Imabari is the second largest city in Ehime Prefecture. It incorporated several smaller surrounding towns and islands in a merger in 2010, and as such is a city that spans several islands. Its strategic location in the Seto Inland Sea resulted in the area being controlled by a variety of forces, including pirates, throughout history.
The main economies lie in shipbuilding and in towel manufacturing. In fact, Imabari City produces 60% of the towels in Japan. The Towel Art Museum demonstrates weaving processes and exhibits works of art made of towel fabric.
One point of interest is Imabari Castle. Built in 1604 near the Seto Inland Sea, Imabari Castle is unusual in that saltwater is used in the moat surrounding the castle. The castle is six stories, with an observation deck on the top floor and artifact displays rooms on the remaining levels.
Further inland, the Okudogo-Tamagawa Prefectural Nature Park has the Nibukawa Onsen, a hot spring resort located on along the Nibukawa ravine. The ravine is at its peak in the autumn when the surrounding trees turn bright red and gold.
For visitors interested in traditional culture, Imabari has 6 temples that are on the Shikoku Temple Pilgrimage Route (numbers 54~59). The six temples are Enmeiji, Nankoji, Taisanji, Eifukuji, Senyuji, and Kokubunji.
The Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge connects Imabari with Hiroshima Prefecture via the Shimanami Bridgeline. The bridge consists of three continuous suspension bridges that connect several islands and which has a total span of 4km. The route is popular with visitors walking or cycling across the bridge and enjoying the scenery and the specialties of each island. There are 15 rent-a-cycle locations along the route. Additionally, there are boat cruises that traverse the straits under the bridge.
Foodies will want to try “Yakibuta Tamago Meshi”. This dish is made up of thinly sliced pork on top of soy-seasoned rice, and topped with a sunny side up fried egg. Served at over 40 locations throughout Imabari, this dish is popularly referred to as “Imabari Soul Food”. Additionally, another popular dish is “Kaisen-don”, or Seafood Rice Bowl, which consists of freshly caught seafood served over a bowl of rice.
Another local item is “Imabari Yakitori”, a crispy grilled chicken dish which is a popular “everyday” dish that is served at over 80 shops in the city.
Some other sites of interest on the islands that belong to Imabari City include a shrine and several museums. Oyamazumi Shrine on Oshima Island is a 1,000-year-old shrine that houses a camphor tree over 2,600 years old. Also on Oshima island, visitors will enjoy the Ito Toyoo Architectural Museum and the Tokoro Sculpture Museum, which features work by several international artists. Omishima houses a wisteria park and a contemporary art museum; Hakatajima Island is famous for producing sea salt, but also has a shrine and a history park.
Visit Imabari City for a leisurely day at the city by the sea!