Matsuyama, the largest city in Shikoku, has dominated this area since 1595, when Lord Kato arrived here. The castle he began to build seven seven years later still looms over downtown Matsuyama as its definitive landmark.
A large stone monument at the left-hand corner of the JR Matsuyama station plaza reads as follows:
Come spring as of old
When such revenues of rice *
Braced this castle town!
This monument characterizes the nostalgic pride of haiku-loving
Matsuyama people, three out of ten of whom are said to be haiku
Very few Japanese, haiku poets or not, can visit Matsuyama without remembering Shiki, a preeminent son of Matsuyama, who made this town what is called the hometown of Haiku(5-7-5 syllable verse).
Another nationwide attraction of Matsuyama is the fable Dogo Onsen Hot Spring. The Dogo Onsen Honkan public bathhouse of distinctive architecture can be fully experienced inside.
Ishite-ji Temple near Dogo Onsen is one of the most impressive of the 88 Sacred Places of Shikoku. It is also known for a gripping supernatural legend deeply iｍbued with the origin of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
* It was 150,000 koku.
The three-storied main donjon and a subsidiary donjon fortified with several turrets and gates form a typical fort castle of the 17th century. The original buildings are gone except for Inui-mon Gate, some walls and ramparts.
Recently the city has completed an extensive project to rebuild the entire castle. Great care was taken to employ the same techniques and materials as used in the original construction; not one nail was used to fit all the wooden parts together.
The main donjon houses a large collection of swords, spears, armor, documents, works of art and calligraphy, and mementoes mainly of the lords of the castle -- the Katos, the Gamos and several generations of the Matsudairas.
The local enthusiasm for composing haiku dates back to 1674 when Lord Matsudaira Sadanao came to govern this province. While in Edo (Tokyo), Sadanao had proved himself a distinguished haiku student of Kikaku, one of the foremost disciples of Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), the poetic genius who virtually invented the classical Japanese haiku.
People in Matsuyama took interest in the literary art form their new lord brought to them and soon made haiku an outlet for artistic expression in their daily lives. In 1880 Japan's first haiku monthly was published in Matsuyama, with Masaoka Shiki's maternal grandfather among its editors.
In the 1890's, Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), who had been trying to bring Japanese literature more up-to-date in Tokyo as a student-turned-newspaperman, succeeded in originating a new style of haiku by freeing it from formalism, while fighting a losing battle against tuberculosis. Before his death at 35, he managed to establish new standards for waka (5-7-5-7-7 syllable verse) as well.
Soon Matsuyama produced many other poets who carried on Shiki's shasei realism as Japan's premier haiku poets throughout the modern period that followed, including Takahama Kyoshi, Kawahigashi Hekigodo, Naito Meisetsu, Yamagihara Kyokudo and Ishida Hakyo. They in turn attracted such a large number of haiku poets to their hometown that Matsuyama was dubbed "the hometown of haiku."
Literature-loving people will enjoy visiting these places:
Shiki-do House on the ground of Shoshuzen-ji Temple behind Mtsuyama-shi-eki Station is a replica of Shiki's home -- a small house of a low-ranking samurai family. Shiki spent his first 16 years there until he set out for Tokyo to study.
The exhibition includes about a dozen paintings he did with the juice of herbs and flowers his sister picked from the garden of his house in Tokyo where he was bedridden for the last seven years of his short life.
Another house associated with Shiki is the Gudabutsu-an behind Bansuiso Art Museum. At the age of 27 Shiki returned to Matsuyama, trying to recover from tuberculosis he had contracted five years before, and he shared a two-storied cottage with Natsume Soseki, a friend from college in Tokyo. It was the house Soseki rented and named Gudabutsu-an after one of his pen names, Gudabutsu or Foolish Buddha. Soseki's portrait is now ubiquitous on the 1000 yen bill.
There are 'haiku post' boxes of various shapes and sizes standing in many public places including Matsuyama-jo Castle. The forms to write your haiku, name and address, are placed beside each post.
Taneda Santoka (1882-1940), a haiku nonconformist who cast aside all the rules including the 5-7-5 syllable structure, is also associated with Matsuyama. Santoka, an ordained Zen priest, after spending most of his life wandering all over the country as a begging monk, chose to settle in Matsuyama only to die 10 months later.
The humble cottage where he dwelt -- Isso-an (A Blade of Grass Hermitage) is preserved north of Ehime University. His books and documents are also preserved in Shiki Memorial Museum.
Iyo-gasuri Kaikan Museum The museum houses 2,300 items concerning this traditional art of Iyo-gasuri making -- the indigo dyeing and weaving peculiar to this former Iyo Province, designated as a National Folk Art by the government, and enjoying nationwide fame. It has a workshop to demonstrate the art and a shop to sell the products, as well. Admission free.
Dogo Onsen, one of the oldest and best-known hot spring spas in Japan, was visited by several Emperors and Empresses, noblemen and noblewomen as early as the 5th century.
From the Dogo Onsen Streetcar Terminal, 5 minutes' walk along the shopping arcade will bring you to an ornate Japanese-style building, the Dogo Onsen Honkan, the main public bathhouse run by the city.
There are two baths -- Kami-no-yu and Tama-no-yu. The former is more popular than the latter. Many local people visit Kami-no-yu every day, to enjoy meeting people as well as taking a bath.
To the Japanese people in general, hot springs are not only for healing physical ailments but also for recreation. The alkaline water containing minerals is supposed to be good for rheumatism, skin diseases, wounds and so on.
The drum-beating from the small pavilion on top of the main building is meant as an invitation. The first beating at 6:30 a.m. signals the opening of the house, followed by a second beating at noon. The last at 6:00 p.m. is for evening bathers.
The carved white heron surmounting the pavilion roof is the symbol of Dogo Onsen.
Legend says that long, long ago a wounded white heron was seen to bathe here as if it knew the healing effect of the hot spring.
Both Kami-no-yu and Tama-no-yu are divided into men's and women's baths, and by different ranks of service such as tea with cake, cotton kimono or private saloon.
The neighborhood of Dogo Onsen has many places of interest. Isaniwa-jinja Shrine, a gracious vermilion-lacquered building, built in 1667 by the then Matsudaira lord, is one of the three best examples of Hachiman-zukuri architecture in Japan.
This neighborhood was the political center of Iyo when the Iyo Suigun seamen led by the Kono Clan reigned supreme from the 13th to 16th centuries. Dogo Koen Park was the site of the Konos' castle destroyed in 1585 when Hideyoshi subjugated the whole island of Shikoku. Its ancient moats and ramparts still remain.
Shiki Memorial Museum in the same park is a literary museum dedicated to Masaoka Shiki. The modern white building houses a large collection of writings, photographs, videos and documents concerning Shiki. Biographical sketches are also provided of poets and writers who helped him with his literary activities, carrying on his shasei realism after his early death.
Ishite-ji Temple (No.51) offers many things to see, including the main gate (a National Treasure), the main hall, the three-storied pagada, the belfry, the Gomado hall (all Important Cutural Properties), and the treasure house.
But to appreciate the temple fully, one must hear the following story:
Long ago there lived in this neighborhood a man called Emon Saburo. He was very rich, but all he wanted was to be richer still.
One winter day a wandering monk came to his gate, prayed and held out his begging bowl to appeal for food. Saburo coldly refused him. The next day the same priest came again, but Saburo angrily drove him away. But the priest kept returning. On the 8th day Saburo went at him with a stick, struck him, dashing his bowl to the ground.
The priest came no more. But on the next day the eldest of Saburo's sons died, and the next day another. Eight days passed, and every one of his eight children was gone, to his grief and horror.
Saburo then realized how wrong-headed and evil he had been. What he had to do, he determined, was to go and find that holy man and beg absolution. Soon he was following the monk's trail, asking for alms, begging for food himself every day.
He went around and around Shikoku Island for four years, but in vain. Having already made 20 rounds, he decided to make one more round in the reverse direction, instead of trying to catch up with the monk. His health was failing, but he had to keep searching. On his way to Shozan-ji (No.12) deep in the mountains, Saburo fell down, ready to die.
At that moment, Kobo Daishi, the priest he had been searching for, appeared before him. The saint, knowing everything, forgave Saburo, saying his sincere repentance had washed away his sins.
Greatly relieved, the man was about to close his eyes. Then Daishi asked if he had a last wish. He answered that he would like to be reborn as the lord of Iyo, his home province, to have the power to do great good for his people. Daishi picked up a small stone, wrote something on it, and pressed the stone into the dying man's left hand.
Some time later the wife of the Lord of Iyo gave birth to a baby boy whose left hand would not open. They tried everything but they could not open it. At last they called in the head priest of their family temple Anyo-ji. He chanted powerful prayers and finally the baby's hand opened. Inside was a stone and on it was written "Emon Saburo Reborn."
To memorialize this mysterious event, the name of the temple was changed to Ishite-ji or Stone-Hand Temple. Believers can see that stone in the temple's Treasure House.
Emon Saburo, who went around and around Shikoku searching for Daishi, is considered to be the first to have made the Shikoku Pilgrimage.
'Tobe' is an ancient word meaning 'Whetstone-Producing Folk' in the Yamato Period (390-645), indicating that this area has long been known for its whetstone production.
But is was not until 1777 that the stone was utilized in producing what is now known as Tobe-yaki Pottery. Two years earlier the 9th Lord of Ozu Province, anxious to have some local industry to improve the financial condition of his province, had ordered Sugino Josuke, one of the local potters, to make porcelain out of the whetstone chips so abundant in the village of Tobe. Josuke tried hard but in vain until at last he took the advice of a potter from northern Kyushu and succeeded in making the first Tobe-yaki.
The world-famous ceramic artists who visited the town in 1953 -- Yanagi Muneyoshi, Bernard Leach and Hamada Shoji -- greatly contributed to raising the artistic quality of Tobe-yaki. 23 years later it was finally designated a National Folk Art by the government.
Tobe Zoo is the best in Shikoku. Animals are loose in the garden.
Mt. Ishizuchi (1982 m) is the highest peak in western Japan. "Ishizuchi" or "Stone-Hammer" comes from the rocky summit weathered into such a shape. To reach the narrow summit, one must properly outfit for a 2 or 3 hour climb, including 3 chains up sheer cliffs near the top.
Traditionally Mt.Ishizuchi, like many other high mountains in Japan, has been considered a sacred place -- an abode of the mountain gods. Ancient Japanese drew no hard line between such gods and their own ancestors who they thought became protective spirits watching over them from on high in the mountains.
When Esoteric Buddhism arrived in the 9th century, it reinforced the older beliefs with more complex lore. Thus high mountains attracted even more worshippers, providing both Shintoists and Esoteric Buddhists with sacred places for their mountaineering asceticism.
Even today during the Mountain Opening season (July 1 - 10), ascetics and worshippers, formally dressed in white, pay an annual visit to the top of the mountain.* The three figures in the small shrine there --Zao Gongen Bodhisattvas -- are considered to be their guardians.
* This mountain was formerly closed to women. So even today women are not allowed on July 1st, though allowed from the 2nd on.
Omogokei Ravine in the southern valley below Mt. Ishizuchi is known for its scenic beauty -- multi-colored rocks, falls, deep streams, primeval forests and colorful leaves in autumn. A 2 hour hike between Kammon and Kumabuchi (3km) is very popular.
Imabari, formerly the castle town of Imabari Province with a fief of 30,000 koku, is now known for towel, textile and shipbuilding industries.
The present castle tower in Fukeage Koen Park (7 minutes' walk from the port) is of modern construction, housing a large collection of swords and armor.
The Kono Art Museum (10 minutes' walk from JR Imabari on the way to the port) is recommended to those who are interested in Japanese art and literature traditional and modern.
The Ehime Bunka-kan Museum, next to the castle, is also worth visiting for those interested in ceramics, as it exhibits a small but excellent collection of ancient pottery from China, Korea and Japan.
Visiting Oyamazumi-jinja on Omishima Island and Kosanji Temple on neighboring Ikuchishima Island on the same day affords contrasting visions of a venerable Shinto shrine and an ornate Buddhist temple.
Oyamazumi-jinja, a time-honored shrine, is surrounded by giant camphor trees, some of which are well over 2,500 years old. Originally it belonged to the Ochi and Kono families, powerful local clans, and by the 10th century it had become the principal shrine of Iyo. The main deity enshrined -- Oyamazumi-no-kami -- was a god of seas and mountains born from Izanagi and Izanami, the mythological creators of Japan. By and by, Oyamazumi began to be considered the patron god of the whole body of Japanese islands, as the tall stone slab beside the torii entrance gate declares. Thus the shrine attracted such worshippers as Emperors, lords and warriors from Honshu, Kyushu amd Shikoku. Those who had had their prayers answered gladly revisited the shrine and presented fine offerings to the god to express their thanks. Most of the over 1,000 objects in the shrine museums were dedicated by those grateful worshippers of Oyamazumi-no-kami. Its collection of Japanese arms and armor housed in the Museum is the best of its kind in Japan, including 8 National Treasures and 462 Important Cultural Properties. A suit of armor (a National Treasure) was dedicated by Minamoto no Yoshitsune, and another (a National Treasure) was from Kono Michinobu.
Updated on 22 October 2016
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