Historic MATSUYAMA, with a population of over 450,000, is Shikoku's largest city and single best destination. Despite its size, Matsuyama is a convivial, friendly place that's easy to get around, thanks to a tram network that bestows an old-fashioned grace to a city which also proudly promotes its literary connections. Most points of interest are centred on the impressive castle, Matsuyama-jō, and the popular hot-spring suburb of Dōgo, 2km east of the centre, home to one of Japan's most magnificent bathhouses. You can see Matsuyama's main sights in a day, but it's better to give yourself an extra couple of days to savour the relaxed mood induced by Dōgo's onsen.
Local warlords from the Kono clan built a fortress in Dōgo in the fourteenth century, while Matsuyama was created in 1602 by daimyō Katō Yoshiakira when he built his castle on Katsuyama Hill. In 1635, the Matsudaira clan took charge of the castle and ruled the area until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Matsuyama was made the capital of Ehime-ken in 1889 and has since expanded across its corner of Shikoku's northwest coast to swallow up several neighbouring towns and suburbs, including Dōgo. The city centre was pretty much destroyed during World War II and is now largely modern.