Built in 1921, travellers have long flocked to Umenoya for its quite literally legendary onsen
City | History & culture | Relaxation
As the prefectural capital, Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku. However, Tokyo this is not. Its famed 17th century Matsuyamajo castle – one of the country’s few originals – looks out across the city to the Seto Inland Sea. And, come spring, its feudal era grounds flush with cherry blossom pinks. There’s also the Dogo Onsen, the oldest hot spring in Japan where this traditional ryokan is set. While you might want to take advantage of your room’s private facilities, it’s well worth making like a local to start your morning with a 6:30 AM dip in its public baths. They’ve even seen mentions in classical Japanese literature.
With just eight guest rooms, you’ll find Umenoya welcomingly intimate at every turn. Rooms are as charming as your hosts with interiors carefully crafted from bamboo and cedar as sliding paper screens lead on to tatami mat living rooms. Western furnishings add comfortable touches while scroll wall hangings, blonde wood ceilings and local artwork give the ryokan a real sense of place. Rooms are also arranged around an elegant inner garden, immaculately maintained by a professional gardener to exacting standards. The en suite hot spring baths, fed from the same waters as the Dogo Onsen, are a particular highlight.
Owner Aruji-san and his highly trained staff – in true ryokan fashion – remain fully committed to the concepts of traditional Japanese hospitality. For dinner, kaiseki multi-course meals are served across dishes that balance aesthetics, textures and, of course, tastes. Thanks to its coastal position on the Seto Inland Sea, you can expect such delicacies as pan-fried sea bream and freshly caught shrimp while desserts of seasonal, local fruits are ideal palate cleansers. And, of course, the same care is taken over refreshing Japanese breakfasts.
As with any self-respecting ryokan, Umenoya centres around its onsen. Choose between an indoor, aromatic cypress bath or head outside to a timber bathhouse, partially open to cool garden breezes. For further relaxation, make use of the library, complete with personal sound system, or simply relax in the lounge where designer furniture looks out onto the garden’s bonsai trees. You might also want to take a stroll in next-door Dogo Park where picturesque walks take you past rivers and wildflower-lined contours.
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