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February 19, 2018 - Discovering Matsuyama
Hi, my name is Anni. I am from Germany, but live in Matsuyama currently. I would like to introduce to you one of my favorite spots you probably will not get recommended in your typical travel guide: Shiroyama Koen. gKoenh means park in Japanese, and that is basically what you get. But underneath there is so much more to discover.
The best view of Matsuyama Castle
Shiroyama Koen is in many ways the heart of Matsuyama. First, it is the place where you can get the most impressive view of Matsuyama Castle. Originally built in 1603 it was voted third place in the Trip Advisor Best Castles in Japan Ranking in 2017. It is also the pride of the Matsuyama citizens and the most popular tourist spot in the city.
The park itself was part of the third defense ring around the castle and starting in the 17th century the residential area of the Daimyo was here as well. The moat around Shiroyama Koen is a relic of those days. How about grabbing a coffee on a sunny day, and relaxing on one of the benches, while imagining the life of the people back then.
Get a glimpse into everyday life
Shiroyama Koen is also a great place to observe everyday life in Matsuyama at any time of the day. Early in the morning you will see the golden agers of the city keeping them in shape through gRajio taisoh, the famous warm-up radio program popular not only in Japan but also in China and Taiwan. Throughout the day you will see business men and women in their lunch break, schoolboys and girls practicing a dance or a song.
Even after sunset the park is full of creative energy. On any given night you will see an a cappella group using the free space to practice, an old man singing along his acoustic guitar or people rehearsing a play. As a bonus youfll get to see the light-up of Matsuyama Castle.
Different at all seasons
On a special season like gOhanamih, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, Shiroyama Koen is an excellent place to experience the Japanese way of celebrating spring. Take a blanket to the park with you, buy some drinks and a gbentoh, the famous Japanese lunch box, and have a seat under the trees. Around you, you will see circles of colleagues, friends and families sitting on blue sheets, probably celebrating not only the beautiful pink but also a new beginning, since spring is the start of the new school and business year.
In autumn you will have another chance to see people enjoy themselves in the park, because as the Ehime prefecture is famous for gimotakih. In this period gsatoimoh, a special kind of potato, is boiled and eaten from a huge pot filled with vegetables and meat of the region. Also, in this season I recommend a visit to the Historical Garden Ninomaru nearby. Itfs famous for the beautiful red leaves of the Japanese maple and if you are lucky you will also spot a wedding couple in traditional Kimonos.
Great start and end to your day
Shiroyama Koen is also a great place to start or end your exploration of Matsuyama Castle. There are two ways that connect the hill directly to the park. You can stroll down the hill and have a seat on a bench in Shiroyama Koen to look back at the impressive landscape once more. On the other hand, if you want to start your exploration a little more athletic, you can use the almost hidden third path to the castle. Far away from the crowded ropeway you surely will find space and time to climb to the top at your pace.
How to get there
Take the streetcar at JR Matsuyama Station in the direction of gDogo Onsenh and get off at gMinami Horibatah or gKencho-maeh station. The ride will take approximately 15 minutes and cost only 160 Yen no matter how many stations you go. You will have to pay, when you get off the train. At the front door beside the driver is a box, in which you need to through your coins in. Just watch how the locals are doing it, and follow their lead. You have to pay the exact amount, because the machine will not return your change. In case you need to make change for a bill, use the change machine before getting off.
The entrance into the park is free of charge. It is open at all times.