Ehime prefecture, located in the north-west part of Shikoku island was a prefecture that we didn’t know much about before visiting. Like most people, we had of course heard about the famous Dogo Onsen, one of Japan’s oldest onsens, however apart from that, we didn’t know much else.
Many viewers on YouTube sent us local recommendations which were extremely helpful and we tried to visit as many recommended spots as possible while travelling around Ehime prefecture in our camper van. We always love visiting spots recommended by locals since we like to explore hidden areas and go off the beaten path!
As I mentioned, Ehime prefecture is home to one of Japan’s oldest onsens but we also discovered that it boasts 26 of the temples on the 88 temple pilgrimage route, the highest peak in western Japan and some of Japan’s best oranges.
In this blog post, I will share our favourite experiences which I recommend you to also consider if you are planning a trip to Ehime prefecture.
1. The UFO Line
If there is one thing that you should not miss when visiting Ehime prefecture, it’s the UFO line! It’s a wonderful 27km road along a mountain ridge between 1300m and 1700m above sea level.
The views are absolutely incredible and we reckon it’s the best road we have ever driven on! It’s not a road for the faint hearted and if you are a timid driver we do not recommend it. At many points the road is very narrow so if you meet a car you will need to reverse to let oncoming cars pass.
This road is said to be the closest road to the sky in western Japan and was made famous in 2018 when Toyota used footage of this road in one of their TV commercials.
Please note that this road is not open all year round. It is usually open from mid-April to mid-November so we recommend you to check it’s open before heading there to avoid disappointment.
We filmed a video at the UFO line which you can see below.
2. The Dogo Onsen
No trip to Ehime would be complete without visiting the famous Dogo Onsen. The exterior is a beautiful wooden building and it’s one of the oldest onsen in Japan. We also heard that it was used as inspiration for the ghibli film “spirited away”.
We were surprised at the affordable entry price of ¥420 and expected the price to be higher since it is such a symbolic tourist destination. The public bath was smaller than expected but the temperature was absolutely perfect!
We filmed a video at the Dogo Onsen which you can see below.
3. Eat Ehime Oranges
You can’t visit Ehime and not try some of the amazingly delicious orange flavoured products which you can find almost everywhere. We spent our time eating as many orange flavoured foods as possible and some of our favourites included orange softcream, orange daifuku, orange juice and orange chu-hi.
We ate many famous orange flavoured foods in the below video.
4. Climb Mt. Ishizuchi
Mt. Ishizuchi standing at 1982m is the highest peak in western Japan. It’s one of the famous 100 Japanese mountains and one of Japan’s sacred 7 peaks. When viewing the mountain from afar, it looks very high and jagged and quite intimidating. The mountain is officially open for hiking between July 1st and October every year.
There are two main routes to reach the top of Mt Ishizuchi. We opted for the route starting at Ishizuchi Ropeway. The other route can be started from the Tsuchiya parking lot and it’s actually a shorter route.
We didn’t take the ropeway and opted to climb the mountain from the parking lot beside the ropeway. It was really tough but we did eventually make it to the top! The whole hike took us around 8 hours and the views were absolutely spectacular! We highly recommend Mt. Ishizuchi if your body is capable!
We filmed a video at Mt. Ishizuchi which you can see below.
5. Namerikawa Valley
The waterfall within the Namerikawa Valley really impressed us since it’s enclosed by big rock formations on all sides and you feel like you are part of nature. It’s also possible to stand on a rock ledge and experience standing under the waterfall.
The name of the spot translates as “dragon’s stomach” and it really does feel like you are inside a dragon’s stomach when you are surrounded by all those big rocks!
We filmed a video at the valley which you can see below.
6. Matsuyama Castle
Matsuyama Castle, built between 1602 and 1628 and also known as one of the original 12 castles remaining in Japan is definitely worth visiting due to its unique location and its interesting history.
It’s located on the top of a hill overlooking the entire city so the views are amazing. To access the castle, you can take a ropeway or walk uphill for 15 minutes. We were also impressed with the low entry fee of only ¥520.
We filmed a video at Matsuyama castle which you can see below.
7. Eat Sea Bream
50% of the seabream eaten in Japan comes from Ehime prefecture, so if you are a fish fan, being in Ehime prefecture provides you with a great opportunity to try the delicious local speciality know as “Taimeshi” which is seabream on rice.
There are two different styles of taimeshi which originate from different parts of Ehime. The first style is called “Hōjō taimeshi”, which is from the Chūyo region in central Ehime and a whole fish is cooked on top of rice so the rice absorbs the flavour of the fish.
The second style of taimeshi is called “Uwajima taimeshi” which is from the Nanyo (southern) region of the prefecture. Sea bream sashimi is mixed with raw egg, dashi and seasonings like spring onion and sesame seeds before being eaten with warm rice.
Check out the video below where I visit a famous restaurant that serves Uwajima taimeshi.
8. Omogo Gorge
Omogo Gorge is located near the base of Mt. Ishizuchi, the highest mountain in western Japan. It’s a stunning gorge with huge rocks on one side. There is also a lovely walking trail which you can do if you have time. It’s a lovely place to stop on the way to Mt. Ishizuchi or the UFO line.
Check out the video below which we made while visiting Omogo Gorge.
9. Shikoku Karst
Shikoku Karst is a plateau located on the border of Kochi and Ehime 1000m-1500m above sea level and is known for its lush green fields dotted with limestone mounds, towering windmills and fantastic stargazing. It’s a landscape rarely seen in Japan and we heard it’s a great place to enjoy all year round.
Due to its moderate temperature, an abundance of cows can be seen while driving the 25km road which winds along the length of the Karst. There are some viewpoints and places to stop while heading along the Karst so you will definitely have plenty of opportunities to take some wonderful photos.
There is also a huge campground located at Shikoku Karst in addition to some rental cottages which have panoramic views over Shikoku so if you want to escape the summer heat, Shikoku Karst is the perfect place to go!
We mentioned Shikoku Karst in our blog post about our recommended things to do in Kochi, however it is not clear if Shikoku Karst belongs to Kochi prefecture or Ehime prefecture since it sits on the border line! That’s why we have decided to mention it again here.
Check out the video below which we made while visiting Shikoku Karst.
10. Cycle The Shimanami Kaido
The Shimanami Kaido is a 60km road spanning from Onomichi City in Hiroshima prefecture over six islands to Imabari City in Ehime prefecture. There are three bridges connecting Honshu island to Shikoku island but this is the only one which can be crossed by foot or bicycle.
The scenery along the Shimanami Kaido is beautiful and there is a lovely cycling route which has been marked out using a blue line which you can easily follow. Bikes are available for rental and this cycle was named by CNN as “one of the world’s most incredible bike routes”.
We unfortunately couldn’t do the cycle route when we were there due to bad weather but we enjoyed the beautiful views from a nearby campsite. When we visit Hiroshima prefecture, we plan to cycle the entire route!