Onomichi | Hiroshima Travel guide
Onomachi City is a coastal city, overlooking the inland sea and located in Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan. It is a historic city with many temples. Onomichi is connected to Imabari city (Shikoku Island) by the Shimanami Kaido road that has a track reserved for cyclists and pedestrians. The town welcomes many cyclists from all over the world!
History of Onomichi
Since the Middle Ages, the Onomichi Port had been a communication hub. In 1169, Onomichi Port became an official port. Once it was 1189, the Onomichi port controlled the entry and exit of rice that was collected for tax purposes. Thanks to this port prosperity, both common people and merchants acquired their wealth. This way, they financed the construction of several temples in the city. Most of these temples still exist today and give Onomichi city its charm.
But the most attractive parts of the city are the gentle hills, and they came to symbolize Onomichi. There are a lot of narrow slopes lined by old houses, old walls, and temples. Japanese people get a nostalgic feeling when they walk along these streets.
If you are a Japanese movie fan, many movies are filmed in Onomichi. ‘Tokyo Monogatari’ is one of the highly regarded Japanese films by Yasujiro Ono. Nobuhiko Obayashi even made three famous movies in Onomichi, ‘Toki wo Kakeru Shojo’, ‘Tenkosei’ and ‘Sabishinbo’. When Japanese people hear of Onomichi, many of them think about these movies.
To go to the park of Senko-ji temple, instead of walking up, we advise you to take this cable car (千光寺ロープウェイ) up the 144m mountain. It is only 3 min but you can make a very pleasant aerial walk with a panorama of the city and the inland sea with the small islands. The cable car leaves every 15 minutes. A one-way ticket costs 320 for adults and 160 yen for children.
At the top of Senko-ji Mountain lies the park (千光寺公園) of Senko-ji Temple. There is an observatory from where you can enjoy the landscape of the inland sea. The paths are lined with cherry trees (there are more than 1500 cherry trees!), azaleas, wisteria, roses, and maple trees. So, you can feel the beauty of each season. After dark, the night view is great.
The literature path is a comfortable walking way with 25 stone monuments which are dedicated to the 25 famous authors who visited or who are from Onomichi. Many writers and other artists liked Onomichi and visited frequently. Their writings or poems (including haiku) are engraved on the stones. The musings are about the beautiful scenery of Onomichi.
Senkoji (千光寺) is a Buddhist temple of the Shingon sect. It is said that it was founded by Kobodaishi, the founder of the Shingon sect in 806. Akado (red hall) is the nickname of the vermilion color main hall. The main hall features the thousand-armed goddess Senju Kannon. This goddess is shown only every 33 years and the next presentation will be in 2045.
The main hall is close to the top of the hill. There is a terrace in the main hall that acts as a viewing platform for the whole Onomichi. You can enjoy the amazing view!
Road of Ancient Temples
Once, 81 temples made up the city of Onomichi, and nowadays only 23 remain. The main temples are built on a road stretching 2 km from Onomichi railway station. These are 3 of the temples on this road.
Taisan-ji (大山寺): Founded at the beginning of the 11th century, this temple shelters the protective deity for the success in (school) examinations. During the examination period (January-March), many young people frequent it. There is an interesting sculpture in the garden of the temple: the three monkeys version 21st century “look well, listen well, and talk a lot”.
Sikoku-ji (西國寺): Founded in the eighth century, this temple is home to a deity who cures leg disease. Hence, at the temple’s main doorway, huge straw sandals are attached. All of these sandals are offerings from the faithful. After passing through 108 entrance steps, we arrive at the main temple building. At the far end of the estate is a beautiful three-story pagoda. In its garden, several cherry trees are planted.
Jodo-ji (浄土寺): This temple is said to have been founded by Prince Shotoku in 616 and is considered the oldest temple in Onomichi. It is a temple that is rarely visited by tourists but it preserves several heritages such as the Taho-do pagoda. Healer Ashikaga Takauji went to this temple to pray for his victory before annexing Kyushu Island. We can visit the inside of the main building and its beautiful garden.
Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road
Lately, Onomichi has become famous as a base for cycling. Honshu Island is connected with Shikoku Island in 3 places by bridges. The Shimanami Kaido is one of them. This cyclists’ favorite opened in 1976. There are 10 bridges connecting 9 islands.
The total length of the route is about 60 km. It was originally made for cars (expressway), but cyclists and pedestrians are also able to pass this route. The goal is Imabari in Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku Island. You can rent a bicycle in Onomichi, and you don’t need to come back to Onomichi when you finish one way. You can leave it at an affiliate shop in Imabari.
Cruise to Tomonoura
Tomonoura is an attractive small old port town. They preserve the old streets with old houses. You can enjoy a one-hour cruise from Onomichi to Tomonoura. The view on the way is beautiful, passing bridges and seeing temple pavilions on the cliff. The cruise operates only on Saturdays and Sundays.
Local Onomichi Gourmet
Several Japanese cities offer their local ramen and Onomichi is one of them. The characteristic of Onomichi ramen is its soup based on small fish broth and soy sauce, inspired by the Taiwanese in the 1940s. The soup is seasoned with pork oil. It has a slightly sweet taste and it is delicious. Another type of local ramen was coined in the 1990s and is based on small sardines and chicken broth. There are several ramen restaurants in the city, especially near the train station.
Hiroshima Prefecture is the largest oyster producer in Japan (with almost 60% of the total production). You can enjoy fresh and cooked oysters in Onomichi as well. Compared to European oysters, they are larger. If you want to try Japanese oysters, we advise you to taste them when you are in Hiroshima.
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Access to Onomichi Station (JR):
From Hiroshima Station, takes Sanyo Line. Change at Itozaki (or other stations depending on the time) to Onomichi. It takes about one hour and thirty minutes
From Shin-Osaka Station, take a shinkansen (bullet train) to Fukuyama. Then take the Sanyo Line to Onomichi. It takes about one hour and forty minutes.