Tomonoura is a small town located on the southern coast in Hiroshima Prefecture facing to the Seto Inland Sea. There conserves the old town with traditional houses and temples very well. It is interesting just walking around the area and if you like you can enter some of the old houses. This town has become popular after Hayao Miyazaki made an anime “Ponyo” inspired by the town.
It is said the port was already existed in Heian period (from 8th to 12th century). It can be much older like in the period of mythology. The town flourished like Kyoto during Kamakura period (from 12th to 14th century). The town developed more during Muromachi period (from 14th to 16th century) because of the trade with Ming (former China). There was a group of blacksmith and the town became an industrial area. The Tomo Castle was about constructed in the 17th century by the lord Fukushima. But Tokugawa Shogun stopped the construction and sent his relative Mizuno as a feudal lord of 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 decreased.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the town finished its heyday because of the construction of the railways and highways in the suburb. Because of the location only for the convenient access from the ocean, Tomonoura was left out of the modernization. Thanks to the location, the town could survive conserving the old town cherishing the golden days.
The location of Tomonoura is unique. It is located in the middle of Seto Inland Sea and here is the bifurcation point of the tide. So the ships needed to wait in this port until the tide changed. That’s the main reason why the town developed by the trade. 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 wave-breaking pier, you can observe the whole port.
Ota House is well preserved old house constructed during Edo period. At the beginning the houses which consisted of 9 buildings were owned by Nakamura family who operated sake brewery. After the Meiji Restoration, Ota family who was a trader took over the house. It is designated as National Important Cultural Asset because the house shows the characteristics of typical merchant house.
Though the house was constructed during Edo period, it has a good modern taste influenced by Kyoto and tea masters. It doesn’t seem like an old house at all.
Entrance: 400 yen for adult / 200 yen for elementary school student
Hours: From 10:00 to 17:00
Taichoro / Fukuzenji Temple
Taichoro was constructed around 1690 as a guesthouse in the precinct of Fukuzenji Temple. You can enjoy amazing view from the upstairs. You can see the beautiful islands from the window. The Korean Delegation to Japan came to stay several times during Edo period and in 1710’s one of them appreciated “It is the most beautiful scenery in east of Korea”.
Entrance: 200 yen for adult / 150 yen for senior and junior high school student / 100 yen for elementary school student
Hours: From 8:00 to 17:00
Irohamaru is a name of the ship which was operated by Sakamoto Ryoma, the person contributed for the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century. There was an accident in 1867 that Irohamaru shipwrecked hit by Meikomaru. The museum explained the incident using artifacts, models and a diorama.
Entrance: 200 yen
Hours: From 10:00 to 17:00
It is one-hour cruise between Tomonoura and Onomichi operated only on weekend from spring to autumn. It is a comfortable cruise with nice view of the Seto Inland Sea. Onomichi is also recommended beautiful town to visit. Please check the operation days and time table if you want to try this cruise in advance.
This building looks like just one of the 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 to ryokan (Japanese style hotel) and restaurant. He was inspired the atmosphere of the old town and made the anime “Ponyo”.
The first floor is a restaurant where you can enjoy lunch (Japanese food).
The second floor has rooms where you can stay. They take only two groups per day.
Access to Tomonoura:
From Fukuyama Station (Shinkansen): Take Tomotetsu Bus. It takes about 30 minutes.
From Onomichi (only on weekend from spring to autumn): Take a tourist boat. It takes about one hour.