Shikoku is best known for its temples--in fact, one of the common tour suggestions for visitors is to try to visit the 80+ major temples that exist there. However, Shikoku also has an interesting relationship with the modernization of Japan, especially its role in the Meiji Restoration.
Nestled deep in the mountains of Ehime prefecture (in the town of Besshi) is a relic of the Meiji-era Industrial Revolution in Japan--an old copper mine that is in itself a feat of human ingenuity. Some have dubbed it Japan's Machu Picchu, which is probably over-selling what it is (even though the politicians from Ehime somehow convinced the Peruvian Ambassador to visit their own little "Machu Picchu"). The operators of the site like to call it "Minetopia," which is a little too gimmicky for a place that is both ominous and fascinating at the same time. The actual name for the ruins is "Tonaru Mine," and the best way to describe it is as Japan's most fascinating ruins. Here's why:
There's only one way to get up to the Ruins, and that is by renting a vehicle or taking a bus tour deep into the mountains of Ehime. The scenery is beautiful, and there is even a fantastic Helix bridge that you get to traverse (for any engineering fans out there).
If you have your own vehicle, you may proceed directly to the old mine at the top of the mountain. If not, you can start at the main "Minetopia" building and catch one of the company's microbuses to head up to the mine. As you get closer to the site, the roads get narrower and steeper. I was surprised that my vehicle was able to make it through, so I can only imagine what it must be to operate a bus through those roads, but the well-practiced site operators do quite regularly (and quite swiftly) for intrepid travelers.
All of these features makes the "Minetopia / Machu Picchu" at the Tonaru mine ruins a fascinating destination for any travelers who happen to be in Ehime, especially if you are a fan of Japanese history or engineering. Don't worry about running out of things to do at Minetopia--the main facility offers restaurants, interactive experiences, and additional tours. Certainly, Minetopia can be rather difficult to get to unless you have a rental vehicle, but fortunately, Odigo offers a 10% rental deal here, and my wife and travel companion, Kim, has some great tips for road tripping in Japan here!