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With its 470 000 inhabitants, Matsuyama is the capital of the prefecture Ehime and lies west of the Japanese island of Shikoku. It is situated on the shores of lake Seto, which is responsible for Matsuyama's mild and warm climate. Among the city's most famous sights are the castle and the thermal baths of Dogo Onsen, which are in fact the oldest thermal springs in the whole of Japan.
The city's history dates back to the year 1602 when clan leader Yoshiakira had a castle erected on the 132 m high Kastuyama Hill. At the same time, the town of Matsuyama was built at the foot of the hill. Matsuyama Castle is one of very few in Japan still standing in its original form. It can be seen from every spot in the city. In 1889, Matsuyama was granted city status and thus became the 39th city of modern Japan. Since then many adjoining towns and villages have been incorporated so that today Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku Island. With their 3000-year-old history, the thermal baths of Dogo Onsen are regarded as Japan's oldest thermal springs. Every morning at 6:30 their opening is announced by the sounding of a large drum.
Matsuyama is the centre of Haiku poetry, one of the shortest lyrical forms in the world. It is made up of three lines à five, seven and five syllables, and always contains a particular word which conjures up one of the four seasons. There are more than 500 stones with engraved haiku to be found in the city. Matsuyama is a place of celebrating the seasons. There is a spring festival at the beginning of April, the time of the cherry blossom. Its highlight is a mediaeval Samurai procession involving 500 people who march from the castle hill down into the city. Traditional games, dances, as well as colourful costumes speak of the different periods of the city's history. The summer and autumn festival are also celebrated events. The Ship Dance of Gogoshima Island, a dance performed in historical costumes on board a ship, takes place on 7 October every year.
Economy and Tourism
The great industries of Matsuyama - chemistry, mechanical engineering and food production - are concentrated on the coast. There are also many smaller businesses that work as suppliers for larger companies. Most employees, however, work in trade, service and tourism. The world trade centre Ithem Ehime, which was built to promote international trade and exchange, is used as a centre for functions, exhibitions and congresses. The International Fair takes place there every year in October when exhibitors from all over the world display their goods, among them companies from Freiburg.
Handiwork is crafted according to traditional patterns, such as the Hime-darum dolls, which are to favour the birth of children, and the Hime-temari silk balls, which are to bring luck to the person they are given to. Iyo Kasuri is a weaving craft named after the speckled indigo blue Kasuri cloth. Indigo blue is also the typical colour of the hand-painted Tobe pottery.
Every year, around 6 million visitors come to Matsuyama to enjoy the thermal springs. Southwest of the castle lies Ninomaru Park, which used to be a private garden of the lord of the castle and is now used by the public as a place for rest and relaxation. Other interesting sights are the Ishite temple and the Shiki remembrance museum, dedicated to the creator of modern haiku lyrics.
Knowledge and Learning
There are two universities in Matsuyama: Ehime University and Matsuyama University. Ehime has six faculties at which law, literature, educational science, engineering, agriculture and medicine are taught. Matsuyama University is a private institution which teaches economics, sociology and law. All in all, there are 18 000 students at Matsuyama. Other research, particularly in the field of environmental studies where it concentrates on environmental pollutants and soil protection, plays an important role.