautiful feel.

More sightseeing

More sights include Tensha-en, a 19th century garden with a pond shaped into the kanji character 心 (kokoro), meaning heart or spirit. Warei Shrine features Japan’s largest stone torii gate and the seaside Yusu Mizugaura terraced fields are a sweeping display of over 400-years old agricultural ingenuity.

Don’t underestimate Japan’s small towns. Uwajima is the last stop on Shikoku’s train line — a far-flung pocket within a pocket but brimming with vibrant culture.

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How To Get There

Address

宇和島城, 1-chōme-3 Marunouchi, Uwajima, Ehime 798-0060, Japan

By train

Take the bullet train to Okayama from Tokyo (3.5 to 4 hours) or Osaka (45 minutes). Take the  Shiokaze limited express to Matsuyama (2 hours, 30 minutes). From there, JR Yosan line goes to Uwajima (limited express 1 hour, 20 minutes).

By bus

You can take a bus from Matsuyama Airport for about 2 hours.

By car

A 1-hour and 30-minutes drive from Matsuyama station. (Matsuyama is the main city in Ehime Prefecture.)

By plane

If you are taking a domestic flight to Shikoku, Matsuyama Airport is the closest one.

By boat

Take the ferry from Beppu Port, Kyushu to Yawatahama Port, Shikoku (2 hours 50 minutes), then a bus to Yawatahama Station, then the JR Yosan Line limited express train to Uwajima (30 minutes). 

Where To Stay

Uwajima Regent Hotel
  • Marunouchi 1-2-24 Uwajima-Shi, Ehime 798-0060
  • 6.9/10
  • 0.2 km
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Hotel Clement Uwajima
  • Nishikimachi 10-1 Uwajima-Shi, Ehime 798-0034
  • 7.7/10
  • 0.7 km
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Uwajima Oriental Hotel
  • Tsurushima-cho 6-10 Uwajima-Shi, Ehime 798-0033
  • 8/10
  • 0.9 km
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Omeguri-an
  • Uwacho Ino 325-2 Seiyo-Shi, Ehime 797-0013
  • 9.3/10
  • 15.3 km
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