Along the Path of Literature
Onomichi (尾道; ) has been called "Japan's hometown", a quiet port city of temples and literature along the Seto Inland Sea.
Though under the radar of most foreign tourists, Onomichi has dozens of ancient temples and monuments, which are connected by two enjoyable walks, and the start of an exceptional bike trail to Shikoku. It has been the home of a number of Japan's more famous authors, such as Shiga Naoya, Takahashi Gen'ichirō, and Hayashi Fumiko. Better preserved than most towns of its kind, Onomichi has also been the setting for a number of movies and TV dramas, including Yasujiro Ozu's 1953 classic Tokyo Story, and a 2005 anime series, Kamichu!
- Shimanami Koryu-kan (Teatro Shell-rune), 10-1 Higashi Gosho-cho (JR Onomichi Station, south exit), ☎ +81 0848-25-4073 ([email protected]). 9AM-6PM. There's a tourist information counter on the first floor.
- Onomichi Kanko-kyokai (尾道観光協会), ([email protected]), . 9AM-6PM. There's also a tourist information counter in the ropeway station.
The centrally-located JR Onomichi Station is on the San'yo Main Line, between Hiroshima to the west and Okayama to the east. Shin-Onomichi Station is on the San'yo Shinkansen, but it's only served by the all-stops Kodama. Buses run from Shin-Onomichi to the city center (15-20 minutes, ¥170).
Alternately, if you're traveling by Shinkansen, transfer to the San'yo Main Line at Fukuyama — all Kodama and Hikari trains stop there, as does one Nozomi per hour — and complete the trip to JR Onomichi Station from there (20 minutes by regular train).
Ferries travel to islands in the Seto Inland Sea, and also to Imabari on Shikoku, which is not far from Matsuyama. The harbor is next to JR Onomichi Station. Shuttle ferries also run from the harbor across the strait to Mukaishima (2 minutes, ¥100 one-way for foot passengers)
Two daytime buses run from Osaka (approx. 4 3/4 hours, ¥3870 one way, ¥7020 round trip). Shuttle buses also run from Tokyo (Shinjuku), Kobe (Sannomiya), Hiroshima, and Hiroshima Airport (80 minutes, ¥1120).
Most sites places are best accessed on foot. Renting a bicycle is a cheap and great way to see the surrounding area. Frequent ferries shuttle to the island just south of the central area (70 to 110yen with a bike).
A convenient bus shuttles through the town, with a terminal outside JR Onomichi Station.
Onomichi is best known for two walks. The Path of Literature (文学のこみち Bungaku no komichi) is the shorter of the two, winding its way downhill from Senkōji Park back to the city. It features 24 stones, carved with memorable quotes from Japanese authors linked to Onomichi; alas, they're all in Japanese, but it's a pleasant stroll through woods, temples, and shrines just the same.
At the bottom of the hill, the path merges with the well-signposted Old Temple Loop (古寺めぐり Koji-meguri), which connects 25 of Onomichi's better-known temples in a 2km east-west walk. The western end is a short distance from the train station, beginning with the stone gate of Jikoji (持光寺); to start at the eastern end, take the bus to Jodoji-shita and head to Kairyuji (海龍寺).
- Senkōji Park (千光寺公園 Senkōji-kōen), (Nagae-guchi bus stop), ☎ +81 0848-22-4900, . The starting point for the Path of Literature, Senkōji Park is famous for its cherry blossoms (in season); there are also great views of the Seto Inland Sea and Onomichi's massive shipyards. Located atop a small hill, the park is best reached on the Senkoji Ropeway (9AM-5:15PM, ¥270/430 one-way/return adults, half-price kids).
- Senkōji (千光寺), (Nagae-guchi bus stop), ☎ +81 0848-23-2310, . Halfway down the Path of Literature, this is the largest temple on the hill, and #7 on the Old Temple Loop. Senkōji's specialty is the grinning Niko Niko Jizō doll, the "always smiling protector of children" that most Buddhist sages would have a fairly hard time recognizing as the boddhisattva Ksitigarbha. Look for the massive Kyo-onro bell tower, which rings in the New Year for Onomichi. Free.
- Jikoji (持光寺), 9-2 Nishi Tsuchi-do, ☎ +81 0848-23-2411. The first stop on the Old Temple Loop, Jikoji is notable mainly for its imposing stone gate and the chance to create your own nigiri botoke, a miniature Buddha statue that is made by squeezing a lump of clay in your fist; the temple will fire the clay and send you the finished product by mail (¥1500 plus postage). ¥500.
- Tenneiji (天寧寺), 17-29 Higashi Tsuchi-do, ☎ +81 0848-22-2078. #6 on the Old Temple Loop. The 500 statues in the Rakan Hall are an impressive sight, and best followed by a visit to the (unconnected) Maneki-Neko Museum next door, which has a whopping 1,500 statues of Japan's famous Lucky Cats.
- Saikokuji (西国寺), 29-27 Nishi Kubo-cho (Saikokuji-shita bus stop), ☎ +81 0848-37-0321. #17 on the Old Temple Loop. Giants tread here before you; check out the huge straw sandals hanging from the Niomon Gate. The striking red pagoda is a National Treasure. Free to walk the temple grounds, ¥400 main hall.
- Jōdōji (浄土寺), 20-28 Higashi Kubo-cho (Jodoji-shita bus stop), ☎ +81 0848-37-2361, . 8AM-5PM. #23 on the Old Temple Loop. Jodoji is believed to have been founded more than 1400 years ago by Prince Shotoku, who wrote Japan's first constitution. Its main hall and pagoda are designated National Treasures, while the gate and Amida Hall are Important Cultural Properties. Despite the name, this is actually a Shingon (not Jodo) sect temple. Free to walk the temple grounds; ¥500 garden, ¥400 treasure hall.
- Onomichi City Museum of Art, 17-19 Nishi Tsuchi-do (Senkōji Park), ☎ +81 0848-23-2281. Tu-Su 9AM-5PM. Features a modest collection of Chinese, Japanese, and Western art and handicrafts. However, the building itself tends to attract the most attention, having been redesigned by star architect Tadao Ando in 2003. Free, special exhibitions ¥1000.
- Ichibangai Shōtengai, a classic Japanese covered shopping arcade, runs from just east of JR Onomichi Station for about a kilometer parallel to the shoreline. It is theoretically pedestrianised, but cyclists, scooters, and cars use it as a shortcut, so take care when walking there. It contains an eclectic mixture of shops, from ramen shops and the ever-useful ¥100 store to a shop that sells all kinds of edged instruments (scissors, saws, knives).
- Fukuya Onomichi, 1-10 Higashi Gosho-cho, ☎ +81 0848-21-1500, . 10AM-7:30PM. For more conventional tastes, this department store is behind the station. There's a bookstore on the second floor.
The local specialty is Onomichi ramen, a variation of the ubiquitous noodle soup that would look suspiciously like the ordinary soy-flavored kind if not for the hint of fish paste in the stock and the gobs of melted lard floating on top. The cylindrical restaurant at the top of the Senkō-ji ropeway will happily serve you a bowl, as will nearly any restaurant in the station/harbor area.
- Arikiya (有木屋), 1-11-22 Tsuchi-do, ☎ +81 0848-24-7797. W-M 11:30AM until they're sold out. This small restaurant is probably the favorite among Onomichi ramen insiders. ¥600.
- Miyachi (みやち), 1-6-22 Tsuchi-do, ☎ +81 0848-25-3550. F-W 11AM-8PM. Good, cheap ramen and fewer crowds, thanks to its slightly out-of-the-way location. And if you're sick of ramen, they serve tempura and soba, too. ¥350.
- Shuka-en (朱華園), 4-12 Toyohimoto-machi, ☎ +81 0848-37-2077. F-W 11AM-8PM. This is the most famous Onomichi ramen shop, in the midst of the craze since it began, but with only 20 seats inside, it tends to have pretty long lines. ¥500.
- Tsutafuji (つたふじ 本店), 2-10-17 Tsuchi-do, ☎ +81 0848-22-5578. W-M 11AM-9PM. Good ramen & beer. ¥500.
Onomichi is not long on nightlife. Several of the ramen shops serve beer as well. If you'd just like a drink, do as the locals do — grab something from a convenience store and claim a bench by the harbor.
- Chai Salon Dragon, 1-9-14 Tsuchi-do, ☎ +81 0848-24-9889, . 10AM-7PM. Serves "chaider", a tea-flavored cider created in Onomichi. The owner is fluent in English and German, and a great source of local info. ¥390/bottle.
Unless you have a keen interest in Pure Land Buddhism or Japanese literature, it's probably not worth your while to spend the night in Onomichi. Most people opt to day-trip from Hiroshima or Okayama.
- Miyako Ryokan (都旅館), 13-4 Nishi Gosho-cho, ☎ +81 0848-22-3853, . Pleasant, spare Japanese-style rooms without private baths. Rooms from ¥4750 per person, ¥5500 with breakfast.
- Green Hill Hotel Onomichi (グリーンヒルホテル尾道), 9-1 Higashi Gosho-cho, ☎ +81 0848-24-0100, . Good business hotel. If you don't mind paying a little more, ask for a water-side view. There's a restaurant on the second floor. Rooms from ¥7875 single, ¥14,700 double.
- Senkōji Park Hotel (千光寺山荘 Senkōji Sanso), ☎ +81 0848-22-7168, . A clean, older hotel. Though it lacks top modern amenities, it does have the considerable advantage of a location on Senkōji Hill — and, accordingly, great views. Rooms from ¥7980, rates vary based on the meal included.
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