Sponsored by Toon city.
Far away from the usual sightseeing tours, Ehime Prefecture on Shikoku Island has caught my attention more than once. Always eager to discover the aspects of Japan that are lesser known, I have never been disappointed when visiting the countryside. This time, I had the opportunity to visit the small town of Toon, located 30 minutes away from Matsuyamashi Station. With 33,000 inhabitants, Toon is mostly known for its peaceful natural setting, surrounded by mountains and fields.
Wandering around the rice terraces of Toon
Among the list of must-visit places in the region are rice terraces. As far as I can remember, I don’t recollect having the opportunity to see such fields before. So I decided to get to the heart of it all, with a walk in the middle of the rice fields just a few kilometres away from Toon city centre.
Tip: If you wish to do the same as me, wherever you are around Toon, simply go up the main road. Once at the top, look for the small entrance that will give you access to the fields where you will be able to walk at your own pace.
Here, the atmosphere is incredibly quiet and serene. Only a few insects and wild animals can be heard while all the small neighboring villages seem almost deserted.
If you have a thing for bright, saturated colors, you will love what you see there. Green is the dominant color and stretches as far as the eye can see, before colliding into the mountains. But the most breathtaking sight has to be the famous rice terraces, creating a vast staircase along the slope. Such a layout helps with the water flow and infiltration in the soil, while preventing erosion.
A peaceful village
I end my descent by crossing a second village, which seems this time a bit more lively than the first one. I notice a woman in her workshop, cutting a bunch of tree branches. As much as I would have loved to hear all about what she was doing, the language barrier prevented me from doing so. I then end my stroll in a very authentic rural setting before getting back on the road for my next destination.
Botanchaya: a restaurant with authentic charm
A few kilometres away from rice fields, you can find a small lovely restaurant nestled in the mountains: the Botanchaya. Arriving there quite early in the day, I was lucky enough to have the place all to myself, which I could photograph without any other customers there. The Botanchaya restaurant is a good reflection of Japanese traditions: you can find there multiple rooms with traditional furniture, as well as a few touches borrowed from a more modern culture.
Like everywhere else in the Japanese countryside, I was given a warm and friendly welcome by the owner, who gladly opened the doors of the private areas of his restaurants so I could take a few pictures.
Back in the main room of the restaurant, it is now time to get down to serious business. It is 10:30 in the morning, the ideal time to taste some doburoku, a regional sake which is unfiltered, unlike the traditional one. It is mainly produced in the countryside, like here in the Ehime Prefecture.
The visual aspect of it can be a bit gruesome. As it is unfiltered, the liquid is quite thick with rice grains that can still be felt when tasting. The taste however, is far from being bad. If you enjoy rather strong and sweet flavors, you will likely appreciate a glass of doburoku.
Eager to know more about the production process, the owner kindly offered me to visit his workshop to take a few pictures. The fermentation process happens inside big cauldrons where you can see rice grains floating at the surface of a liquid with a milky appearance. From time to time, the craftsman stirs the liquid with a special utensil.
The peaceful and relaxing setting at Botanchaya makes it a very popular spot during summer season. If you are curious to discover new flavors, I can only recommend you to drop by this restaurant. Even if you are not a sake enthusiast, I am convinced that the charm of such a scenic and unique setting will operate immediately.
|Opening Hours||09:00 - 17:00|
|Price Range||300¥ for a glass of doburoku|
Original text: Pierre Babin
Translation: Marion Pont