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. This is a location I have wanted to see for as long as I can remember and the rice terraces in Toon couldn’t be lovelier. So I decided to go for it and take 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 the emptiness of the surrounding village make you feel like the whole world is yours alone.
If you love the bright, saturated colors of summer, you will be in awe of what you see there. Green is the dominant color and stretches as far as the eye can see, to the slopes of Ehime’s steep mountains. But the most breathtaking sight has to be the famous rice terraces, creating a vast staircase structure along the slope. Such a layout helps with the irrigation and filtration of the soil, while preventing erosion.
A peaceful village
I end my descent by walking through a second village, which seems 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 about what she was doing, the language barrier prevented me from doing so. I then end my stroll through this peaceful farming community 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. The Botanchaya restaurant is a good representation of Japanese traditions: you can find multiple rooms with traditional furniture, as well as a few touches borrowed from the modern world.
Like everywhere else in the Japanese countryside, I was given a warm and friendly welcome by the owner, who gladly showed me into the kitchen of the restaurant so I could take a few pictures.
Back in the main room of the restaurant, it is 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 jarring to Westerners. As it is unfiltered, the liquid is quite thick with rice grain, so the consistency is more like a thin porridge than a beverage. The taste however, is wonderfully satisfying. If you enjoy rather strong and sweet flavors, you will likely appreciate a glass of doburoku.
Because I was eager to learn more about the production process, the owner kindly offered to show me his workshop to take a few pictures. The fermentation process happens inside big cauldrons where you can see rice grain 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 the summer season. If you are curious to discover new flavors from the Japanese countryside, I recommend you drop by this restaurant. Even if you are not a sake enthusiast, I am convinced that the charm of the town of Toon will warm your heart.
|Opening Hours||09:00 - 17:00|
|Price Range||300¥ for a glass of doburoku|
Original text: Pierre Babin
Translation: Marion Pont