Exploring a Hidden Gem in Shikoku – Uchiko
Uchiko is a small traditional town located southwest of Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture. Surrounded by mountains and rice fields, the quiet, rural Uchiko was a thriving manufacturing hub of Japanese paper and wax from the end of the Edo period through the Meiji period.
A relaxing day can be spent exploring Uchiko entirely on foot. The preserved historical districts of Yokaichi and Gokoku are lined with beautiful traditional houses built in Uchiko’s heyday.
Some buildings are open to the public as museums and one of the grandest is the Kamihaga Residence. Walking through the home and workshop, visitors can learn about this family, who was related to Uchiko’s first and main wax producer.
More information about Uchiko's illustrious history of wax-making can be found at the Uchiko History Museum. This compact and rather whimsical museum is filled with artefacts depicting life in a local merchant house. The absence of English translations is made up for by entertaining automated mannequins.
The arts and culture also flourished in Uchiko. Kabuki and Bunraku performances are still held at Uchiko-za, a Kabuki theatre constructed in 1916. Visitors can explore its unique architecture and examine the mechanics of stage choreography, including a rotating stage and trap doors.
The best time to visit Uchiko is during the Uchiko Sasa Festival in summer. The “bamboo festival” is a major event and the main street is lined with gorgeous bamboo and paper decorations.
A visit to Uchiko can be accompanied by a short trip to the nearby castle town of Ozu. Why not take a detour from the usual tourist sights and spend some time exploring Uchiko?
Directions: Take a local train (1 hour, 760 yen) or limited express train (25 minutes, 1280 yen) from Matsuyama.
This article was published in ANA Experience Japan website 2016-2018.