Saijo Travel Guide

Discover the beauty of Saijo, Japan with this comprehensive travel guide including places to visit, hiking and biking routes, food and drink scene, local culture and customs, transportation options, and nearby destinations.

Introduction to Saijo

Saijo is a historic city situated in Ehime, in Shikoku, one of the four main islands of Japan. The city is famous for its sake breweries, lush green mountains, and scenic beauty. Saijo’s rich cultural heritage has made it a popular destination, especially among history buffs and nature lovers. The city’s relaxed, small-town vibe makes it an ideal getaway from the hectic city lifestyle.

List of Places to Visit in Saijo

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Saijo Castle Ruins: Built-in 1601, Saijo Castle was the home of a local Daimyo (feudal lord) until it was destroyed in the Meiji Restoration. Today, only ruins remain, but the elevated location provides stunning views of the city.

  • Saijo Inari Shrine: Considered one of the most beautiful shrines in Japan, Saijo Inari Shrine features a bright orange torii gate and is situated at the entrance to the town.

  • Saijo Traditional Sake Brewing District: Saijo is renowned for its sake brewing heritage. The brewing district is home to several old breweries that still produce the traditional Japanese rice wine. Visitors can go on guided tours and tastings to experience the unique flavors of Saijo sake.

  • Ehime Prefectural History and Culture Museum: This museum exhibits the history of Ehime and its cultural legacy. It also features a vast collection of antique samurai armor and traditional crafts.

Natural Attractions of Saijo: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Mt. Ishizuchi: Located in the south-eastern part of Saijo, Mt. Ishizuchi is the highest peak in the western Japan mountains, and the fifth highest peak in Japan. It is an ideal spot for hikers and nature lovers.

  • Osugi Nature Park: This park is home to a 500-year-old cedar tree, which is considered a national treasure. The park has several hiking trails, along with a campsite and picnic area.

  • Hijikawa River: Visitors can enjoy a calming boat ride on the Hijikawa river which flows through Saijo city. The river is surrounded by lush green mountains, and in the cherry blossom season, the views are exceptionally picturesque.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Saijo

Saijo offers several hiking and biking routes, each with unique views and challenges. Some of the popular routes includef Mt. Ishizuchi, Osugi Nature Park, and Hijikawa River Trail. Hiking and biking enthusiasts should check the weather and the trail conditions before starting their journey.

Best Things to Do in Saijo: Activities and Tours

  • Sake Tasting Tours: Saijo is renowned for its traditional sake brewing. Visitors can take guided tours of various sake breweries and tasting sessions to explore the unique flavors of Saijo’s sake.

  • Cycling Tours: To fully experience the natural beauty of Saijo, visitors can take a guided cycling tour of the city’s scenic trails, accompanied by a local guide.

  • Hot Spring Bath: Saijo is known for its hot springs. Visitors can relax in one of the many hot spring baths, complete with stunning views of the mountains and lush forests.

Week-Long Itinerary for Saijo

Day 1 – Arrival in Saijo, visit Saijo Inari Shrine and Saijo Castle

Day 2 – Explore the Mt. Ishizuchi, and enjoy a peaceful hike through the mountains.

Day 3 – Visit the Ehime Prefectural History and Culture Museum.

Day 4 – Take a guided cycling tour of Saijo, and explore its hidden trails.

Day 5 – Enjoy a boat ride on the Hijikawa river, and take in the picturesque views of the cherry blossoms.

Day 6 – Visit one of the traditional sake breweries and indulge in a sake tasting tour.

Day 7 – Relax in one of Saijo’s famous hot springs.

Food and Drink Scene of Saijo

Must-Try Dishes

  • Imoni: A popular dish of Ikata, a city near Saijo, which has thick slices of taro, simmered in miso soup, served with thinly sliced beef and tons of green onions.

  • Saijo Sake: Saijo is known for traditional sake brewing, the unique rice wine.

Local Beverages

  • Saijo Sake: An iconic drink of Saijo, that has been brewed for centuries using traditional methods.

  • Yuzu Juice: Yuzu is a type of citrus fruit grown in Japan. In Saijo, it is used to make a sweet and tangy drink, which is perfect for hot summers.

Where to Stay in Saijo: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

There are several accommodation options in Saijo, and each offers a unique stay. Visitors can choose from traditional Japanese guesthouses, luxury hotels, and budget-friendly hostels.

Some of the recommended options are:

  • Saijo Kanko Hotel: A luxurious traditional inn, boasting large rooms, and outstanding service.

  • Saijo Urban Hotel: A budget-friendly hotel located at the heart of the city, equipped with all necessary amenities.

  • Saijo Grand Hotel: A family-friendly hotel located in scenic Saijo, with a beautiful Japanese garden and hot spring.

What to Buy in Saijo: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Hiyoko Manju: A specialty of the Ehime prefecture, Hiyoko Manju is a traditional Japanese sweet, shaped like a chick, made of sponge cake and sweet beans.

  • Saijo Sake: Saijo is known for its traditional sake brewing, and tourists can buy a bottle of the local rice wine as a souvenir or gift.

Local Culture and Customs of Saijo

Saijo has preserved its traditional culture and customs over the centuries. Visitors should follow the city’s etiquettes, which include removing shoes before entering a home, bowing as a sign of respect, and avoiding pointing fingers. One of the most important traditional customs in Saijo is the making and serving of sake, a drink that is closely connected to Japanese culture.

Best Time to Visit Saijo

The best time to visit Saijo is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November), when the weather is mild, and the foliage is at its most colorful. The cherry blossom season in late March to early April, and the autumn leaves season in October and November, are the most popular seasons in Saijo.

Do’s and Don’ts of Saijo


  • Respect local customs and culture.
  • Dress appropriately when entering religious sites.
  • Be punctual.
  • Sample the local sake.


  • Use flash photography in shrines and temples.
  • Wear shoes inside a private residence or temple.
  • Speak in a loud voice in public.

Safety and Health

Safety in Saijo

Saijo is a safe city, with low crime rates. Visitors should take the usual safety precautions, such as keeping an eye on their valuables and avoiding walking alone in isolated areas at night.

Health in Saijo

Saijo has excellent medical facilities, with a couple of hospitals and clinics available. Visitors should have comprehensive travel insurance before traveling to Saijo.

Getting to Saijo: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Saijo

The nearest airports to Saijo are Matsuyama Airport and Hiroshima Airport.

Bus Stations Near Saijo

Saijo is accessible by bus from the Matsuyama and Hiroshima, and other major cities in the region. Visitors can check the schedule and book their tickets online.

Other Options

Visitors can also choose to travel by train, which offers stunning views of the countryside.

How to Get Around in Saijo

The city’s small size makes it easy to navigate on foot or by bicycle. Visitors can rent a bicycle or take a taxi at the station.

Where to Go Next from Saijo: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Matsuyama: The largest city in Ehime Prefecture and home of the Matsuyama Castle.

  • Uwajima: A coastal city known for its historic castle, local cuisine, and Bullfighting event.

  • Shimanto River: One of the last unpolluted rivers in Japan, is ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and rafting adventures.


Saijo is a hidden gem of Japan, offering a unique blend of natural beauty, traditional culture, and history. Whether you are interested in exploring the outdoors or learning about the local sake brewing heritage, Saijo will not disappoint. Visiting Saijo is an opportunity to experience authentic Japan without the hustle and bustle of the big city.