Toon City, pronounced Tō-on, is a city in name only. There’s no built-up center to it at all, which may seem strange to people who are used to the conventional meanings of words. But in Japan, if enough people live in a given area, it’s called a city, even if it has none of the normal characteristics of a city.
Toon is a very large area to the east of Matsuyama City (which is a conventional city!). The area of Toon largely corresponds to the watershed of the Shigenobu River which flows through Matsuyama to the Inland Sea. As such, Toon is characterized by steep, forested valleys where rainfall and snowfall accumulates. Consequently, it’s an area of considerable natural beauty, with deep river gorges. Each season brings a different look and mood to the mountain scenery, and this is perhaps the main charm of Toon.
Besides the wealth of natural monuments including spectacular gorges and waterfalls, and some very old trees, there isn’t much in the way of sightseeing to be done in Toon. Konpira-ji Temple is an attractive nook in a fairly spectacular valley, with a Japanese beech of great antiquity and a number of very tall cedars, which are also very old. Not far from Konpira-ji are the Shirai Falls, which freeze almost completely in winter, making a dramatic display that would seem more typical of Japan’s far northern regions. The Namekawa Gorge has a whole series of waterfalls, which also freeze in winter.
One of the more unusual cultural attractions is the Kasho Museum, dedicated to the artist Kasho Takabatake from the Taisho Period of the 1920s. These Beardsley-esque works had a profound influence on today’s manga comics. The Botchan Theater is also located in Toon. This theater puts on musicals based on the history of Ehime, and its productions win enthusiastic reviews, even from people who are known for their cynicism. There’s a free shuttle bus from Matsuyama to the theater.
The ‘on’ of Toon is the ‘on’ of onsen or hot springs, and Toon also prides itself in some large onsen facilities.