Iyotetsu is the main railway and bus company in Matsuyama. If you visit Matsuyama, there is a very strong chance that you will be using their tram services to get around town. It is a little difficult to get good information about their services and the services can be a little confusing at first but it is actually really easy.
If you fly into Matsuyama, you are more than likely to be taking the Limousine Bus, which is pretty simple. Just hop on and head into town. It takes 15-30 minutes to get into town with 2 main services. There is a direct service to Matsuyama-shi Station and a full city service that goes to Matsuyama Station and then stopping along the way to Dogo Onsen. More on this in a future post, but basically it is a pretty easy way to get to and from the city and you don’t have to worry about the bus being sold out.
Once you get into the city, you have 2 main train lines, a tram system, and a bus system. For the trains you have the JR line and the Iyotetsu Line. Iyotetsu is the most popular train service and the JR Line is pretty quiet. You basically use it to get to Takamatsu or other areas where the Iyotetsu Lines are used to get around Ehime.
The trams are the most useful service in Matsuyama. You will no doubt be using it to get around. They do have a great one and two day passes that are 500 and 800 JPY respectively. The tram costs 160 JPY per trip so you need to roughly take 4 trips on the tram to save money. It is also useful on the buses but it doesn’t cover the “Botchan Ressha”, a special steam train/tram for tourists.
When you get the day pass, you have to be a little careful with it as you need to scratch off the correct date to activate it. It is easy to scratch off the wrong date, as “I” found out. Somehow she scratched off the wrong date twice in a row leading us to do some good Japanese comedy. It started with her scratching the 1st month instead of the 5th. She proceeded to go to the conductor to get a stamp for the mistake. She then decided to do the same mistake with the date, and instead of scratching the 17th, she scratched the 1st as well leading to both “A” and I to “screaming” at “I” for being “stupid” in a typical “manzai” style. It was a fun time for sure and even a few people on the tram realized what was happening. It may have been a little frustrating but we had a good laugh.
Day passes can be bought on any tram and all of the drivers have them. If you are on a train with a conductor, you can buy them at any time on the tram, but if there is only one person on board, you’ll have to wait till you get off to buy it. If you do scratch the wrong number or date off, just talk to the driver and he will stamp it for you to say that the wrong date was scratched.
There are 5 tram lines in Matsuyama. Lines 1 and 2 are basically loop lines. One goes clockwise and the other goes counter clockwise. You need to understand that they follow the exact same route and there is only 1 place where you need to be careful. There is a spur from the main loop that goes to Matsuyama-shi and both lines go the same way on that short section. It can be a little confusing at first, or if you are not paying attention, but it isn’t too difficult to understand.
Lines 3, 5, and 6 are a lot easier to understand. All of them go to and from Dogo Onsen but the starting point is different. Line 3 starts at Matsuyama-shi Station, Line 4 starts from Matsuyama Station, and Line 6 starts at Honmachi 6 Chome. For the most part, most people will not need to worry about which line they are taking. If you are staying in the central area of town near the castle, Okaido Street, or Matsuyama-shi, the trains are pretty simple. They all go along Okaido and the only thing you really need to know is whether you are getting on a tram to go to Dogo Onsen, or if you are going to the end of one of the lines.
It is pretty easy to hop on a tram and just head along Okaido to get from the hotel area to the central commercial area. I did it often when I had a day pass and using it to go a couple of stations is really simple. I’m usually happy to walk most of it but sometimes you just want to take a train to rest your legs. If you are going to Dogo, you will have to take the tram or it is a long walk to get there.
The transportation in Matsuyama is a little confusing at first, and information was a little confusing for me in English. Even in Japanese it was a little difficult for me to read everything and find everything I was looking for. Like anything, once you use it, it is really easy. If you are experienced in travelling in Tokyo, you won’t have any problems in Matsuyama, although you might have a little trouble at first.