This place is marginally interesting, with the small replica European style castle, and grounds that you can freely walk around in. It's not a bad place to go an chill out and get some views of the city.
Soseki Natsume (the guy on the old 1,000 yen bill; since 2003 or 2004 they replaced all the luminaries on the handbills) authored a book called "Botchan", a story about an angry young man from urban Edo on his first teaching assignment in a rural area - this brooding new graduate seemed to have found at least some solace in his daily excursion to this bathhouse. The author Soseki himself actually spent a year in this area on his first teaching assignment post graduation...
There are four levels of bathing options:
1) Usual "Sento" Public Bath
2) Bathing with Rental Towel and Yukata, and Tea with large public relaxation tatami room
3) Same as 2), but with a different bath and price
4) Private Resting Room with all the amenities, including a tour of a special room of the spa exclusively perused by Emperor Showa in the 1950's.
Simple Alkaline (Hypotonic Alkaline) Spa
Temperature is about 42 degrees C, pH 9.0, Radon Content 1.49 mache/kg
(spa mineral components abstracted from http:// www.chaharu.com/data/kounou/)
There is a quiet little garden at the foot of Matsuyama castle that is not a bad place to relax. It's about 100 yen. To get there from Matsuyama castle, just walk down the hill on the opposite side from the ropeway to the castle, and you'll find it. Will post some photos once I find them.
Just up the road from Dogo is Oku Dogo, where there is a hotel, which not only has a good buffet restaurant and summer beer garden, but an onsen as well, with various kinds of baths. It's fun to have a few beers and then head outside to have a bath.
I enjoyed my visit, although it was soured by a racist local who didn't like the idea of sharing a large bath with a non-Japanese.
The Dogo area is well worth a look for a number of reasons.
You can take a bath on the famous onsen, there are plenty of souvenir stores to have a look at, there's a delightful little clock that plays out the 'Bocchan and Madonna' (famous Matsuyama story) story on the hour, and Dogo station itself is worth having a glimpse at as well.
This beautiful park is especially enchanting in spring, when the cherry trees are in full bloom. Small stone bridges, water and beautifully shaped trees - this idyllic picture is only disturbed by the blue plastic blankets the park authority spreads under the cherry trees in spring time, when whole japanese families come to celebrate the cherry blossom. There are food stalls where you can buy snacks, soft drinks and alcohol, and you can even rent a barbecue! So in the afternoon the peaceful park becomes a very popular and loud hang-out place, but the atmosphere is great!
Erected in the Hojoen Square in front of Dogo Onsen Station, the Karakuri Clock features lovely little figures reenacting a scene from the novel "Botchan" every hour from 8am to 10 pm.
This can be best admired while bathing your feet in the hot foot bath! :-)
If you don't want (or dare) to take a "real" bath at the Dogo Onsen Honkan, at least give your tired feet a rest and dip them in the Foot Bath at Hojoen Square. The hot water that is spewed from a Meiji Era iron pot is unbelievably relaxing!!
Kurita Chodo, a close friend of Kobayashi Issa, constructed this small edifice in 1790 to perform the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Its garden is really beautiful. Part of the structure was restored to preserve its original form and the site was renamed "Koshin-an Historical Garden".
This is a sweet little place, peaceful and quiet. We were the only tourists there, maybe because it's not easy to find (haha). A friendly man we asked for directions walked all the way - approximately 15 min. - with us, talking in Japanese all the time! It didn't seem to bother him that we didn't understand anything of what he was saying!
Ishite means "stone hand", from a legend about a Matsuyama lord born with a stone in his hand. The Ishite temple was built in 728 and is No. 51 of the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku. It is noted for its fine Kamakura architecture. It has a beautiful three-storey pagoda and is overlooked by a Buddha figure on the hill.
The atmosphere in this temple is particularly peaceful, also due to the setting at the foot of the hill among trees.
Just a few minutes walk from the Dogo Onsen Honkan, a long flight of steps leads up to the Isaniha-jinja. Built in 1667 with a central tower in the Chinese style and adorned with intricate carvings, it is one of only three shrines in Japan to show the architecture devoted to Hachiman, a god of war.
Dogo Onsen is one of Japan's oldest and most famous hot springs, located in the outskirts of Matsuyama. Main attraction is the Dogo Onsen Honkan, a Meiji Period, wooden public bathhouse, dating from 1894. Unfortunately, we were too cowardly to go in and take a bath, as we have never been to a public japanese bath and there were absolutely no signs in English. Maybe it's best to stay in a hotel near the Onsen, it seems they provide their guests with the necessary accessories (we saw many Japanese people with the same small baskets, towels, and kimonos).
A basic bath costs 300 Yen.
The Dogo Onsen Area can easily be reached by tram, there is also a nice little shopping arcade in front of the Dogo Onsen Honkan.
This ancient fortification was completed by Katosama-no-suke Yoshiaki in 1627. The parts destroyed by fire or bombardment over the centuries have been completely restored in the original wooden construction. Being situated on a hill and surrounded by cherry trees, it offers fine views of Matsuyama and is a popular picnic spot for Japanese families. Entrance fee for the castle is 500 Yen, but there is not very much to see inside except for some Samurai armors.
Unfortunately, the tower was under renovation at our visit, but it's nevertheless worthwile spending about an hour on the hill, admiring the castle and the views. It's really a beautiful place!
Ishite-ji Temple is temple number 51(and the most famous temple) on the Shikoku Pilgrim trail. It has Nio-Mon Gate(main gate), pagodas and halls that you can stroll around. Don't be surprised if you see "pilgrims" in white coats walking around the temple grounds as this is a traditional thing to do in Shikoku.
I was very impressed with Matsuyama Castle. When I went it was extremely crowded but worth it. The castle was worth paying the minimal fee to see inside it. It is located on Katsuyama hill with excellent views of Matsuyama city.