Saijo

Saijō (西条), also known as Iyo-Saijō (伊予西条), is in Ehime prefecture, Shikoku island, Japan.

Understand

Saijō is a medium-sized city Ehime Prefecture, known throughout Shikoku for its fresh spring water (uchinuki), its massive autumn festivals, and as the gateway to Mt. Ishizuchi, the tallest peak in western Japan. Temples 60-64 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage lie within the extended Saijō municipal area. This area was formed by the merger of the old Saijō City, Toyo City, Komatsu Town, and Tanbara Town in November, 2004.

Saijō may be off the beaten path for many. However it is a good place to get a taste of the laid-back and hospitable culture of Ehime. Many of the typically conservative and polite locals burst into a wild celebratory mood during the yearly autumn festivals in the Saijo, Komatsu, Toyo, Himi, and Iwane areas. With good preparation, you can find specialty shops, restaurants, and izakayas featuring local products and foodstuffs. For nature lovers, hiking season can be a great time to visit, with the exception of the sizzling heat of August. There are also many beautiful flowers to view at different times of the year; for example, plum blossoms (ume no hana) and camelias (tsubaki) in winter, and cherry blossoms (sakura) and wisteria (fuji no hana) in spring.

Saijō, Ehime should not be confused with the much smaller Saijō Town in Shōbara City, Hiroshima. Be very clear with JR staff when buying train tickets from other parts of Japan in order to avoid buying tickets to the wrong place.

Get in

Iyo-Saijō station is on the JR Yosan Line from Uwajima to Takamatsu.

For flyers, it is recommended to fly from Narita or Haneda to Matsuyama Airport. Then you can travel via the JR Yosan Line or Setouchi Bus Matsuyama to Niihama Express Bus Line to Iyo-Saijō station. Jetstar runs three short discounted flights daily to and from Narita. These flights are efficient but services are rather sparse on the short flight. There is also limited service between Matsuyama Airport and Seoul, South Korea.

From Okayama on Honshu, the Shiokaze limited express train makes hourly runs to Iyo-Saijō (1 3/4 - 2 hours, ¥4740, no charge with Japan Rail Pass). Express trains only stop at Iyo-Saijo and Nyūgawa stations, while "Wan-Man" (one man) local trains stop at all 7 stations in the city limits on an almost hourly basis.

There is a convenient bus service called the "Ishizuchi Liner" that runs to and from the Herbis Bus Terminal in Osaka, the Sannomiya Station area in Kobe, and Imabari Station with stops at Saijō Station and Nyugawa Station. It is run by Setouchi Bus. Japanese knowledge is recommended in order to purchase tickets for this bus line at red machines in Lawson or Family Mart convenience stores. Tickets can also be purchased at the Herbis Bus Terminal in Osaka or at Imabari Station on the day of travel with no guarantee of availability. At less than 5000 yen one way, this service is much less expensive than travel by train, but takes four to five hours. Setouchi Bus also runs a limited overnight bus service to Tokyo, the "Paireetsu Go" for around 11000 yen one way. If you can make it to Imabari from Saijo, there are also "Shimanami Liner" buses running throughout the day from Imabari to Hiroshima for less than 4000 yen one way. Booking for all of these lines at least a day in advance is recommended; these buses can fill up during the holiday season.

By car, Saijō is accessible by the Matsuyama Expressway (Komatsu IC and Saijō IC exits) and the Imabari Expressway (Komatsu IC exit), as well as locally via National Route 11 (about 90 minutes from Matsuyama Airport).

The Orange Ferry runs between Osaka and Tōyo Port in Saijō.

Get around

Due to the merger in 2004, Saijō encompasses a wide area of about 509 square kilometers. Local help or basic Japanese may be useful in getting around anywhere outside the stations on the main JR Yosan line.

Public transportation within Saijō can be somewhat limited as trains and buses come and go infrequently. But it is extensive.

Taxis are available at all seven stations on the JR Yosan Line that lie within the Saijō city limits between about 7AM and just after midnight. They run later on important nights of the festival. Expect to pay about ¥1200 for three kilometers, with the price quickly rising per kilometer after that.

There are two useful regional bus lines run by Setouchi Bus that pass through Saijō hourly from the morning to about 8PM. The express lines run from nearby Niihama to Imabari or Matsuyama and stop at many places throughout Saijo depending on the line. On top of these main regional lines, there are many local lines that branch off into quieter areas, especially in Tanbara and Saijo proper. Japanese knowledge is recommended if you want to use the bus system.

For sightseeing, a dedicated bus runs between Iyo-Saijō station and the Asahi Brewery. There is also a bus that leaves from Saijō station with limited runs in the morning to a lift used to visit Mount Ishizuchi, which is located on the southern border of Saijō.

Rental bicycles are available at the Saijō Tourism Center next to Iyo-Saijō station for ¥200/hour. Most of Saijō is relatively flat and easily bikeable.

See

Temples 60 through 64 on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage fall within Saijo city limits. Temple 60, Yokomineji (横峰寺)is considered the most difficult temple to reach because of its lack of access by ropeway and the tough climb to get there. The closest rail access is from Iyo-Komatsu (伊予小松)station, where you will also find nearby temples 61 and 62, Ko-onji (香園寺) and Hojuji (宝寿寺, respectively. Temple 63, Kichijoji (吉祥寺) is an easy walk from Iyo-Himi (伊予氷見)station. Walk up the road without crossing the train tracks and make a right at the first small street, at the next corner it will be on your right. Temple 64, Maegameji (前神寺)is at the foot of Mt. Ishizuchi, and like Yokomineji it is particularly hard to access by walking. The closest train stop is, again, Iyo-Himi station. If you are interested in visiting these temples, it might be easiest to arrange to go with a bus tour with Setouchi Travel Company(in Japanese).

The Kamo river runs through Saijo halway between Iyo-Saijo (伊予西条) and Ishizuchijinja (石鎚神社) stations, and at the river there is a particularly pretty spot for cherry blossom viewing where the river comes down from the mountains and meets Route 11. From the station, take a 10 minute walk down Ekinishidori until you reach a fountain and uchinuki (water spring for which Saijo is famous), make a left there and continue until you reach the road on the other side. Make a left at that road until you reach Route 11, right before it becomes the bridge over the Kamo River. Cross the road, then walk right toward the bridge. Make a left atop the levee (hill) next to the river until you reach a street lined with trees. You will reach a park and if you continue up this street there is a pleasant hill you can hike up, the entire hike is about 25 minutes, and affords pleasant city views, particularly in the early morning or late afternoon/evening.

Also, if you ride the train to Ishizuchijinja Station (石鎚神社駅), it is about a ten minute walk from there to the entrance road to Ishizuchi Shrine (not to be confused with access to hiking the mountain, which is more easily done by taking a bus from Saijo station to the ropeway.) The shrine is in homage to the spirit of Mt. Ishizuchi, and is a secluded and nice place to visit with commanding views of the surrounding area. Just head toward giant red gate, visible from the station platform.

Do

A danjiri float being carried during Saijō Festival

Some of the younger locals who are not tied to any particular danjiri-carrying group are known to hop from festival to festival to party for as long as possible.

Buy

Eat

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Asahi beer`s only brewery is on Shikoku, The Saijo Asahi Brewery is located on the waterfront. There are shuttle buses that run from Iyo-Saijo station to the brewery. Information can be found on their website .

On the road in front of the station are several Japanese style pubs. Also about a ten minute walk from the station is a street that has the majority of bars in Saijo. Making a left from the station onto Ekinishidori, cross the street and make a right onto the street directly after Iyokko ramen. About 3 blocks up this street are a string of pubs and bars, including the highly recommended World's End Cafe. The owner speaks a fair bit of English, and can make any drink you can think of if you can describe it to him. It also has a fair amount of imports and microbrewery beers, with Kirin on tap.

Sleep

There are several hotels within a few blocks of the station. All are business hotels catering mostly to Japanese business types. Expect to pay ¥7,500-9,000 for a room.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, November 07, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.