The city of Uwajima sits in the southern part of Ehime Prefecture, along the indented coastline known as “ria shoreline”, with a population of 90,000. Overlooking the beautiful Sea of Uwa, the city has developed as a castle town since the Edo period and functioned as a center of the southwest of Shikoku Island. Uwajima boasts Japan’s biggest pearl industry and is known for being a bullfighting venue, where events are held five times a year. It was a busy tourist spot until the collapse of the economic bubble and has now become a quiet seaside town with a historical ambience.
1. KIYA RYOKAN
Kiya Ryokan is an old Japanese-style hotel located in the corner of downtown, just to the south of Uwajima Castle. Founded in 1911, the two-story wooden building is reminiscent of an old inn from the Meiji era, which has hosted a number of VIPs and celebrities of Japan. It was sorely missed by many people when it went out of business in 1995; however, a little while later, in the spring of 2012, it reopened as an art-piece, while also serving as accommodation. Yuko Nagayama, the architect who redesigned the facility, has successfully turned the place into comfortable accommodation by adding modern touches in the building, without detracting from the traditional Japanese architecture.
[Address] 2-8-2 Honmachi Ohte Marunouchi Uwajima, Ehime
2. UWAJIMA CASTLE
Uwajima Castle sits roughly at the center of the current urban area, being one of only 12 castles in Japan that have a castle tower, as with Matsuyama Castle in Ehime. Uwajima Castle was originally built in a different location, facing the Uwajima Bay. It was designed by Todo Takatora, who was a renowned master of castellation. Tactically built in a unique asymmetrical pentagon, the castle was a strong fortress, which, at the time, utilized its exquisite fortifications to great effect. Climb up the stone steps along the huge stone walls until you reach the summit, where you will find the three-storied castle tower that sits just as it has since times long past. Surrounded by dense vegetation (populated by over 400 species) and mossy stone walls, the castle takes on a contemplative and delicate appearance; definitely a sight worth seeing.
[Address] 1 Marunouchi Uwajima, Ehime
Gate: 6:00-17:00 (Oct-Mar) /18:00 (Apr-Sep)
Castle: 9:00-16:00 (Oct-Mar) /17:00 (Apr-Sep)
3. WAREI SHRINE
As a god of industry, Warei Shrine has been widely admired by people engaged in industry, including fishermen. It is the grand shrine of warei worship and has been affectionately called “Warei-sama”. After you have been welcomed by the towering grand torii gate, cross the Taiko bridge over the river and you will be stunned by the mighty Otafuku-men (a mask of the god of luck and happiness) and Hanadaka-men (a mask of the god with an eminent nose) hung at each side of the Zuishinmon gate. Once you step inside the shrine, you will be enveloped by a profound tranquility and overwhelmed by the quiet dignity exuded by the main hall, with its traditional hip-and-gable roof structure.
[Address] 1451 Warei-cho Uwajima, Ehime
The Sea of Uwajima is fringed with a ria coastline where the mountain slope drops directly into the sea. Thanks to this unique landform, the sea is rich in nutrients and suitable for pearl cultivation. In fact, Uwajima is home to Japan’s finest and largest pearl industry. Pearl farms in Uwajima offer visitors a tour around their cultural site and let them take pearls from the shell. There is a workshop where you can enjoy accessory-making with pearls.
[Address] 3-58 Takagushi Uwajima, Ehime
[Opening Hours] 8:00-20:00
[Address] 5121-9 Miura Nishi Uwajima, Ehime
[Opening Hours] 9:00-17:00http://www.doi-pearl.co.jp/tour/experience/
Uwajima is one of the few places in Japan where bullfighting can be seen; it is a cultural tradition unique in the area. Without any time restriction, the battles sometimes end in one minute or can be prolonged for more than 40 minutes. The bullfighting in Uwajima is regularly held, five times a year, an impressive spectacle you should see at least once.
[Address] 496-2 Warei-cho Uwajima, Ehime
[Opening Hours] 12:00～14:00
6. YUSUMIZUGAURA TERRACE FIELD
“Plow the fields until they reach the sky”; this is how the terrace field of Mizugaura is spoken of. The expression is no exaggeration and the location offers breathtaking picturesque views of steep hills layered with stone walls, which harmonize with the background scenery of the beautiful Sea of Uwa. Gazing at the verdant terrace fields that stretch to the top of the hill, you are sure to be overwhelmed by the history-laden landscape, which was created through the exertion of the people. You can enjoy dishes cooked with fresh local vegetables and seafood in “Dan-dan-jaya” café at the foot of the terrace field.
[Address] Yusu Mizugawara Uwajima, Ehime
Uwajima tai-meshi is a local dish unique to Uwajima. Fresh slices of sea bream (tai) are mixed with a sauce made from soy sauce, mirin (cooking wine), raw eggs sesame and broth, and then served as a topping over rice (meshi).