Saijō is a medium-sized city Ehime Prefecture, known throughout Shikoku for its fresh spring water (uchinuki), its massive autumn festival, and as the gateway to Mt. Ishizuchi, the tallest peak in western Japan. Temples 60-64 on the Shikoku Pilgrimage lie within the extended Saijō area.
From Okayama on Honshu, the Shiokaze limited express train makes hourly runs to Iyo-Saijō (1 3/4 - 2 hours, ¥4740, no charge with Japan Rail Pass). Express trains only stop at Iyo-Saijo and Nyūgawa stations, while local trains stop at all 7 stations in the city limits.
By car, Saijō is accessible by the Matsuyama Expressway (Komatsu IC and Saijō IC exits) and the Imabari Expressway (Komatsu IC exit), as well as locally via National Route 11 (about 90 minutes from Matsuyama Airport).
The Orange Ferry runs between Osaka and Tōyo Port in Saijō.
Public transporation in Saijō is limited, but taxis are available at all seven stations on the JR Yosan Line that lie within the Saijō city limits. There is a local bus system with limited coverage. A dedicated bus runs between Iyo-Saijō station and the Asahi Brewery.
Rental bicycles are available at the Saijō Tourism Center next to Iyo-Saijō station for ¥200/hour. Saijō is a relatively flat city and easily bikeable.
- Shikoku Railway Culture Museum (On your right when exiting Iyo-Saijō station.).
- Kōmyō-ji (15 minutes walk from Iyo-Saijō station, on your right).
Temples 60 through 64 on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage fall within Saijo city limits. Temple 60, Yokomineji (横峰寺）is considered the most difficult temple to reach because of its lack of access by ropeway and the tough climb to get there. The closest rail access is from Iyo-Komatsu (伊予小松）station, where you will also find nearby temples 61 and 62, Ko-onji (香園寺） and Hojuji (宝寿寺, respectively. Temple 63, Kichijoji (吉祥寺) is an easy walk from Iyo-Himi (伊予氷見）station. Walk up the road without crossing the train tracks and make a right at the first small street, at the next corner it will be on your right. Temple 64, Maegameji (前神寺）is at the foot of Mt. Ishizuchi, and like Yokomineji it is particularly hard to access by walking. The closest train stop is, again, Iyo-Himi station. If you are interested in visiting these temples, it might be easiest to arrange to go with a bus tour with Setouchi Travel Company(in Japanese).
The Kamo river runs through Saijo halway between Iyo-Saijo (伊予西条) and Ishizuchijinja (石鎚神社） stations, and at the river there is a particularly pretty spot for cherry blossom viewing where the river comes down from the mountains and meets Route 11. From the station, take a 10 minute walk down Ekinishidori until you reach a fountain and uchinuki (water spring for which Saijo is famous) , make a left there and continue until you reach the road on the other side. Make a left at that road until you reach Route 11, right before it becomes the bridge over the Kamo River. Cross the road, then walk right toward the bridge. Make a left atop the levee (hill) next to the river until you reach a street lined with trees. You will reach a park and if you continue up this street there is a pleasant hill you can hike up, the entire hike is about 25 minutes, and affords pleasant city views, particularly in the early morning or late afternoon/evening.
Also, if you ride the train to Ishizuchijinja Station (石鎚神社駅), it is about a ten minute walk from there to the entrance road to Ishizuchi Shrine (not to be confused with access to hiking the mountain, which is more easily done by taking a bus from Saijo station to the ropeway.) The shrine is in homage to the spirit of Mt. Ishizuchi, and is a secluded and nice place to visit with commanding views of the surrounding area. Just head toward giant red gate, visible from the station platform.
- Saijō Festival.
- Aqua Route.
- "Uchinuki no Kura". This souvenir shop located on Saijō's recently renovated main shopping arcade specializes locally made crafts and clothing. Run by an NPO, each shelf in the store displays products by a different artisan, and popular goods include shirts made from repurposed kimonos, cedar carvings, and indigo-dyed fabrics. (Ten minute walk from Iyo-Saijō station.)
- "Farmers' Markets". There are several farmers' markets run by Japan Agriculture in the Saijō area. The largest is Shu-chan Market in the Tōyo region, but the most accessible for visitors is Suito Market, located next to Saijō High School at the city's center. Much of the produce and other food on sale is locally made: Saijō is famous for eggplant, persimmons, grapes, and spinach. Next door is a bakery that uses mochi in its dough, giving its pastries and bread a truly unique consistency and flavor.
Asahi beer`s only brewery is on Shikoku, The Saijo Asahi Brewery is located on the waterfront. There are shuttle buses that run from Iyo-Saijo station to the brewery. Information can be found on their website .
On the road in front of the station are several Japanese style pubs. Also about a ten minute walk from the station is a street that has the majority of bars in Saijo. Making a left from the station onto Ekinishidori, cross the street and make a right onto the street directly after Iyokko ramen. About 3 blocks up this street are a string of pubs and bars, including the highly recommended World's End Cafe. The owner speaks a fair bit of English, and can make any drink you can think of if you can describe it to him. It also has a fair amount of imports and microbrewery beers, with Kirin on tap.
There are several hotels within a few blocks of the station. All are business hotels catering mostly to Japanese business types. Expect to pay ¥7,500-9,000 for a room.
- Mount Ishizuchi, the tallest mountain in Shikoku, is one hour away by bus.