I went on a little castle exploring tour in Shikoku and visited three castles in two days: Imabari Castle, Uwajima Castle and Ozu Castle.
You can probably manage to see all three in one day if you start early enough, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Especially Uwajima City and Ozu City are so nice that you should consider spending some time there.
Today I want to show you around Ozu City a little, so you can judge if it’s worth your time or not.
About Ozu City
Ozu City (大洲市) is located in Ehime Prefecture (map) on Shikoku and is also known as “Little Kyoto of Iyo“. Iyo is the old name of Ehime. Ozu is an old castle town that flourished around Ozu Castle in the Hijikawa Valley.
If you want to know more about Ozu City, check out the official website in Japanese.
Besides Ozu Castle there are a few other places of interest. If you can spare 2-3h to explore them, I’m sure you won’t regret it.
Red Brick Building
The “Aka Renga-kan” (赤煉瓦館) is a 15-minutes walk away from Ozu Castle.
There’s no admission fee and the building is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Like most facilities it’s closed in late December (29th – 31st).
Formerly it was the Ozu Commercial Bank and as such it was constructed in 1901.
The outer walls consist of bricks in different colors. It shows the spirit of modernization during the Meiji Era (1868-1912).
Inside you’ll find some information about the construction and history of the building as well as local handicraft products. There’s also a gallery.
Right next to the “Red Brick Building” is the so-called “Pokopen Yokochou” (ポコペン横丁).
“Pokopen Yokochou” is a small square where you’ll find a lot of retro products of the Showa Era (1926–1989), especially of the 1950s.
Maybe not very nostalgic for foreign tourists, but some of the signs are hilarious.
Several old vehicles from cars and vans to bicycles can be found there as well.
When I visited nobody else was around.
You should go on a Sunday between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. when it’s most lively.
Garyuu Sansou (Mountain Villa)
Right next to the Hiji River is a beautiful mountain villa (臥龍山荘).
Besides the castle it’s certainly one of the highlights in the city.
It’s about 25 mins on foot from JR Ozu Station. You can easily walk there after visiting the “Red Brick Building” and “Pokopen Yokochou“. Entrance is until 16:30 and there’s a 500 yen admission fee (200 yen for children).
Surrounded by mountains and the Hijikawa River, the villa offers a beautiful scenery that changes with each season.
It’s a great place to experience harmony with nature.
On Sundays and national holidays (April to October), you can attend a tea ceremony there (400 yen).
You can enjoy the beauty of a Japanese landscape garden while having a cup of green tea.
The villa offers a great view over the Hiji River and part of Ozu City.
A recommended spot to take a photo of Garyuu Sansou is the opposite side of the river. It’ll take a while to walk there, but it’s worth the beautiful sight.
Other Sightseeing Spots in Ozu City
Between the “Red Brick Building” and the “Mountain Villa” there’s also a street displaying old houses of the Meiji Era. The street marks the border between merchants and samurai residences offering an interesting contrast. You’ll explore traditional architecture and feel the taste of ‘Little Kyoto’ everywhere in the street.
On your way from one sightseeing spot to another you’ll also run into a few smaller shrines and temples.
The street is paved with pictures of the main sightseeing spots. In the one above it’s Ozu Castle.
Not only the castle, but also comorants are displayed everywhere.
Ukai (鵜飼) is a traditional method of fishing using comorants. This custom can be experienced in several cities of Japan.
Ozu City offers one of the major Ukai spots in Japan, the Hijikawa River. The most popular spot can be found at the Nagaragawa River in Gifu Prefecture.
In summer, a lot of tourists come to see this spectacle.
There are a lot more things to see in Ozu City. Today I only introduced the major places of interest that can be reached on foot, spending 2-3 h. If you have more time and don’t mind using public transportation or a rental car, there’s always more for you to explore.