Matsuyama is the capital city of Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku in Japan and is a sweet respite from the country’s frantic global cities offering the right mix of old and new traditions to keep a tourist occupied during the stay. The historic city is clammed with Buddhist temples, hot springs, shrines and buildings dating back to the early 14th century. Matsuyama has great connectivity both by rail and air, and is one of the few Japanese cities to have not abandoned its original tram system from the 1887. The city is the birthplace of haiku and is the perfect place to try pottery and indigo crafts besides other traditional crafts.
Here are 15 Places to visit in Matsuyama for the Travelling Architect:
1. Matsuyama Castle
The castle offers a bird’s eye view of the area and is one of the Japan’s twelve original castles, that has survived since 1868. Matsuyama Castle has numerous buildings that provides an insight to Japan’s weaponry, haiku poetry, traditional construction practices and architectural marvels.
One of Japan’s oldest and most popular hot springs, DogoOnsen is famous for its main attraction- DogoOnsenHonkan, a wooden public bathhouse from 1894. Even though Dogo is largely suburban now, the area around Dogo still retains the feeling of a ‘resort town’. The interior of Honkan is a maze of stairways and rooms that are always crowded with bathers and staff. Another striking feature of famous attractions in Matsuyama are their mentions in novels and films. Miyazaki’s popular animated film, “Spirited Away” is said to have been inspired by Honkan.
3. Shikhi Memorial Museum
Matsuyama born-poet, Masaoka Shiki initiated the modern reform and reestablishment of haiku and tanka, two traditional forms of poetry and is responsible for influencing a whole generation of poets after him. The museum is devoted to his life and work, his poetry and paintings that depicts his power of observation and his skill to produce art even when faced with serious obstacles.
4. Shikido Museum
Shikido is perhaps a better fitting tribute to the life of the veteran poet of Matsuyama, Shiki and his simple life that had a much greater impact. This tiny one-storey building is one of the stops of the famous walking trail mentioned in the novel Saka no Ue no Kumo. It is a reconstructed structure of the poet’s childhood home with a peculiar display of a Botchan Train carriage in front of the Shikido.
5. Ishiteji Temple
The city’s most famous temple is number 51 of the 88 temples on the Shikoku pilgrimage. Ishiteji’s name literally means ‘stone hand temple’ referring to the local legend of how the temple came into being. The temple is known for its Niomon Gate, designated as a national treasure. All the structures of the temple, from halls to the pagoda display the typical and somewhat peculiar architectural style of the Kamakura Period.
6. Wrap House
The house was designed by Apollo architects in Matsuyama exhibits a repetitive wooden structure which forms a column-free, shell-like space. The spaces inside is illuminated by indirect lighting revealing an evening atmosphere that is beyond imaginable.
7. Fire Works Villa
The family residence is located just outside the city centre, which puts an enormous display of fireworks to mark the start of the summer festival. There were two main requirements of the client- one, to be able to watch the summer fireworks from the balcony and two, to have all the living spaces on the sunny second floor. So, architect Teruki Takayoshi designed a simple two-storey property with a rooftop terrace, a secluded south facing balcony and a two-storey high window.
The growing trend for skinny houses was taken a step forward by Japanese studio Be-Fun Design and designed a terrace of four residences on a plot of just 60 square metres. Each residence has a ground floor and four floors of accommodation, all adjusted in a width of just one ‘spiral’ staircase for each dwelling.
9. KO Kindergarten
A rebuild kindergarten project by architects HIBINOSEKKEI + Youji no Shiro which is constructed with the sole vision of ‘enhancing child health through play’. By shifting rooms such as staff office and nursery rooms horizontally and vertically, free spaces to accommodate 14 unique play areas were created that actively encourage children to engage in physical activity and stimulate other multiple interests.
10. Ehime Prefectural Museum of Art
The museum is located in the campus of the Matsuyama Castle and displays a good collection of art pieces by both Ehime’s citizens and European artists. The museum also holds exhibitions of various themes and specific artists.
11. Elleair Matsuyama Museum of Art
A small museum that accommodates a collection of not more than thirty paintings by renowned Japanese artists. Its location is off beaten- on top of a mountain above Dogo Plain. The museum was designed by Tadao Ando, a famous Japanese architect and like his other works, this museum has a reinforced concrete structure with narrow passageways.
12. Saka no Ue no Kumo Museum
The museum is inspired by the novel ‘Saka no ue no kumo’ written by Ryotaro Shiba. It is designed by the earlier mentioned architect Tadao Ando in the form of an intriguingly attractive, triangular building.
13. Itami Juzo Museum
The museum is dedicated to famous filmmaker Itami Juzo, remembered for his films ‘Tampopo’ and ‘The Funeral’. The museum exhibits various items used in the filmmaking process along with scripts and clips of his work. However, there is little English information available of non-native tourists.
Also known as one of the hidden gems of Matsuyama, it is a Gothic French-style chateau below the Matsuyama Castle, completely hidden by large canopy of tree and tall buildings around it. The villa was a social outhouse for the elite of the time, including the royal family of the Matsuyama clan.
15. Setouchi Aonagi Hotel
With the rising tourism opportunities in Matsuyama, Tadao Ando oversaw yet another remodelling of an art museum into what is today a luxury hotel, Setouchi Aonagi with the architect’s vision of ‘minimal luxury’. The two pools, that illuminate at night oversee the Setouchi region, a waterfall creates the perfect backdrop for diners interested in local cuisine and the architect’s trademark use of bare concrete is apparent throughout the hotel.
This list is a close insight to every place an architect must visit when in Matsuyama, Japan as these shall intrigue the artist within us all and demand us the question the conventional form and function of design.