As I’ve never seen a polar bear before we decided to go to Tobe Zoo. The road to Tobe Zoo was picturesque. With lots of wheat fields on the side of the road.
It sits on a forested hill-top south of Matsuyama between the Ehime Prefectural Sports Complex and the Ehime Children’s Playground. From the car park and bus stop, a path winds up the hill towards the zoo. Embedded in the path are metal decals showing the footprints of various animals and birds, spaced at the distance of their walking pace. These lead towards signboards with information about each animal. This imaginative device is educational, and serves very effectively in building anticipation for the actual animals ahead. Adults and children alike seem to enjoy hopping from one footprint to the next, mimicking each animal. There’s even an elephants cage that used to transport and elephant to the zoo.Entry is cheap for a zoo—just 450 yen for adults, and 100 yen for children and seniors. The aim is to encourage repeat visitors and generate a feeling of participation in the daily life of the zoo. The zoo sometimes opens in the evenings so that the public can see behind the scenes when the animals are put to bed. In a way I’m glad to have the chance to see the animals but it is also heartbreaking to see them behind the cages and glass walls. Here are some animals there and the surroundings of Tobe Zoo.
We took the ‘Botchan’ train to Dogo Onsen. From the Dogo Onsen Station which nicely represents the Meiji Period architecture. It serves as the terminal station to three tram lines. A “Botchan” steam locomotive is often exhibited in front of it. The turning of the locomotive is being done manually by a few guys who works on the train. I would like to upload a video of this but since I’m a cheapskate and wouldn’t upgrade – I can’t
Upon reaching the Dogo Onsen you’ll first pass the Botcham Karakuri Clock. Sorry i don’t have a picture here and again, I can’t upload videos. The clock chimes every 30-60 minutes from 8.00am to 10.00pm. The Botchan Karakuri Clock near the station plays music on the hour whilst figurines of characters from the famous novel “Botchan” come to life. Next to the clock stands a foot bath free for all to enjoy.
The foot bath at the bottom can be used from 6:00am to 11.00pm. The natural hot springs is from the mountains.
Approximately 250 meter long covered shopping arcade connects Dogo Onsen Honkan with Dogo Onsen Station. The arcade is filled with stores selling local specialties, gifts and snacks. Most shops here open into the night and the shopping street remains lively with strolling visitors. Opens from 9.00am to 10.00pm
Dogo Onsen is one of Japan’s oldest and most famous hot springs bath house, located to the east of central Matsuyama. The area is popular with tourists for its beautiful bath house and many ryokan. Dogo Onsen has also been a frequent destination for Japan’s most prestigious guests, the Imperial Family.
The main attraction in Dogo Onsen is the Dogo Onsen Honkan, a Meiji Period wooden public bath house, dating from 1894. The interior of the Honkan is a maze of stairways, passages and rooms, all of which bustle with bathers and staff. It is said to have served as inspiration for Miyazaki’s popular animated film “Spirited Away”. I didn’t go in as visitors need to strip naked in order to take a bath there. Don’t worry, the men and women are separated. It’s just that it is not in my tradition to do it and I’m rather shy to do it.
Opening hours are from 6.00am to 10.30pm and admission is about 410 to 1550 yen. The Honkan has two indoor baths: Kami no Yu is the larger public bath and Tama no Yu is the smaller, more noble and less crowded bath. Four different options provide visitors with varying levels of access to the Honkan’s facilities, with some price plans including a snack and some macha green tea. Visitors on the highest price level can view the exclusive bathing facility reserved for visiting emperors.