Tomonoura is a small town located on the southern coast in Hiroshima Prefecture facing the Seto Inland Sea. In its old town, traditional houses and temples are conserved very well. You can walk around the area and enter some of the old houses to feel steeped in old Japan. Tomonoura has become especially popular after Hayao Miyazaki made an anime movie Ponyo, which was inspired by the town. Let’s see what there is to do in Tomonoura!
It is said the port already existed in the Heian period (8th-12th century). There is a chance that it is even much older, going back all the way to the period of mythology. The town flourished like Kyoto during the Kamakura period (12th-14th century). The town developed more during the Muromachi period (14th-16th century) because of the trade with Ming (former China). There was a group of blacksmiths and the town became an industrial area.
The Tomo Castle was constructed in the 17th century by lord Fukushima. But the Tokugawa Shogun stopped the construction and sent his relative Mizuno as a feudal lord of the Fukuyama Domain and made a branch office in Tomonoura. The town still continued its prosperity as a commercial town. But because of the progress of navigation technology, the ships no longer needed to wait for the tide at Tomonoura Port, and the importance of the port diminished.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the town’s heyday ended because of the construction of railways and highways in the suburbs. Because the location was only convenient for access from the ocean, Tomonoura was left out of the modernization. Thanks to the location, the town could survive conserving the old town and cherishing the golden days.
The location of Tomonoura is unique. It is located in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea at the bifurcation point of the tide. So the ships needed to wait in this port until the tide changed. That was the main reason why the town developed. But now it is a quiet small port town. There is an all-night light at the corner. If you walk to the tip of the wave-breaking pier, you can observe the whole port.
Ota House is a well-preserved old house constructed during the Edo period. In the beginning, the houses which consisted of 9 buildings were owned by the Nakamura family who operated a sake brewery. After the Meiji Restoration, the Ota family who was a trader took over the house. It is designated as a National Important Cultural Asset because the house has the characteristics of a typical merchant house.
Though the house was constructed during the Edo period, it has a good modern atmosphere influenced by Kyoto and tea masters. It doesn’t feel like an old house at all.
Entrance: 400 yen for adults / 200 yen for elementary school students
Hours: From 10 am to 5 pm
Taichoro / Fukuzenji Temple
Taichoro was constructed around 1690 as a guesthouse in the precinct of the Fukuzenji Temple. You can enjoy an amazing view from the upper floor. You can see the beautiful islands from the window. The Korean Delegation to Japan came to stay several times during the Edo period, and in the 1710s one of them said “It is the most beautiful scenery in east of Korea”.
Entrance: 200 yen for adults / 150 yen for seniors and junior high school students / 100 yen for elementary school students
Hours: From 8 am to 5 pm
Irohamaru is the name of the ship that was operated by Sakamoto Ryoma, the samurai who contributed greatly to the Meiji Restoration. There was an accident in 1867, and Irohamaru was shipwrecked in a hit by Meikomaru. The museum explains the incident using artifacts, models, and a diorama.
Entrance: 200 yen
Hours: From 10 am to 5 pm
It is a one-hour cruise between Tomonoura and Onomichi operated only on weekends from spring to autumn. It is a comfortable cruise with a nice view of the Seto Inland Sea. Onomichi is also a beautiful town to visit. Please check the operation days and timetable in advance if you want to do this cruise.
This building looks like just one of the other old houses in the town, but it is not. According to the design by Hayao Miyazaki, the animator of Studio Ghibli, they renovated an old house into a ryokan (Japanese style hotel) and restaurant. He was inspired by the atmosphere of the old town and made the anime movie Ponyo.
The first floor is a restaurant where you can enjoy lunch (Japanese food).
The second floor has rooms where you can stay the night. They take only two groups per day.
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Tomonoura Access Information
Access to Tomonoura:
From Fukuyama Station (shinkansen): Take Tomotetsu Bus. It takes about 30 minutes.
From Onomichi (only on weekends from spring to autumn): Take a tourist boat. It takes about one hour.