Visit a town that inspired a Studio Ghibli film and decide for yourself if this relaxing place makes it to your “Top Ten Most Scenic” list . . .
In 2005, Hayao Miyazaki, the famous director of Studio Ghibli, stayed for several months at a small fishing town in Hiroshima Prefecture. He was so inspired by the beauty of this town and its surroundings that he chose to set Studio Ghibli’s next movie in a village that reminded him of his getaway spot. The movie was “Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea,” and the town was Tomonoura. Named for the curved shape of its bay that looks out onto the Inland Sea, Tomonoura is a charming historical town with much to offer travelers who are willing to take a short trip out of the way.
After a short bus ride from Fukuyama Station, you can begin your day with a stroll around the teramachi, or temple district, with stone streets that curve gently up the hills of the town. Most impressive is Fukuzenji, a Shingon Buddhist temple with a huge picture window that looks out over the bay – described by an Edo-period envoy from Korea as “the most beautiful scenic view in all of Japan.” The window was built not only to afford a breathtaking view out onto the Inland Sea, but also to frame the path of the sun, which rises from different points in the bay’s landscape as the seasons pass.
“The most beautiful scenic view in all of Japan.”
Next up is the area by the port, which offers stone-paved streets and several gift shops, featuring local crafts and delicacies, including the sweet homeishu—herbal liquor that is said to be medicinal. If you’re getting hungry, you could drop in to one of the local cafes for lunch. For something special, you should head over to the nearby island of Sensuijima. After a five-minute ferry ride and a brief walk over a hill, you can find the restaurant Senshin no ma, where a set meal of delicious seafood and a sample of one or two of the restaurant’s twenty-five varieties of shochu await you. After lunch, you can walk along the seaside, or if you’re ready for a more serious hike, you can head inland to brave the island’s trails.
Tomonoura is an easy day trip from Hiroshima, but if you plan to stay overnight, there are many options. Fukuyama’s hotels are all close to the station, and Tomonoura has several ryokan. If you’re interested in sleeping under the stars, the campgrounds next to Senshin no ma are open year-round, and even provide kotatsus (heaters) during the winter months! But for a memorable experience, we recommend Hotel Ofutei, a luxurious hotel with rooms overlooking the bay. Ofutei offers Japanese- and Western-style rooms, and special guest rooms with private bay-view rotemburo (open-air baths).
If you do stay on for a longer time, you can enjoy snorkeling in the sea around Sensuijima or sea kayaking, to get even closer to the beauty of the Inland Sea and its islands. Whether you stay for a long weekend or just a day, we’re sure that Tomonoura’s charm will have you remembering it long after you’ve gone.
Tomonoura can be reached by highway bus from Fukuyama Station. Fukuyama Station is one of the main stations on the Sanyo Shinkansen running between Osaka and Fukuoka.
Restaurant Shinsen no ma:
Images: Alec Jordan