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Far 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 (東温市), located 30 minutes away from Matsuyamashi Station (松山市駅). With 33,000 inhabitants, Toon is mainly known for its peaceful natural setting, surrounded by mountains and fields. For these countryside excursions, I’ll also be trying Doburoku, a regional unfiltered sake that is a must-try if you’re in Toon city.

greeny rice fields in Toon city, Ehime Prefecture, Japan.

Take in the Beauty of Toon’s Rice Terraces

Among the list of must-visit places in the region are rice terraces. I have wanted to see this location 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 walk in the middle of the rice fields just a few kilometres away from Toon city centre.

a view of rice fields, mountains, and houses in japan
A small village in the middle of the rice fields

Tip: If you wish to do the same as me, go up the main road wherever you are around Toon. Once at the top, look for the small entrance that will give you access to the fields where you can 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 makes you feel like the whole world is yours alone.

close up of rice field with distant mountains in japan
Greenery and mountains as far as the eye can see

If you love summer’s bright, saturated colours, you will be in awe of what you see there. Green is the dominant colour and stretches to the slopes of Ehime’s steep mountains as far as the eye can see. 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.

Watch Local Life in Toon’s Peaceful Village Countryside

I end my descent by walking through a second village, which seems more lively than the first one. I notice a woman cutting a bunch of tree branches in her workshop. 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 returning to the road for my next destination.

Botanchaya: A Restaurant with Authentic Japanese Charm

A few kilometres away from rice fields, you can find a small lovely restaurant nestled in the mountains: the Botanchaya (農家レストランぼたん 茶屋). Arriving there 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 and a few touches borrowed from the modern world.

Like everywhere else in the Japanese countryside, I received a warm and friendly welcome from the owner, who gladly showed me into the restaurant’s kitchen so I could take a few pictures.

Doburoku: Tasting Toon’s Unfiltered Sake

Back in the restaurant’s main room, 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 unfiltered sake, unlike the traditional one. It is mainly produced in the countryside, like in the Ehime Prefecture.

The visual aspect of it can be a bit jarring to Westerners. As it is unfiltered, the liquid is 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 relatively strong and sweet flavours, 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 flavours 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.

Sponsored by Toon City
Translation: Marion Pont

Pierre Babin

Pierre Babin

Designer web de profession, Pierre Babin est un passionné de voyage et de minimalisme. Avec plus de 40 pays visités à son actif, il aime partir à l'aventure avec un simple sac à dos et son iPhone en guise d'appareil photo. Récemment installé à Tokyo après un voyage d'un an en Europe, Pierre découvre et nous fait découvrir le Japon au travers de son regard aiguisé pour les détails et la simplicité.


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