Uchiko Ehime Travel Guide

Uchiko Ehime Japan Travel Guide

A lot of people enjoy traveling to Japan not only to see the wonderful sites and tourist destinations but also to experience and enjoy the culture. Japan is known to have one of the oldest civilizations and cultures in Asia. They have thousands of years in their records and they have been known to have the most advanced technologies even during the earlier times.

There are many places in Japan to enjoy preserved evidence of this. The culture and history of Japan can easily be read and seen through architecture, written works, clothing, artworks and more. These preserved relics serve as time capsules to the past showing any traveler a glimpse of the majesty and glory of ancient Japan.

By katorisi (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 In a seemingly blast to the past travel experience, there are small cities and towns in Japan where the surroundings seem to have passed the tests of time. They are perfectly preserved and this does not only refer to houses or artifacts in museums – these are towns, villages, and streets where there are lines and lines of ancient houses which are passed down generations. There are historic shops and restaurants which have been in the business for centuries. 

One of the places that seem to have frozen through time would be Japan’s Uchiko old town. There are streets of houses and shops in the area. There are also old structures and buildings that were established in the same century as the houses. What makes the place even more special is that it looks almost exactly like it did a hundred years ago.

Uchio Ehime Map

The small town of Uchiko is located Southwest of Matsuyama in the Ehime prefecture. Ehime prefecture is located in the southernmost region of Japan. While the district of Matsuyama is found in the middle of the Ehime Prefecture. The place is home to less than 16 thousand people and the area was no less than 299 square kilometers.

However, the place is not as large as it used to hundreds of years ago. It was in 2005 when the town of Uchiko grew when it was merged with the town of Oda. This was when the area of Uchiko and the population of the town grew significantly.

Uchiko Ehime Weather

Just like the majority of the prefectures around the region, Ehime experiences a subtropical climate. This is due to the fact that it is located in the southernmost islands of Japan and they are located nearer the center of the Earth. With more exposure to the sun, the normal daily temperatures are much warmer than in other parts of the country.

By Reggaeman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

In this place, the summers are enjoyable hot while the winters are also warm – the temperature is also mostly humid throughout the year. People can still enjoy a dip in the seas or the water during wintertime. On other times of the year, Matsuyama experiences a significant amount of rainfall being exposed to tropical cyclones and thunderstorms.

Uchiko Ehime Transportation

There are different ways to reach Matsuyama from many parts of Japan, particularly Uchiko. There are options such as taking the train, taking the bus, or even flying in. How can the town of Uchiko be reached from Matsuyama?

One way to reach Uchiko would be via the limited express train. These are fast moving trains which stop only at specific, major stations. The Tokkyu or the limited express train usually takes just 25 minutes for 1280 yen. Matsuyama can also be reached by local trains at a cheaper price. On the other hand, it will be three times slower with the travel time slightly exceeding over an hour. Since the place is quite small, navigating around the town will not be that difficult.

For those who wish to enjoy the country side and the scenery, they have the option of taking the bus. There are bus lines like the Iyotetsu that travels from Matsuyama station to Misaki Station or Yawatahama Station. Both journeys pass by and stop at Uchiko before reaching their destinations. This usually costs about 700 yen and takes an hour long.

Uchiko Ehime Japan History

The town of Uchiko may be small in size and number however it was one of the wealthiest towns in Matsuyama during the Edo and Meiji period. During this time, the massive development of the wax and Japanese paper manufacturing in the area had changed Uchiko significantly.

By アラツク (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Districts within the town like Yokkaichi and Gokaku has become the sources of Uchiko’s wealth and fame. The town became Japan’s number one exporter of wax. Because of their known wealth, homes in Uchiko are made beautifully. There are lattices and decorative walls – many of which are still existent and usable up until today. It was in 1982 when the National Government of Japan has marked Uchiko as an Important Traditional Construction Preservation area – this helped in the preservation of many of the town’s old structures contributing to its fame as an “old town” in the modern times.

Famous Celebrations in Uchiko

Sasa Matsuri

The Sasa Matsuri is a summer festival in Uchiko and is usually celebrated between the 6th to the 8th day of August. In English, it is known as the Bamboo festival. During this celebration, residents are tasked to use bamboo in its many different forms to decorate the streets and their houses.

It is common to see colored paper and streamers that adorn bamboo shoots and sticks. There are poles with long strings of colored paper that sway with the wind. There are also ball-like decorations made from colorful pieces of paper which are hung at the end of bamboo, similar to a lantern.

This particular festival only started in the 1950s and was made for the enjoyment of young children. There are parades, contests, floats, and more during the three-day event. Every year, there are dance performances shown along the streets. There are also yukata contests for young girls, modernly styled yukatas are put on a fashion stage. Then, there is a lantern parade at night.

The streets are lined with different shops that sell clothes, snacks, and more. There are games where the winner can get prizes. Popular snacks like pancakes, okonomiyaki, caramel apples, and more are sold around town. Everyone enjoys the party wearing yukatas or summer kimonos. It is also common to see firework displays at night.

Ikazaki Kite Museum and Kite Fighting Festival

It is a popular sporting activity to enjoy the winds of spring and summer. A lot of people enjoy kite flying and kite fighting. This kite festival is held every year in Uchiko. Travelers can make a trip to kite stores and shops to purchase a good looking kite that can help them enter the games.

Usually, it is common to see kites bearing names of new born children. This is a way for locals of Uchiko to wish their new borns good health and fortune. The winner of the games would be the kite that will be able to fly the highest and the longest. There are years when the kite fighting festival is even shown on the news. The event can usually last an entire day from early morning to late afternoon.

What to eat in Uchiko Ehime Japan

Exotic Fruits and Vegetables

Those that enjoy traveling south of Japan would know that the volcanic activity in the region has made the soil absolutely fertile. This is why agriculture is the primary industry in the region. Uchiko is rich with shiitake mushroom plantations, grapes, pears, and persimmons – all of which are their specialty. There is even an exotic kind of fruit known as Iyokan that grown only in the Matsuyama city.

Uchiko is home to a variety of trees, shrubs, and other greeneries. Fruits and vegetables are sold cheap especially in flea markets around town. There is a bountiful harvest every year, and this is where most of their living comes from.

Ehime’s Famous Jakoten

The Ehime prefecture is well known for the delicacy of Jakoten. This is a type of small fish which is turned into a paste, with the heads removed and innards intact. The paste is then cut into small rectangular pieces before being fried. The small fish is known as Hotarujako which is a bioluminescent fish known as a glow belly.

This has been one of the most historical delicacies not only in Uchiko but in all of Ehime. The recipe for this particular snack can be dated back to the Edo period. Some people prefer it broiled and dipped in soy sauce. Other people like to garnish it with radishes. It is also a common addition to udon, salad, and soba.

By Hyougushi from Beer hall Dogo Bakusyu Kan at a microbrewery in Dogo Onsen, Dogo-Yunomachi, Matsuyama, Ehime (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Taruto snacks

This is a kind of dessert which is served only in Matsuyama and it is made from a rolled sponge cake. The cake is then filled with azuki bean paste, one of the favorite pastry delicacies in Japan. This particular sponge cake, although it looks quite modern, actually dates back to the 1700s. It was a snack commonly served to feudal lords together with tea if sticky rice cakes are not available. It is also known to be a kind of noble food, that the commoners are not allowed to eat.

Places to visit in Uchiko Ehime Japan

Uchiko Theater

The Uchiko theatre is one of the most important tourist destinations in all of the Uchiko. It was and still is an operational theatre that gives a stage for kabuki performances.

It is the major focal point of Uchiko’s goals of becoming a center for art and performance. True to their goals, the said Kabuki theatre still stands beautifully up until today. It was built in the early 1900s in the middle of the town. The theatre is small and can only accommodate a few sets of people. However, the entire theatre is well kept. The wood flooring has kept its shine, the seats looked brand new, and the stage looks just as it did a hundred years ago.

For those who wish to tour the entire theatre from top to bottom, an entrance fee will be charged totaling to about 400 yen. However, there are additional charges for those who wish to watch kabuki performances. The entire theatre is usually closed during the New Year celebrations.

Kamihaga Residence and the Japanese Wax Museum

During the earlier times, Uchiko was the center of Japanese wax manufacturing. This industry had made the town quite popular and wealthy in comparison to its neighboring towns. The Kamihaga residence is a mansion built in the 1900s and was home to the Kamihaga family. They were known to flaunt their wealth by extravagance and luxury and this could be easily seen with the décor and size of their home. The entire mansion is made from wooden materials with top-of-the line finishes. The place now stands as a museum.

Outside is a large garden for which the family enjoyed afternoon teas and snacks. This residence is adjacent to Japan’s Wax Museum. It features photos of wax stores and wax products. There are relics of the materials used to make wax which includes preserved raw materials and machinery to process it. There was an extensive research done to make wax usable during the time.

 Yokkaichi Old town

The residence of Kamihaga is not the only old-school home in town. The Yokkaichi Old town is a long street which is lined with wooden houses built in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. It features period houses – a trip to this place makes a person feel as if they have traveled through time. There is a park near this town where people can enjoy a quiet rest from all the touring. It is best to visit this place during the spring and summer times when temperatures start to go down in the month of April.

 There are parts of the Yokkaichi old town which have been turned from an ordinary shop or home into a traditional spa. Visitors can enjoy relaxing massages and the like.