The cold weather at this of year is the perfect opportunity for embracing the Japanese spirit and heading to an onsen or hot spring. Although there are options within the surrounding area and of course, to the north, those people who dislike the cold may be looking for an alternative. That alternative is Matsuyama.
Matsuyama is located on the island of Shikoku, south of Hiroshima, which means temperatures are usually a little warmer. Although it is on a completely different island, the fast and efficient “Super “Jet” high speed boat that runs between Hiroshima and Matsuyama means it is possible to do as a day trip.
The high speed boat leaves from Hiroshima Port (starting at 7.30am) and takes approximately an hour to Matsuyama. There is also the option to catch it from Kure which means it leaves later than from the Port by about 23 minutes. The full timetable and prices can be found on the website shown below.
Matsuyama is filled with plenty of history and is most famous for its castle perched on top of the hill overlooking the city. The other famous attraction is of course, Dogo-onsen, the oldest in Japan and the inspiration for the onsen in Hayao Miyazaki’s famous anime, ‘Spirited Away.’
Perhaps the most famous story associated with the onsen is the legend of the white heron. The story goes that it bathed its injured leg every day in the hot water that came from a rock. It was soon restored to health and after it flew away, the story of the healing water began to spread.
The onsen’s water supply is from a total of 17 springs that rise through cracks in the granite 200-1000m underground. The temperature sits at a comfortable 47 degrees Celsius and the alkaline water is said to provide relief for a range of ailments from simple muscle pain to digestive illnesses.
Four types of bathing are available and these range in price from 410 yen (adults), 160 yen (children) to 1550 yen (adults) and 770 yen for children. The opening hours are from 6am until either 10 or 11pm depending on which bath you have chosen.
To get to the onsen from the ferry terminal a bus is available to Dogo Onsen Tram stop. This takes 40 minutes and costs 600 yen one way. The onsen itself is then a four minute walk from here.
Although the trip is easily done in a day, it is a little pricey. The ferry doesn’t come cheap but for the short time it takes to arrive and the reward of the onsen, it is still highly recommended. Why not take some time off during the new year and head to Matsuyama for a day of history and relaxation at the oldest and most famous onsen in Japan.