Tomonoura Japan – The Port That Inspired the Ghibli Anime “Ponyo on the Cliff”
Tomonoura Japan – There are only a handful of locations around the world lucky enough to call themselves an inspiration for one of the most successful animation studios around the world, and Tomonoura is one of them. It is a quaint and charming fishing port village located in the south of Hiroshima Prefecture, filled with nostalgic alleyways, traditional landmarks and stunning seaside views.
The town is so endearing that it, in fact, inspired the scenery in the Ghibli anime “Ponyo on the Cliff”, and if you keep an eye out you will be able to see small artworks around town throwing back to this wonderful classic. If you’re a fan of Marvel, you might also be able to recognise the town in which Wolverine finds cover in an attempt to hide from his pursuers.
Whilst most people visiting Hiroshima will bypass the lesser-known Tomonoura town for popular favourites such as Hiroshima City, Miyajima, Onomichi and Kure, Tomonoura’s charm exists partly because of the smaller (or basically non-existent) crowds and its organic development (as opposed to accelerated growth due to tourism). When you step out of the car or the train, the slow lifestyle and fresh ocean breeze will hit you like a (light) ton of bricks. Exploring here happens mostly on foot, and you’ll find that you won’t really need to build an itinerary, the activities will naturally come to you.
How To Get To Tomonoura, Japan?
From Hiroshima Station, take the JR Hikari, Sakura, Kodama or Nozomi line towards Fukuyama Station. From Fukuyama Station, head to the bus stop and take the bus headed for Tomo Port (鞆港, Tomokō). This should be from bus stop #5. The overall trip should take just over an hour, and cost 5,600 yen. If you have your JR pass you can use it on the JR Hikari, Sakura or Kodama but not the Nozomi line.
Where To Stay in Tomonoura, Japan?
Tomonoura Ryokan – Shiomachi Hotel ROYA
Quality, aesthetics, ambience, and comfort combine to make Tomonoura Shiomachi Hotel ROYA. This breathtaking ryokan offers spacious guest rooms furnished with timber flooring, tall ceilings, and boasting a wooden aesthetic throughout. Contemporary is mixed with traditional here, with beige tones, tatami flooring in certain areas, and lowered furniture fused with flatscreens, modern lounging furniture and western style bedding. The quiet terrace areas are light-filled and surrounded by greenery, making them a great place to just sit and take in the beauty of the place. It also boasts an on-site restaurant, free private parking, and a well-equipped bar.
Book It Now: Tomonoura Shiomachi Hotel ROYA
Tomonoura Hotel – Ofutei
The scale of grandness and luxury of the Hotel Ofutei is simply indescribable. Every piece of furniture and decor has its place here, and they all work together to create a place where patrons would feel pampered, comfortable and like they’re royalty. The common lounging areas are extremely spacious and inviting, the open-place guest rooms are pretty much fit for royalty, the food offered at the on-site restaurant is top-notch, and the outdoor wooden deck seating area is pure bliss
However, we still haven’t even mentioned the best bit: the views. It appears the designer of this hotel prioritised the sea views above all else, and so almost all spaces in this hotel offer floor-to-ceiling windows that display views of the ocean that will simply take your breath away. Imagine waking up to the sounds of the gentle lap of the water and seeing first thing in the morning an image of a gorgeous island and hues of blue. If there were ever a time to spoil yourself and your party, this would be the time!
Book It Now: Hotel Ofutei
The Best Things To Do In Tomonoura, Japan
- Try The Famous Local Liquor, Homeishu
- Explore Shinsho-ji Temple
- Visit Irohamaru Museum
- Visit Fukuzenji Temple for the Views
- Take in the Views during Sunrise at Joyato Lighthouse
- Visit Abuto Kannon
Try The Famous Local Liquor, Homeishu
Just as Osaka has takoyaki and Miyajima has oysters, Tomonoura offers a unique take on shochu called “homeishu”. Homeishu is essentially a blend made from a number of local herbs (up to 16!), which has a sweet liquorice aftertaste and an alcohol content of 14 percent.
To put that in perspective, the majority of the beers in Japan have an alcoholic content of 5%. Homeishu has long been Tomonoura’s great gift to the world, and the alcoholic beverage is still relevant and in demand today. Aside from getting people their alcoholic fix, homeishu is also said to assist with fatigue or faintness, the cold, your skin, and is apparently the reason why many of the elderly are still alive and kicking in Tomonoura.
To try homeishu, you can visit Irie Toyosaburo Honten, a homeishu brewery in the middle of town. It currently supplies homeishu to many of the local businesses, and is open to the public for tourists to come in and visit. Please call ahead and make a reservation. They do accept groups as well. Here, you can look at trying homeishu, purchasing some as souvenirs, and discovering other unique products such as cough drops and jelly candy that are homeishu flavour.
- Address: 534 Tomocho, Fukuyama, Hiroshima 720-0201, Japan
- Access: From Tomonoura Bus Stop, it is a 3-minute walk.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm (break from 12:00pm – 1:10pm)
Explore Shinsho-ji Temple
Shinsho-ji is a Rinzai Zen temple that was built relatively recently compared to most temples in Japan – it was constructed in 1965 by a local industrialist. The peaceful yet beautiful temple consists of sprawling green grounds that host a wide network of walking trails, a hill in the backdrop and a large pond at the front amongst a plethora of structures built throughout the temple grounds to facilitate relaxation amongst its visitors.
There are several tea houses you can visit, meditation classes an art gallery, and even a contemporary art installation, Kohtei, which showcases a multi-sensory light show within its structure that lasts 15-minutes and runs once every 30-minutes. You can also participate in activities such as sutra copying.
Talk about a temple that’s thought of it all!
If you’re looking for the ultimate Zen treat for yourself, Shinsho-ji temple offers a one-day Zen experience that includes meditation, an udon lunch, sutra copying, and tea at one of the tea houses. There is also an English-speaking monk available on most days, so if you do decide to book, it’s best to enquire if he will be present on the day, you’re organising the activity for.
- Address: Kamisanna-91 Numakumacho, Fukuyama, Hiroshima 720-0401, Japan
- Access: From Fukuyama Station, there is a free shuttle bus on weekdays from the North Exit to the temple. This trip should take 30-minutes.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
- Price: 1,200 yen for admission
Visit Irohamaru Museum
Irohamaru refers to the steamship that Ryoma Sakamoto, a prominent Japanese historical figure, chartered through the Seto Inland Sea. Unfortunately, the steamship met its demise when it collided with another ship. Irohamaru laid low (literally, in the ocean), until a hundred years later when residents of Tomonoura discovered the shipwreck and thus artefacts from the original ship
These artefacts are now being exhibited at the Irohamaru Museum for visitors like yourself to visit. It’s not the largest of museums, however, it is a good way to learn a bit about Tomonoura’s history and it’s a leisurely activity so why not? We reckon you would spend up to an hour here (at most).
- Address: 843-1 Tomocho, Fukuyama, Hiroshima 720-0201, Japan
- Access: From Tomonoura Bus Stop, it is a 10-minute walk.
- Hours: 10:00am – 4:30pm
- Price: 200 yen
Visit Fukuzenji Temple for the Views
With the claim that it boasts the “most beautiful view of the entire Seto Island Sea”, how can you not build a visit to Fukuzenji Temple into your itinerary. This temple is a relatively quaint Buddhist temple that sits right next to Tomo Port. Whilst the outside is seemingly unspectacular, reserve your judgement for when you enter the temple and head to the Taichourou (Taichoro) seating room, which will have you gasping.
Here, the view is almost always picture perfect.
You will see the vast Seto Inland Sea in front of you, with rolling mountains in the distance of the island across from you and a small pagoda peaking over the trees. This view is so special that in fact, prominent Korean figures who have visited in the past have praised its beauty, and this is something the locals are very proud of. Swing by this place to wind down and rest a little before heading off to the next activity.
- Address: 2 Tomocho, Fukuyama, Hiroshima 720-0201, Japan
- Access: From Tomonoura Bus Stop, it is a 5-minute walk.
- Hours: 8:00am – 5:00pm
- Price: 200 yen
Take in the Views during Sunrise at Joyato Lighthouse
Officially a symbol of Tomonoura, the Joyato Lighthouse does not do much else but bring joy to those who lay eyes on it. Built all the way back during the Edo period (between the 1600s – mid 1800s), Joyato Lighthouse sits right at the waterfront, directly south of the town centre. It’s a strapping 11-metre tall structure that commands your attention as you walk along the water. The best times to capture an image of the Joyato Lighthouse would be either during dusk or dawn, when the sun is just peeping over the mountains in the distance. Start or end your day feeling wondrous.
- Address: 843-1 Tomocho, Fukuyama, Hiroshima 720-0201, Japan
- Access: From Tomonoura Bus Stop, it is a 9-minute walk.
Visit Abuto Kannon near Tomonoura, Japan
Seems like there are views everywhere here in Tomonoura, and from Abuto Kannon Temple, perched right on a sea cliff edge, you can argue that the views here are almost undisputedly one of the best in town. After walking up a short flight of stairs, you’ll be greeted with almost-ethereal panoramic views of the ocean and the surrounding islands. Aside from the views, people often visit this temple to pray for safe childbirth and safe marine voyages.
Here is a beautiful Ukiyo-e painting of this Abuto Kannon temple.
- Address: Notohara-1427-1 Numakumacho, Fukuyama, Hiroshima 720-0312, Japan
- Access: From Tomonoura Bus Stop, catch the bus towards 松永駅南口行 and alight at Abutokannon Bus Stop. The trip should take 16-minutes and cost 290 yen.
- Hours: 8:00am – 5:00pm
- Price: 100 yen
As you can see, being only an hour away from Hiroshima City, Tomonoura is the perfect day trip or overnight trip you can fit into your itinerary if you’re visiting the west of Japan and am looking for something under the radar, with great views and a wide range of activities that are both fun and relaxing. Mingle with the locals, try some medicinal alcohol, stay in and take in the views from your accommodation, walk out and feel the fresh ocean breeze on your face – this is what paradise is.