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 Kōryū-kanphone: +81 848-25-4073address: 10-1 Higashi Gosho-choThere's a tourist information counter on the first floor.
Onomichi Kankō-kyōkaiThere'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, and an additional ¥10 if you have a bicycle)
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).
A convenient bus shuttles through the town, with a terminal outside JR Onomichi Station.
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).
Senkō-ji ParkThe 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).
Senkō-jiHalfway 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 Kyō-onrō (驚音楼) bell tower, which rings in the New Year for Onomichi.
Jikō-jiphone: +81 848-23-2411address: 9-2 Nishi Tsuchi-doThe 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).
Tenneijiaddress: 17-29 Higashi Tsuchi-do#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.
Saikokujiphone: +81 848-37-0321address: 29-27 Nishi Kubo-cho#17 on the Old Temple Loop. Giants tread here before you; check out the huge straw sandals hanging from the Niōmon Gate. The striking red pagoda is a National Treasure.
phone: +81 848-37-2361address: 20-28 Higashi Kubo-cho#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.
phone: +81 848-23-2281address: 17-19 Nishi Tsuchi-doFeatures 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.
Poppo no yuIf the residential neighborhood is uninspiring, once inside it will not matter. Offers several types of baths (different temperatures and types of water, an outdoor bath) and a sauna. Men/women separated. You can also eat there.
Ichibangai ShōtengaiA 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).
address: 1-10 Higashi Gosho-choFor 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.
Miyachiphone: +81 848-25-3550address: 1-6-22 Tsuchi-doGood, 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.
Shuka-enphone: +81 848-37-2077address: 4-12 Toyohimoto-machiThis 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.
Tsutafujiphone: +81 848-22-5578address: 2-10-17 Tsuchi-doGood ramen & beer.
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.
phone: +81 848-24-9889address: 1-9-14 Tsuchi-doServes "chaider", a tea-flavored cider created in Onomichi. The owner is fluent in English and German, and a great source of local info.
Unless you have a keen interest in Pure Land Buddhism or Japanese literature or you want to be ready to early in the morning for the Shimanami Kaidō bike-way, it's probably not worth your while to spend the night in Onomichi. Most people opt to day-trip from Hiroshima or Okayama.
address: 13-4 Nishi Gosho-choPleasant, spare Japanese-style rooms without private baths.
phone: +81 848-24-0100address: 9-1 Higashi Gosho-choGood 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.
phone: +81 848-22-7168A 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.