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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Day 11 Kochi 高知

Day 11: 23.11.2014
* Day 3 of 3 days All Shikoku Rail Pass

Kochi Castle
Breakfast: 7 Days Hotel セブンデイズホテル

Visited Nichiyoubi shi 日曜市.

Kochi JR Station 高知駅 (0913 hrs) > Tosa Yamada JR Station 土佐山田駅 (0924 hrs)
by Ltd Express Nanpu 8.

Tosa Yamada JR Station 土佐山田駅 (0935 hrs) > Anpanman Museum アンパンマンミュージアム (0958 hrs)
by JR Bus Odochi line. [620 yen]

Visited Anpanman Museum アンパンマンミュージアム. [700 yen]
http://www.anpanman-museum.net/

Anpanman Museum アンパンマンミュージアム (1143 hrs) > Tosa Yamada JR Station 土佐山田駅 (1208 hrs)
by JR Bus Odochi line. [620 yen]

Tosa Yamada JR Station 土佐山田駅 (1229 hrs) > Kochi JR Station 高知駅 (1257 hrs)
by local train.

Kochi ekimae 高知駅前 > Kochijo-mae 高知城前
by Tosaden streetcar どさでん電車.

Visited Kochi Castle 高知城. [420 yen]
http://kochipark.jp/kochijyo/

Hasuike machi dori 蓮池町通 (1532 hrs) > Kochi Ryoma Airport 高知龍馬空港 (1605 hrs)
by Airport Limousine Bus 空港連絡バス. [720 yen]

Kochi Ryoma Airport 高知龍馬空港 (1820 hrs) > HND T2 (1935 hrs)
by NH528.

HND Int Airport (2355 hrs) > SIN T2 (0635 hrs)
by NH843.

- End of Shikoku Autumn 2014 Trip - 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - 7 Days Hotel セブンデイズホテル

Stayed 22.11.2014
Reserved thru' Agoda.com
- Single = ~81 SGD
- Adjoining rooms = ~154 SGD


Left and safe kept our luggage with 7 Days Hotel Plus on Day 6 (Tues) and returned on Day 10 (Sat) to retrieve our luggage. Decided to try out 7 Days Hotel on our last night in Shikoku, located a few blocks away. Even though both hotels are under the same company, they are not connected by any private walkway.


Design & Facilities. Being the older one out of the two, this hotel has similar minimalist concept as the newer 7 Days Plus Hotel. Following a conventional no frills business hotel operating philosophy, 7 Days Hotel has this additional homely touch in my perspective. Simple yet modern furniture selection are what I will like to have in my own room. As there are no twin room available here, two adjacent rooms will be combined if you are opting for two beds - and you get two bathrooms for such adjoining room arrangement. In my opinion, both hotels are equally good. One other difference between both hotels is that 7 Days Hotel serves only continental breakfast (bread and drink) and does not offer Japanese style breakfast option.  

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What's nearby?

(1) Nichiyoubi Market (Sunday Market) 日曜市. Approx 7 mins walk from hotel, this Sunday local market occupies the road that stretches from Haisuike-machi-dori tram stop to Kochi Castle. Lined with booths selling mainly local produce and specialties, the Sunday Market operates as early at 0500 hrs and is one way to get in touch with the local people and culture. Made my way leisurely to the market after breakfast on my last day in Shikoku. Strolled down the road to see what every stall has to offer and stopped every now to enjoy some of the local snacks.    

Pudding from Pousser.
(2) Boulangerie Pousser ブーランジュりー プウセ. 
Opening hrs: 0700 - 1900 hrs
A French bakery located just behind 7 Days Hotel Plus, recommended to me by the owner of Terzo Tempo cafe. Did pop by the bakery before we boarded the airport transfer bus to Kochi Ryoma Airport. This bakery is quite a popular with the locals as most of the items were sold out when we were there in the late afternoon. Bought a few breads and a pudding to try and the experience was delectable.  


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7 Days Hotel セブンデイズホテル 
高知県高知市はりまや町2-13-17 〒780-0822
http://www.7dayshotel.com/top.html

From Kochi JR Station, take Tosaden Electric Tram and alight at Hasuike-machi-dori (蓮池町通) stop. About 5 - 7 mins walk from this tram stop.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Iyonada Monogatari (Futami) 伊予灘ものがたり (双海編), Shimonada JR Station 下灘駅

Travelled on 22.11.2014

Train fan! I am always on a lookout for unique themed trains whenever I visit Japan. In Shikoku, we managed to cover Yu Yu Anpanman Car (from Takamatsu to Tokushima) and Tetsudo Hobby Train (from Kubokawa to Uwajima). The finale of this trip was Iyonada Monogatari (伊予灘ものがたり), one of the newest themed train introduced by JR Shikoku in July 2014, commuting along the scenic sea view section of Yosan line (予讃線海まわり). 


Iyonada Monogatari is only in operation on weekends and public holidays and there are four train services per day. 
(1) Ozu route (大洲編) from Matsuyama to Iyo Ozu, operates in the morning.
(2) Futami route (双海編) from Iyo Ozu to Matusyama, operates in the late morning.
(3) Yawatahama route (八幡浜編) from Matsuyama to Yawatahama, operates in the afternoon.
(4) Dogo route (道後編) from Yawatahama to Matsuyama, operates in the evening.

Highlights:

Strategy. Planned to take the train on the second weekend of our trip in order to stand a better chance to secure the tickets. As themed sightseeing train rides are especially popular with locals, tickets are rapidly sold out as soon as they are released approximately one month before departure date. Checked the seat availability status online every now and then and discovered that more popular routes (Yawatahama and Dogo) were already sold out before we stepped foot onto Shikoku. Had to reshuffle my itinerary to accommodate Futami route (from Iyo Ozu to Matsuyama) and was jubilant when I got hold of the tickets at Takamatsu JR Station on my very first day in Shikoku.

As all seats on board Iyonada Monogatari are green reserved seats, a 980 yen top up is required with All Shikoku Rail Pass. Decided to enjoy the exclusive bento set meal, which was specially created for this train, on board, therefore parted another 4,500 yen to purchase a meal voucher during seat reservation. At this point of time, all reservations have to be made in person at train stations or by phone. 




Grand entrance. We waited eagerly for the arrival of Iyonada Monogatari at Iyo Ozu Station. Door carpets, with the symbol of Iyonada Monogatari imprinted on them, were placed on the station platform. Instead of the conventional voiceover over the public announcement system to inform passengers of train station, music was played instead as the train gradually pulled into the station and eventually came to a complete stop with the train doors accurately positioned in front of the carpets! Attendants with an elegant poise awaited beside the doors, warmly welcoming passengers to board the train.


Exquisite design. Iyonada Monogatari is made up of two carriages, each beautifully wrapped in red and orange colours respectively, to depict a sunset scenery at the coastline of Iyonada Sea. Car 1 is Akane no sho (茜の章), which is translated as red chapter, while Car 2 is Ogon no sho (黄金の章), otherwise known as golden chapter. Wood was utilised extensively in the interior design of the train; from parquet flooring to furniture and other accessories, to create a traditional chic look. Single seats are oriented to face the train windows directly to allow passengers to come up close to Iyonada Sea as the train moves along the coastline. There are several tables set aside for group of two and four passengers. A counter is located in Car 2 where light snacks, drinks and souvenirs can be purchased. Products manufactured in Iyo region, the former name for Ehime Prefecture, decorated the display shelves. Even the basin was made of tobe ware (tobe-yaki 砥部焼), a type of traditional pottery which originated from Ehime Prefecture. For this trip, we were assigned to a table for four in Car 2. There is a decent range of original train souvenirs sold on board which made me spoilt for choice. My eyes eventually landed on a clear folder and a collar pin.


Station with a view. Shimonada (下灘駅) is a unmanned station located along the sea route of Yosan line. Standing at the platform of this small train station, one gets a panoramic overview of Iyonada Sea due its close proximity. Picture of Shimonada Station with Iyonada Sea in the background featured in Seishun 18 ticket (青春18きっぷ) posters led to its fame, attracting numerous train fans (including myself) and avid photographers to pay here a visit. Iyonada Monogatari makes a brief stop of 10 minutes for passengers to explore this famous train station. The main reason why Dogo route is the most popular among all four routes is the spectacular sunset view that passengers get to bask in during the train ride - an exact depiction of what this train is all about! As soon as the train reached the station, I alighted from the train and explored the area enthusiastically like a child playing with a new toy. The picture perfect view of Iyonada Sea with Iyonada Monogatari is truly one of my fond memories captured during this trip.


Extravagant bento box. About 30 mins to an hour later, the staff approached us for the meal voucher and served us each a tall, two tier box made out from Uchiko wood with the characters " 伊予灘ものがたり" beautifully engraved on the cover. Uncovered the bento box carefully and could not contain my excitement when I revealed the sumptuous contents. One tier was divided into four compartments while the other was divided into nine other compartments. Each compartment is artistically arranged with a unique dish. During this autumn period, the menu was crafted to feature the freshest ingredients harvested from rural settlements of Uchiko, an area in Ehime Prefecture. Apart from being visually stunning, some of these flavours were new and refreshing to my taste buds. Overall, very delicious and this is definitely the most extravagant bento meal I have ever eaten.
  • Bottom left: Grilled Iyo beef (内子産伊予牛の奉書焼)
  • Top left: Fried Uchiko pork in nanban sauce (内子豚南蛮揚げ)
  • Top left: Salmon wrapped with chrysanthemum flowers (サーモンの菊花卷)
  • Top center: Yam and boiled greens in bonito flavoured sauce海老芋の旨煮 菊菜と椎茸のおひたし
  • Top right: Baked Iyo chicken cake (伊予赤健美鶏の松風)
  • Center left: Scallion and clams salad (わけぎと蛤のぬた合え)
  • Center: Shitake mushroom and turban shell cooked with sesame and miso (椎茸と栄螺の胡麻味噌焼)
  • Center right: Vinaigrette shredded daikon and Uchiko produced persimmons (柿膾 内子産富有柿)
  • Bottom left: Mackeral wrapped with mushroom and vegetables. (鰆のけんちん焼 木の子 野菜)
  • Bottom center: Gelatin of chicken and prawn (海老と鶏のアスピック)
  • Bottom right: Lily bulb (花百合根密煮 アーモンドフラワー)

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Iyonada Monogatari 伊予灘ものがたり
http://iyonadamonogatari.com/
Train fares:
- Route (1) and (2) = 1,930 yen
- Route (3) and (4) = 2,260 yen
Bento set meal = 4,500 yen


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Boarding pass and commemorative stamp:


Friday, October 7, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Day 10 Iyonada Monogatari Train 伊予灘ものがたり 

Day 10: 22.11.2014
* Day 2 of 3 days All Shikoku Rail Pass


Iyonada Monogatari Train
BreakfastAuberge Uchiko オーベルジュ内子

Uchiko JR 内子駅 (0952 hrs) > Iyo Ozu JR 伊予大洲駅 (1007 hrs)
by local train.

Iyo Ozu JR 伊予大洲駅 (1052 hrs) > Matsuyama JR 松山駅 (1312 hrs)
by Iyonada Monogatari Train 伊予灘ものがたり.
[Additional fee = 980 yen + Lunch on board = 4,500 yen]

Visited Shimonada JR Station 下灘駅

Matsuyama JR 松山駅 (1326 hrs) > Tadotsu JR 多度津駅 (1522 hrs)
by Ltd Express Shiokaze 20.

Tadotsu JR 多度津駅 (1550 hrs) > Kochi JR 高知駅 (1741 hrs)
by Ltd Express Nanpu 15.

Check in: 7 Days Hotel セブンデイズホテル

Hasuike machi dori 蓮池町 > Harimaya bashi はりまや橋 > Ohashi 大橋
by Tosaden streetcar.

Visited Hirome Market ひろめ市場.

Dinner: MOS Burger

- End of Day 10 - 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Auberge Uchiko オーベルジュ内子

Stayed 21.11.2014 (Fri) 
Booked thru' hotel website.
- 1 villa = 25,920 yen/pax


Auberge? This is actually a French word for "inn". In Japan, Auberge style accommodation are actually much more luxurious than what its name implies. Normally located in an secluded area which is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the living concept of Auberge is a not an escapism but a recovery process of inner peace, stimulating all five senses through high quality food and creation of a relaxing environment. One other unique feature of Auberge is French meals are served; a cuisine which highlights food appreciation and presentation on the table. Wanted very much to try out this style of accommodation after reading numerous rave reviews. Had two choices - one in Tosayama in Kochi and another one located in Uchiko in Ehime, both managed by Kochi Orient Hotel Group. Chose the latter as it fitted well into my itinerary. Was also attracted to this particular sentence in their web page: Feeling the nature with your five senses and dedicating yourself to her, you shall restore the natural rhythm of your mind and body. This was in line with the objective to recover my mental balance through this holiday. I had to say the stay in Auberge Uchiko was extraordinary, exceeding my expectations in all aspects - ambience, onsen, meals and service.

Bottom right: Restaurant where both dinner and breakfast are served.
Bottom left: Path leading to another area where villas are located in; Top right: The villa which we stayed in - Yamazakura (やまざくら); Bottom right: Porch overlooking sakura trees.
Room. From the main annex, guests will have to walk along an unsheltered path to the another area where the villas are located. There are a total of five villas and each can occupy up to three adults - there are two single beds and a mattress laid over the sofa. Overall design outlook is modern style coupled with Japanese distinctive elements such as Japanese paper (washi) and wooden sliding doors. Lush greenery awaits behind the sliding windows of the living room and the spacious enclosure is warmly brightened up by natural lighting that seep through the huge glass panels in the day. Don't be surprised if you cannot find television and wifi anywhere in the room (alternatively, you can borrow a mobile wifi from the reception which I did). You will slowly get used to the awkwardness of not having any handy media technologies and begin to treasure the precious moments of quietness in the room - a luxury especially for city dwellers like myself.


Luxury. What makes the villa so mesmerizing as well is guests are treated to a beautiful scenery of blooming Sakura trees in Spring, directly right in front of the porch. Though I did not get to see that personally, imagining the scene in my mind while lying down on the reclining chair already brought a smile to my face. There is also a nice bath tub which you can overlook to the porch while enjoying a nice soak. Did not utilise the bath tub this way, instead my mother and I filled it up with lukewarm water to soak our legs just before we turned in for the night. Wanted to also highlight the pleasant service experienced during my stay at Auberge Uchiko. Just to quote one: just before we left the main annex to return to our villa after dinner, the staff passed us each a hot water bag as the weather has turned chilly in the night. 

Meals. Numerous locally grown ingredients were utilised to create a nouvelle cuisine - a modern style of cookery that avoids rich, heavy foods and emphasises the freshness of the ingredients and the presentation of the dishes. Dinner was served in the light of handmade candles from Uchiko in the main annex restaurant. This was my first time eating a full French course meal and I was overwhelmed by the sophisticated cutlery placed in front of me. On the other hand, many ingredients were also entirely new to my palate.

Top left: Braised top shell; Bottom left: Ham from Uchiko pork; Top right: Wild boar with miso sauce.
Top left: Bouillabaisse; Bottom left: Stick of tomato sherbet; Top right: Grilled Iyo beef with truffle sauce; Bottom right: Chocolate mousse crepe with sweet potato cream.
  • Amuse gueule (the literal translation is "mouth amuser" is a bite-sized savory food): beautifully plated braised top shell coupled two different type of sauces to go along with. 
  • Hors d'oeuvre (appetiser): tender ham made from Uchiko pork.
  • Soupe (soup): light yet flavourful matsutake consomme.  
  • Poisson (fish dish): bouillabaisse, which is a French-style fish stew, comprised of kabuto shrimp (or shield shrimp), globefish (otherwise known as the puffer fish) and scallop. 
  • Gibier (wild game dish): Roasted wild boar caught in Uchiko accompanied with miso sauce. I personally find the meat a bit tough for my liking. 
  • Arriere gout: a small refreshing stick of tomato sherbet to cleanse the palate before moving on to the main course. 
  • Viande (meat dish): a very well executed grilled iyo beef with truffle sauce.
  • Dessert: Chocolate mousse wrapped in a crepe served with noodles of sweet potato cream.
  • Coffee/tea to end the entire course. 
Breakfast.
Breakfast was amazing too. Gulped down three different type of juices (vegetable, orange and tomato), bit into freshly made bread accompanied with homemade jam and butter, slurped a bowl of creamy potato soup, tucked into standard breakfast plate of bacon, half boiled egg and fresh greens and eventually ended the meal with a satisfying cup of coffee/tea held in exquisite porcelain wares.


Onsen. The communal bathhouses, separated by gender, were located in the main annex. Interior is covered by beautiful bluestone tiles to create this calming ambience. Was surprised to see a crowd when I was at the bathhouse just before dinner though the hotel has limited number of guests. Later found out that the bathhouse is also opened to public for a large part of the day (1100 to 2100 hrs) and is very popular with the locals in Uchiko. The natural spring water source is alkaline and cold at 17 degC. Water is heated to around 40 degC before being utilised in the pools, and is known to have therapeutic effects for those suffering from rheumatism.

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Auberge Uchiko オーベルジュ内子
〒795-0301 愛媛県喜多郡内子町五十崎乙485‐2
http://www.orienthotel.jp/uchiko/english/

How to get there?
There are no buses to Auberge Uchiko; and sad to say, the hotel does not provide any complimentary pick up service from Uchiko JR Station. Have to rely on taxi which cost less than 1,000 yen as it is relatively near - about 5 minutes by car from the train station.



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Video: 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Uchiko JR Station 内子駅


Uchiko JR Station (U10), on Yosan and Uchiko line.

A rather small scale train station - essentially a house with train tracks running above it. Coin lockers are available at this station - safe keep your luggage here such that you can walk to the main historic preservation district with a lighter load.

Limited express trains that serve Uchiko JR Station:
(1) Limited express Uwakai (宇和海), which commutes between Uwajima and Matsuyama, along Yosan line.

What's nearby?


(1) Tabirian (旅里庵), located just adjacent to the train station.
This is a tourist information center which is constructed to look like one of the preserved houses seen in Uchiko. Visitors can collect town walking maps and brochures to attractions in Uchiko here. A limited selection of specialty goods from Uchiko such as papers, candles and candle holders are also on sale here. As it takes about 25 mins to walk from the train station to the preservation zone, renting a bicycle to speed up the journey becomes a popular option - bicycles rental service are available in Tabiran as well.
Website: http://www.iyokannet.jp/front/spot/detail/place_id/2001/


(2) Uchiko-za Theater (内子座), about 10 mins walk from the train station.
This is the nearest attraction to the train station. A century old wooden theater which was once the town's main entertainment spot where performances such as Kabuki (Japanese classical drama) and Bunraku (puppet theater) took place. This historical building has been preserved and guided tour are provided to explain the various characteristics and features of the theater.
- Admission fee = 400 yen
- Set ticket for Uchiko-za Theater, Japanese Wax Museum & Kamihaga Residence (木蝋資料館上芳賀邸) and Museum of Commercial & Domestic Life (商いと暮らし博物館) = 900 yen

Cherry blossom trees in the background.
(3) Weeping cherry blossom trees along Gonotani River (郷之谷川)
Along the way from the train station to Uchiko-za Theatre, you will cross Gonotani River and spot rows of weeping cherry blossom trees on both sides of the riverbank. The best time to witness the blooming flowers is from mid March onwards.
Website: http://www.we-love-uchiko.jp/spot_suburbs/spot_k7/

Monday, October 3, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Hakurakuten 白楽天 焼豚玉子飯

Visited 21.11.2014

The former Kinuyama branch.
B grade gourmet. Was excited to know that Ehime Prefecture has a galore of B grade gourmet. One food caught my attention right away - roasted pork and egg rice bowl, which reminded me of char siew rice we eat at home. This dish was first created by a Chinese restaurant in Imabari city as a boarding meal for its employees. When Hakurakuten was established in 1970, the owner decided to elevate the status of this simple home-cooked rice bowl by incorporating it into its menu. The dish first became popular with students as the restaurant was located near a high school. Popularity grew over the years by word of mouth and has put this rice bowl onto the B grade gourmet list of Ehime; a "soul" food that the locals can naturally associate to Imabari city. Here in Imabari, which is home to ship building industry, there are numerous restaurants serving this dish and each has their very own version/interpretation of what a delicious bowl of roasted pork and egg rice is, which in turn has generated food diversity for customers. Do check out the gourmet map that the Imabari roasted pork and egg rice association (今治焼豚玉子飯 世界普及委員会) has came out with! Website: http://i-ytm.com/

Appetising bowl of rice.
Soul food. Back to the story of the photo which made me drooled. Eager to eat but I could not fully convince myself to travel all the way to Imabari city, which is about 40 mins away by limited express train from Matsuyama JR Station, for just one single bowl of rice. Discovered later that Hakurakuten has a branch in Kinuyama, which was just two train stations away from Matsuyama city (by Iyo Railway) and without further ado I made the decision to drop by here for lunch. Ordered the regular sized rice bowl which came with two nicely fried bright orange sunny side up eggs laid on top of roasted pork slices drizzled with a sweet and savory sauce [650 yen]. Followed the recommended way to enjoy this rice bowl. Divided into two portions, ate the first portion by breaking and mixing the yolk with rice, and repeated the steps for the other portion. Every component of the rice bowl shines and complements each other harmoniously. Roasted pork had a good proportion of fats with good caramelisation on the sides. The delicious sauce cut down the oiliness of the meat and enhanced the overall taste of this rice bowl. Sunny side up eggs were cooked to perfection and stirring the runny egg yolk with rice is a comfort food at its simplest for many Japanese. This is what I will term as a simple yet heavenly taste! All of us agreed that this is one soul food that exceeded our expectations tremendously and definitely one that we will return for. 

Beautiful slices of roasted pork hidden beneath the eggs! 
Note. Sad to know that the branch in Kinuyama has ceased operation when I was compiling this post. For those who want to taste this flavourful rice bowl, you will have to travel further to the flagship restaurant located in Imabari city.  

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Hakurakuten 白楽天 焼豚玉子飯 今治本店
愛媛県今治市常盤町4-1-19 (Imabari city)
Opening hrs: 1100 - 1500 hrs (Lunch); 1700 - 2200 hrs (Dinner)
About 8 minutes walk from Imabari JR Station.

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Video. Scroll to 11:33 to view the feature on Hakurakuten. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Day 9 Matsuyama 松山, Uchiko 内子  

Day 9: 21.11.2014
* Day 1 of 3 days All Shikoku Rail Pass

Yokaichi and Gokoku Machinami 八日市・護国の町並み
Visited Dogo Onsen Honkan 道後温泉本館.
http://www.dogo.or.jp/pc/time/

BreakfastFunaya ふなや

Dogo Onsen 道後温泉駅 (0855 hrs) > Okaido 大街道 (0904 hrs)
by Botchan Train 坊ちゃん列車. 
http://www.iyotetsu.co.jp/botchan/

Visited Matsuyama Castle 松山城. [Round trip via chairlift + admission fee = 1,020 yen]

Okaido 大街道 > Matsuyama-shi 松山市駅
by Iyotetsu streetcar, via Route 3.

Matsuyama-shi 松山市駅 > Kinuyama 衣山駅
by Iyotetsu, via Takahama line.

LunchHakurakuten 白楽天 (Kinuyama Gourmet Avenue) [Ceased operation]

Kinuyama 衣山駅 > Matsuyama-shi 松山市駅 > Dogo Onsen 道後温泉駅
by Iyotetsu, followed by Iyotetsu streetar.

Dogo Onsen 道後温泉駅 (1343 hrs) > Matsuyama ekimae 松山駅前 (1405 hrs)
by Botchan Train 坊ちゃん列車.

Matsuyama JR 松山駅 (1428 hrs) > Uchiko JR 内子駅 (1452 hrs)
by Ltd Express Uwakai 17.

Visited Uchiko Theater 内子座. [400 yen]

Visited Yokaichi and Gokoku Machinami 八日市・護国の町並み.

Strolled along the streets of Uchiko town.

Check in: Auberge Uchiko オーベルジュ内子
http://www.orienthotel.jp/uchiko/english/

Dinner: Auberge Uchiko オーベルジュ内子

- End of Day 9 -