Dogo is a small onsen (Japanese bath) town near Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku. The town is really centered on the bath house, which is said to be the oldest in Japan, dating back at least to AD 720. We took the tram from our hotel in Matsuyama, and went straight to the bath house. Buying a ticket is a bit tricky, since there are many choices, and the bath procedure is a bit complicated, but the helpful English brochure you get at the entrance explains it all.
We took the most expensive option, which meant we got our own changing room, in traditional Japanese style with a low table and pillows on the floor, where we changed into yukata (Japanese bath robes). On seeing me in my yukata the attendant immediately said "It is too small. You change to bigger yukata." It was too small, stopping only just below my knees, but I smiled and said it wasn't necessary. She became very serious, and said emphatically "You change! I get bigger yukata!" Clearly the sight of furry calves was not welcome in a Japanese onsen. So I changed.
There are two male baths in the Dogo Onsen, but I only used one, which was a mid-sized room with stone walls. Fog hung under the ceiling, softening the glow from the stone lamps. The bath itself is a huge marble pool, fed with hot water from two big marble spouts. However, etiquette dictates that you not go straight into the pool, but shower first, since everyone bathes in the same water. One does this sitting on wooden stools, using soap and a brush. There is also a wooden bucket of unknown purpose. Having washed, you can go into the pool, but this is a slow business, since the water is almost painfully hot. You hang around in the water, letting the heat soak in, take a cold shower, then repeat for as many times as you care. I found the bath incredibly relaxing, and my body felt like jelly afterwards.
LMG eating dango
After the bath is when you really see the point of the yukata, since the light cotton bathrobe is dry and cool, allowing the body to radiate off the heat from the bath. In the changing room the attendants serve green tea and the usual strange cakes. After cooling down and relaxing, we go out of the bathhouse, still feeling a bit woozy from the bath.
This, of course, is the perfect time for a beer, and Dogo Beer, just across the street, is the perfect place for it. It's a quiet little izakaya with the normal bar, dining tables, and traditional Japanese seating. The room itself is wood panelled and modern. The food is a fusion of Japanese and western, and excellent. The three beers (a pale lager, an altbier, and a stout) are likewise excellent. The two best are actually among my top 10 Japanese beers so far.
Below is the rating for Dogo Botchan, their pale lager. It's named after the main character of a novel by Natsume Soseki about a teacher named Botchan who lives in Matsuyama and enjoys going to the bath house. The brewery also makes a stout named after Soseki.
|Medium creamy offwhite lasting head. Hazy orange body with carbonation. Light spicy mealy aroma. Slightly acidic spicy and citric taste with perfumy coriander notes. Soft and smooth mouthfeel, despite some initial carbonation in the mouth. An excellent lager. (0.4l on tap.)|
In Tokugawa-era Japan (1600-1868) travellers had two main roads to choose between when travelling between the official imperial capital of Kyoto and the seat of power, which was Tokyo (then called Edo)
Read | 2008-05-24 12:52