Uchiko / EhimeA Historic City Center Surrounded by Refreshing Nature: Uchiko in Ehime Prefecture


Located in the middle of Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, the town of Uchiko is just 25 minutes by train from Matsuyama. Easy access has always been a feature of the town–in Japan’s feudal era it was a key waypoint on the pedestrian highway between Matsuyama and the city of Ozu further down south.

Just a short drive past the outskirts of town lies Uchiko’s wilder mountainous region, with dramatic vistas, terraced rice fields, and covered bridges. Here you find the traces of a far deeper history, from ancient shrines surrounded by trees over 1,000 years old, to pristine gorges that bear traces of volcanic activity well before the modern age.

Cycle Through Uchiko’s Town and Country

Built in 1916, Uchiko-za Theater is a National Important Cultural Asset.

Uchiko’s Historic District Preservation Zone is certainly walkable, but a bicycle tour gives you the option to see more of the area than you might otherwise cover on foot. In the Edo period (1603-1867) this area flourished as a manufacturing center of Japanese wax, and many merchant homes were constructed. Fortunately, most of the homes and businesses have been maintained and remain inhabited to this day.

Pass through rice paddies and see Uchiko’s agriculture up close.

Next, head out into the countryside on a course that occasionally parallels the Oda River, cuts through rice paddies, and breezes by grandiose old homes seemingly unchanged over the past several centuries. Multi-gear bicycles are provided, but the largely flat terrain here makes the tour easy for anyone to enjoy.

Overnight in a Forest Retreat-Style Auberge

As if hiding in a private forest, the cozy inn is enveloped by trees and shrubs.

Upon arriving to this special place in Uchiko’s countryside, one hardly sees any buildings given the thicket of greenery forming a protective leafy enclosure. This is entirely appropriate though, as walking up the short path through the petit forest of trees and bushes drives home the fact that at Farm Inn Raum Kokuriko, you leave the busy world behind and step into a tranquil setting of warmth and genuine hospitality.

Enjoy Mrs. Morinaga’s home-cooked supper in the main dining room.

Mr. and Mrs. Morinaga built their inn from the ground up decades ago. Just four Western-style rooms are available within two architecturally unique structures near the main residence, ensuring a private and restful stay. As both farmers and veterans in green tourism, the couple encourage their guests to “rediscover human nature in modern country life,” and are happy to share unusual ways to do just that, such as special tree leaves that can be written on with Mr. Morinaga’s magic pencils!

Gain a Short Introduction to the Practices of Japan’s Mountain Ascetics

The final ascent up the mountain is first by wooden ladder, then by scrambling up a rock face supported only with a metal chain.

Up in the mountains of Uchiko, this small mountain shrine is accessible by a short path from the roadway. Short, however, does not equate with simple, for a true climb awaits! The trail starts off easy, with steps along the path guiding you up the mountain slope. Then the path winds through giant boulders up to a series of wooden ladders which provide access to the final hurdle.

Looking out over Uchiko from the top.

To summit the giant boulder and reach the shrine, a bit of rock climbing is required, clutching on to a metal chain as you search for footholds and handholds. But at the top you’ll find the small Darari Gongen Shrine and a majestic view of the valley. This experience is very similar to the practices of Japan’s mountain ascetics, who sought spiritual development through rigorous mountain training.

Refresh Your Mind and Body Before a Gentle Waterfall

Momiji-ga-taki Falls gently cascade down from a height of 17 meters.

Waterfalls have always held a sort of mystical appeal in Japan. Long before modern research revealed the health-generating benefit of their negative ions, Japanese regarded waterfalls as spiritual places, and revered their environment. At Uchiko’s Momiji-ga-taki Falls, a small shrine sits just in front of the falls, and the waterfall basin is often used for misogi, or waterfall training, a Shinto practice of ritual purification by sitting directly under the falling water.

Spend a few quiet minutes here and let the negative ions reinvigorate your soul.

While it is possible to experience misogi here, even casual visitors can enjoy these gentle falls that are only about a five-minute walk from the road. Japanese maple trees (momiji) surround the waterfall basin, making it an especially popular place to visit in the autumn.

Feast on Udon at a Riverside Restaurant

Udon noodles served in a special tub are a local specialty in Oda.

Tarai udon is a popular dish in the Oda area of Uchiko. Soft udon (wheat) noodles are served in a tarai, a sort of small wooden tub, with a cup of special broth on the side that is used for dipping. This broth is generally made with a base of soy sauce and seasoned by shiitake mushroom dashi, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians, though versions with are available meat too.

Dine outside and enjoy your food with a rustic river view.

When you’re in Oda, stop by the Michi-no-Eki (roadside station) “Oda-no-Sato Seseragi” and head around back to restaurant Kajika-tei to try their take on tarai udon. Here you can dine both inside and outdoors, and the tables outside overlook the small Oda River running down below.

Stroll Through Pristine Nature

Tree roots gradually splitting boulders, water carving out the canyon—these present a slow drama unfolding.

Deep in the upper reaches of Uchiko’s mountainous eastern corner lies an incredible treasure—the Odamiyama Valley. This is a popular place for nature walks, with a 1.5-kilometer long path tracing the river which has been carving out the gorge for millennia. Regardless of the season, you’ll find incredible natural beauty and signs of wildlife as you inhale the fresh, clean mountain air and hear the roar of the rushing waters.

Five different colors of stone can be found in the riverbed here.

Go with a local guide, however, and you’ll gain a very different perspective. They’ll point out the presence of five different colors of stone that are a unique characteristic of the riverbed, or the slow but unrelenting power of trees whose roots have managed to split giant stone builders. Or, play like children in the area once did, making tiny boats out of bamboo grass leaves and see how far they manage to sail downstream.

Access information

Getting to Uchiko, Ehime:

Uchiko is located about 40 kilometers southwest of Matsuyama, the prefectural capital of Ehime, which is approximately one hour and 20-minutes from Tokyo by plane. Express trains from Matsuyama reach Uchiko in about 25 minutes, while buses and local trains take around one hour.

Article provided by: JTB Communication Design, Inc.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change. Unless stated otherwise, prices do not include tax.
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About “Countryside Stays“

If you’re looking for a new way to experience Japan, sign up for a farm-stay experience through the Countryside Stays Japan program and participate in traditional rural-lifestyle activities in recommended countryside locations.


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