Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shikoku Camping - Matsuyama - Part I

November 28, 2009

May 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 2009

Planning and Traveling
In Japan there are three holidays in a row at the beginning of May. That week is called “Golden Week”. Usually, Julian and I don’t like to travel during these holidays because all of Japan has time off, but this year we decided to take the entire week off to check out and camp in Shikoku. Shikoku is not a popular destination among tourists mostly because there are so many other famous sites in Japan, but if you have time on your hands it’s certainly worth a visit for it’s rural beauty.

Shikoku, which means “four provinces” in Japanese, is the smallest and least populous of the four main islands of Japan. It’s located south of Honshu and south of where I live. I had never been to Shikoku but had heard it was a very rural and beautiful area of Japan including mountains, rivers, beaches, onsens (hot springs) and traditional villages.

Our first destination was Matsuyama. Matsuyama is located on the northwest part of the island and is the capital of Ehime Precture. It’s famous for their orange production, Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama Castle and haiku.

As we started planning the trip, we invited many friends to come along with us. We decided it would be fun and cheap to take a night ferry from Kobe to Matsuyama.

Some of our friends joined us and others went by car and met us at the campsite. The ferry left Kobe around 10:30 at night. This meant that we had one night of cheap accommodation and travel and we would arrive in the morning ready to see Matsuyama.

We were super excited to take a ferry. There are many ferry companies that operate throughout Japan (see below for ferry info). If you have some extra time on your hands, it’s an inexpensive and fun way to travel.

It was even more fun because we were with our friends. There are three types of accommodation: a shared room, a bunk bed or a private room. We opted for the shared room, which was a big room that included, a thin cushion, a blanket and a pillow. It was like a big slumber party! Our room had enough space for about 20 people, but there were other rooms on the ferry that could hold more people.

Tim, Maki, Simona, Julian and Rachel relaxing in our room.

Maki, Julian, Me, Simona and Tim on the deck.

Ray Ray Rachel

Tim and Julian

The ferry had a cafeteria, a lounge area with vending machines, a small convenience/souvenir store and coin operated massage chairs. We spent the first few hours exploring the ferry and hanging out on the deck.

Eventually, we all fell asleep. I woke up at 5am and was lucky enough to see the sunrise from the deck.


We arrived in Matsuyama around 6 or 7am. We took a bus to the train station and put our things in a locker. We rented bikes.

We decided to bike to the well-known, Dogo Onsen. Along the way, we saw the Botchan clock, which is based on a famous Japanese novel called Bothchan by Natsume Soseki. I also got to sit at the bus stop with Totoro, a character from the wonderful Japanese anime movie called My Neighbor Totoro.

Dogo onsen is the oldest documented onsen (hot spring) in Japan. It’s also the inspiration for the onsen in one of my favorite Japanese anime movies, Spirited Away. So, I was really excited to check this place out. We paid to go to the onsen and sit in a beautiful room on the second floor to drink tea and have some snacks. We also had a small tour of the rooms designated for royalty that occasionally came through that area. The onsen was very small, but the building was beautiful and we enjoyed our time there.

After onsen, we walked around some more and picked up food for a picnic.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and there was a nearby park. After lunch, we lounged around in the park and took it easy.

We biked around some more, went to a temple and stopped for some coffee. It was a great day.

Kashima Island Camping
It was time for us to go to the campsite. The campsite was a 45 minute train ride from Matsuyama train station on an island called Kashima (See below for camping and travel details). Julian and Rachel camped there last winter, but I was sick and stayed home, so it was their second trip to this campsite.

We arrived at the train station and some of the group went ahead to the island to set-up camp. Julian and I stayed behind and shopped for food and met our friends who drove from Himeji. The island doesn’t have any markets or stores, so you have to purchase all of your food prior to camping.

Julian, Doug, Junsuke, Stefan and Yumi waiting for the ferry.

The ferry to the island had a deer statue on top of it because there are many miniature deer on the island. It was only a 5 minute ferry ride.
When we arrived, our friends had set-up most of the tents.

Julian, Junsuke and Tim

Rachel and Maki

Tim, Simona, Yumi, Julian, Stefan, Doug and Junsuke

Julian, me and Yumi

We started a fire and prepared dinner. We made meat and vegetable tin-foil wraps with several different types of sauce and cooked them over the fire. While in Matsuyama, I had bought orange liquor, which was great. Julian had also bought the juiciest, most delicious oranges I had ever eaten. We kept the fire going late into the night and just hung out and drank.

At night, there were a lot of creepy noises coming from the mountain, birds squawking to the point that it sounded like something was dying. Some of our friends, went and explored with a flashlight. It was really, really dark. I went for a bit, but got scared and went back to camp.

We all eventually went to sleep and woke up in the morning. Julian and Rachel made a delicious breakfast.

After breakfast, a group of us hiked around the mountain and spotted lots of miniature deer. They looked like statues.

Kashima Camping Crew: Julian, Maki, Stefan, Junsuke Doug, Tim, Me, Yumi, Simona and Rachel

We packed our stuff up and some of our friends, went back to Matsuyama. Stefan, Yumi, Rachel, Julian and I got in the car and drove to our next destination.

Travel to Matsuyama
There is ferry information at this website: Japan Ferry Info
You can also go by train: Train Schedule

Getting to the campsite from Matsuyama Station: We took a 45 minute train ride from Matsuyama Train Station to Iyo-hojo Station on the Yosan Line.

It's a 5 minute walk from the train station to Iyo-hojo pier/ferry terminal. The ferry only takes a few minutes. It’s open from 6 or 7am and the last ferry to and from the island is at around 8pm. If you are arriving late, please check the time, because it may change and I'm not sure of the exact times.

There are no stores or supplies on the island. Behind the train station is a big supermarket and home center so if you need any camping supplies, it’s a good place to pick up that stuff. It’s a 10 minute walk. You have to exit and go behind the train station and up some stairs on a foot bridge over the train tracks to get to the stores.

You can fish, swim and hike. There is a nice area for cooking and clean toilets. I didn't see any showers. There is no camping rental equipment.

Campsite: Kashima Campsite 鹿島キャンプ場
Phone number: 089-948-6556
Cost: Free
Other Info: It's year-round and reservations are not required.
Website: Kashima Campsite

1 comment:

Gwynne said...

That was awesome - I'd seen the pictures and totally wondered what that place was where everyone was sleeping next to each other! I love picture blogs, they bring so much life to the pictures!