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Onomichi

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Onomichi (尾道; [12]) has been called "Japan's hometown", a quiet port city of temples and literature along the Seto Inland Sea. It is well known among Japanese for its hillside views over the sea but far less among the western tourist guidebook "experts". As of 2021, Onomichi had a population of approximately 134,000 people.

Understand[edit]

Though under the radar of most foreign tourists, Onomichi has numerous ancient temples and monuments (largely escaping damage during WWII), which are connected by 2 enjoyable walks, and is 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 Genichirō, 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!

It is the start of the Shimanami Kaidō, a 70 km island-hopping bike road that connects the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku. Bicycles can be rented at various points along the way.

Tourist information[edit]

  • Shimanami Koryu-kan (Teatro Shell-rune), 10-1 Higashi Gosho-cho (JR Onomichi Station, south exit), 0848-25-4073 (). 9AM-6PM. There's a tourist information counter on the first floor.  edit
  • Onomichi Kanko-kyokai (尾道観光協会), (), [1]. 9AM-6PM. There's also a tourist information counter at the ropeway station.  edit

Get in[edit]

By airplane[edit]

Onomichi is actually not too far from Mihara City, the location of Hiroshima Airport (HIJ). It is possible to take a bus from the airport to Onomichi with one transfer at Mihara Station, and get to Onomichi Station for ¥1080 in about 1 hour. Coming from Tokyo, this would be much shorter than taking the Shinkansen.

By train[edit]

The centrally-located JR Onomichi Station is on the Sanyo Main Line, between Hiroshima to the west and Okayama to the east. Shin-Onomichi Station is on the Sanyo Shinkansen line, but it is only served by the Kodama trains which stop at every bullet train station, and about 3 km away from Onomichi Station and all the sights. Buses run from Shin-Onomichi to the city center (15-20 minutes, ¥170).

Map of Onomichi

Alternately, if you are traveling by Shinkansen, transfer to the Sanyo 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).

By ferry[edit]

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)

By bus[edit]

Two daytime buses run from Osaka (approx. 4¾ hours, ¥3870 one way, ¥7020 round trip). Shuttle buses also run from Tokyo (Shinjuku), Kobe (Sannomiya), Hiroshima, and Hiroshima Airport (80 minutes, ¥1120).

Get around[edit]

Most places are accessed on foot - in fact, going through narrow alleys in cramped residential neighborhoods is part of the experience. 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 ¥110 with a bike).

A convenient bus shuttles through the town, with a terminal outside JR Onomichi Station.

See[edit][add listing]

Saikoku-ji
  • Senkōji Temple & Park (千光寺公園 Senkōji-kōen), (Nagae-guchi bus stop), 0848-22-4900, [2]. For those with limited time, Senkōji offers the most interesting temple (#7 on the Old Temple Walk) and scenic area. The starting point for the Path of Literature, Senkōji Park is famous for its cherry blossoms (usually end of March to early April); it also has the Senkoji Observation Platform with some of the best views of the Seto Inland Sea and Onomichi's massive shipyards. Look for the massive Kyo-onro bell tower, which rings in the New Year for Onomichi. Senkōji's specialty is the grinning Niko Niko Jizō doll, the "always smiling protector of children". Also within the park is the Onomichi City Museum of Art. Located atop a small hill, the park is best reached on the Senkoji Ropeway (9AM-5:15PM, ¥320/¥500 one-way/return adults, half-price kids). For those choosing to go on foot, climbing up takes about 15 minutes, and returning down takes about 10 minutes. Many people choose to return by foot since the route offers many good photo spots. (NB: Access to the area around the observation deck will be restricted due to renovation work until Mar, 2022).  edit
Niko Niko Jizō dolls
Jiko-ji
  • Cat Alley (猫の細道). Running north to south through the route between the ropeway station and Senkōji, this is a popular place for cat lovers who can frequently see many strays that live there and are taken care of by the residents. The alley runs between Zenshoji Temple to north down to the 3-story pagoda of Tenneiji Temple. Many residents have added several cat-themed decorations.  edit
  • Jikōji (持光寺), 9-2 Nishi Tsuchi-do, 0848-23-2411. The first stop on the Old Temple Loop, Jikōji 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.  edit
  • Tenneiji (天寧寺), 17-29 Higashi Tsuchi-do, 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 (unrelated) Maneki-Neko Museum (招き猫美術館) next door, which has a whopping 1500 statues of Japan's famous Lucky Cats.  edit
  • Saikokuji (西国寺), 29-27 Nishi Kubo-cho (Saikokuji-shita bus stop), 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.  edit
  • Jōdōji (浄土寺), 20-28 Higashi Kubo-cho (Jodoji-shita bus stop), 0848-37-2361, [3]. 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.  edit
  • Onomichi City Museum of Art, 17-19 Nishi Tsuchi-do (Senkōji Park), 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.  edit
  • Kōsanji (耕三寺), 553-2 Setoda, Onomichi-shi (15 min walk south of Settoda Port, Ikuchijima), 0845-27-0800 (fax: 0845-27-3876), [4]. 9AM-5PM. Not part of the temple tour, the must-see Kōsanji is a wildly ornate temple on the island of Ikuchijima. It is so over the top that many refer to it as a "Buddhist Disneyland", and it even includes replicas of the Nikko Toshogu Yomeimon Gate and Uji Byodoin Phoenix Hall, as well as a 5-story pagoda. Even more unusual is that it was created in 1936 and totally paid for by one rich businessman, in memorial to his mother. Don't miss the Hell Cave which takes you through the Buddhist underworld to emerge in front of the giant Buddha statue granting salvation. Also see the The Hill of Hope (Miraishin no Oka)at the back, a 5000 square meter 'garden' made up of 3000 tons of imported Italiam marble, with superb views over the island. Kōsanji can be accessed by car, bus, bicycle, or by ferry from the port directly across from Onomichi Station. ¥1400.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

By far, the most famous activities are the Temple Tour (古寺めぐり Koji-meguri), Path of Literature, and for the truly adventurous, the Shimanami Kaidō bicycle tour.

The Temple Tour is comprised of a 2-3 km walk through the narrow alleys and slopes to see the 25 different old temples. It can take about 3 hours, but depends on your pace and how much you veer off the path to see any number of unusual sights along the way. Very few of the temples are extremely remarkable, but it is the walk itself through this old preserved area that is the real treat. The tour starts about a 5-minute walk (350 meters) east of Onomichi Station, just northeast of the first bridge over the railroad tracks, at Jikōji (持光寺) and walking eastward unti you finally end up at Kairyuji (海龍寺). If you have the time and energy, at the penultimate temple, Jōdōji, don't miss the inner temple (Jōdōji Okunoin) at the top of the 179m Mt Jōdōji, which has another nice viewing platform with excellent views.

Alternatively, for those on tighter schedules, you can save some time by taking a bus or taxi from Onomichi Stn and beginning the tour from Kairyuji, heading westward. To start at the eastern end, take a bus to the Jodoji-shita bus stop, or go by taxi (approx. ¥800).

The other walk is the Path of Literature (文学のこみち Bungaku no Komichi) and 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.

The Shimanami Kaidō (しまなみ海道) bicycle tour is for those with a lot of time and stamina, yet can be one of the most rewarding and unforgettable experiences in Japan. It is a special bicycle road that crosses the numerous small islands from Onomichi, namely Mukaishima, Innoshima, Ikuchijima, Omishima, Hakatajima and Oshima, to get to Imabari City, in Ehime on the island of Shikoku. There are some modest tolls (about ¥500 each, but waived until March, 2022) for passing over the bridges from one island to the next. There are 2 methods to rent bicycles, the old regular way and the newer Giant system. Either way, those with baggage can use a luggage forwarder (takuhaibin) with offices in most larger train stations as well as drop off points at most convenience stores. The regular method if far cheaper and more flexible for most people. Ordinary bicycles are rented with a ¥1100 deposit and rental fee of ¥1100 per day, but the deposit is not returned unless you return the bike at the same place you got it from. There are also a limited number of electric bikes (¥1600/day) and for couples, tandem bicycles (¥1300/day), but you must return the bikes where you first got them. If desired, it is possible to take a few days and slowly tour the sights on the smaller islands en route (the Kōsanji Temple on Ikuchijima is a must).

The other company, Giant, has far better bicycles, but are much more expensive, costing between ¥4000 per day and up. Those not planning to return the bicycles where they got them must make prior arrangements ahead of time and pay an extra ¥3000 fee.

The main difference between the two companies, aside from the large difference in costs, is that the regular system has 12 offices to return the bikes (including Onomichi and Imabari) so if you only want to ride part of the way, you can return the bikes on one of the islands and take a bus or ferry the rest of the route, or return. With Giant however, there are only offices at the two end points. In short, the regular way is by far the better and more economical way to go, unless you absolutely insist on riding expensive bikes.

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • 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).
Entrance to Ichibangai
  • Fukuya Onomichi, 1-10 Higashi Gosho-cho, 0848-21-1500, [5]. 10AM-7:30PM. For more conventional tastes, this department store is behind the station. There's a bookstore on the second floor.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

Onomichi rāmen

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, 0848-24-7797. W-M 11:30AM until they're sold out. This small restaurant is probably the favorite among Onomichi ramen insiders. ¥600.  edit
  • Miyachi (みやち), 1-6-22 Tsuchi-do, 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.  edit
  • Shuka-en (朱華園), 4-12 Toyohimoto-machi, 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.  edit
  • Tsutafuji (つたふじ 本店), 2-10-17 Tsuchi-do, 0848-22-5578. W-M 11AM-9PM. Good ramen & beer. ¥500.  edit
  • Yamaneko Cafe (やまねこカフェ), 2-9-33 Tsuchidō (From Onomichi station, walk East along the street by the water, south of the covered shopping arcarde, for about 15 minutes. It is just before Onomichi Royal Hotel), 0848-21-5355, [6]. 11.30am-10pm, to midnight Sat & Sun, closed Mon. An artsy cafe that sometimes has live music. Has a variety of food such as pasta, curry and cake. It is vegetarian friendly as they have a vegan plate on the dinner menu and vegan cake. about 700 to 1000 yen.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

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, 0848-24-9889, [7]. 10AM-7PM, Weekends 10AM-24:00. Serves Original drink "chaider" is sparkling green tea, original roasted coffee,Japanese beer and more. If you want to feel real youth culture, just go there. You can meet local young people and get cool local info.The owner is fluent in English and German a little. From 2014 they will open a guest house just next door. ¥270/bottle.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

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, 0848-22-3853, [8]. Pleasant, spare Japanese-style rooms without private baths. Rooms from ¥4750 per person, ¥5500 with breakfast.  edit
  • Green Hill Hotel Onomichi (グリーンヒルホテル尾道), 9-1 Higashi Gosho-cho, 0848-24-0100, [9]. 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.  edit
  • Senkōji Park Hotel (千光寺山荘 Senkōji Sanso), 0848-22-7168, [10]. 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.  edit
  • Onomichi Guesthouse Anago no Nedoko (尾道空き家再生ゲストハウス「あなごのねどこ」), 2-4-9, Tsuchido (From JR Onomichi Station‘s south exit cross Route 2 (the street in front of the station) and walk East along the covered shopping arcade for 15 minutes; the guesthouse is about 3 cross-streets past the post office. It is on the right-hand side), 0848-38-1005, [11]. checkin: 16-21. A guesthouse made out of a historical building. There is a female only dorm and a mixed dorm, a common room and kitchen, showers, and a small restaurant in the front. For a small fee a Japanese or Western breakfast can be ordered the night before. ¥2800 for a dorm, ¥3300 per person for private rooms.  edit

Get out[edit]

Bridge over Ikuchijima
  • Hiroshima - Site of the world's first A-bombing, yet offers so much more that far fewer people discover.
  • Fukuyama - Known for its castle and beautiful Shinshoji Temple.
  • Kurashiki Relaxing city with its well preserved feudal warehouse district and old canals.
  • Okayama Just up the Sanyo line, with its nice Korakuen Garden, castle, and laid back atmosphere.
  • Himeji Famous for Japan's grandest castle, the gorgeous Kokoen Garden, and mountaintop Engyoji Temple.
  • Matsuyama One of Shikoku's best cities, with its original surviving castle and Dogo hot springs, one of Japan's oldest.


Routes through Onomichi
HakataMihara  W noframe E  FukuyamaShin-Osaka
HiroshimaMihara  W noframe E  FukuyamaOkayama
END  N noframe S  Imabari
HiroshimaMihara  W noframe E  FukuyamaOkayama


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