last update: February 23, 2022
Onomichi (尾道) is a town that overlooks an inlet of the Seto Sea, between the large islands of Honshu and Shikoku. The city is known for its fascinating panorama, for its countless temples and for the myriad of islets in front of it, connected by bridges and cycle paths. It is one of the most interesting alternatives if you want to take a day trip from Hiroshima, which is less than 80 km away. The arm of the sea that separates the mainland from the island of Mukaishima, also belonging to the city and very urbanized, is less than 300 meters wide and looks like a great river that cuts the city in two.
Things to do and things to see in Onomichi
Onomichi is mainly famous for its particular geographic conformation, with its houses built on the hills facing the sea and the nearby island, creating a unique and fascinating overall panorama. In addition, there is a surprising amount of Buddhist temples in Onomichi for a small town like this one. In total there should be more than ninety. Thanks to the Temple Walk
, a route specially designed for tourists, you can spend a beautiful day walking through the hills of the city, visiting many temples and enjoying the view from different angles, all very suggestive.
The Temple Walk of Onomichi is a special tourist route, well signposted, which allows you to visit 25 Buddhist temples in the city. The route is 2.5 kilometers long and can be easily covered in a couple of hours, but if you also take into account the time to visit all the points of interest calmly, a full day is recommended. Among the 25 temples, many are small and unattended, others are much larger complexes of multiple buildings. The most famous and visited temples along the way are the Senkoji, which also gave its name to a famous public park on top of a hill (see below), the Saikokuji , which is the largest temple in the city and also has a three-story pagoda, and the Jodoji , the oldest in the city and also with a beautiful two-story pagoda. In addition to taking you to the temples of the city, walking along the Temple Walk will also pass through many narrow alleys of the residential areas of Onomichi, with many scenes of daily life, small shops, houses, schools and locals. From some points along the route, you will also be able to see various panoramic views of the city and the nearby island. To find your way around, ask for a map at the tourist information center inside the station.
view of the city from the temples on the hill
Senkoji Park is a large public park located on the top of a hill, which takes its name from the homonymous Senkōji temple inside. The park can be reached on foot, along various paths, or via a cable car with a breathtaking view (3 minutes, opening hours 9:00-17.15, 320¥ one way, 500& yen; return, departures every 15 minutes). The park is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season, between late March and early April. Among the many attractions in the area, the main ones are:
- Senkōji Temple, which is located on the slopes of the hill, just below the park. With its iconic red color, it was founded in 860 AD. by Kobo Daishi (founder of the Shingon Buddhist school) and offers beautiful harbor and sea views. The main building (Hondo) itself has a small suspended terrace reminiscent of the much larger Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto. Another iconic element of this temple is the large bell overlooking the sea;
- A 360 degree observation deck (free admission) on the top point of the hill, with a panoramic café downstairs;
- The Onomichi City Museum of Art (9-17, closed on Mondays, admission varies), designed by acclaimed Japanese architect Tadao Ando, which does not have its own collection but hosts several exhibitions throughout the year (more info).
Neko No Hosomichi
A small part of the Temple Walk is nicknamed Neko No Hosomichi, or Cat Alley. This name derives from the many stray cats in this area, as well as from the many decorations and shops dedicated to these much loved animals in Japan. Here there is also a small Maneki Neko Museum, which houses over 1,500 statuettes of the famous Japanese lucky cat.
Path of Literature
Onomichi has been a source of inspiration for many Japanese poets and writers, including the famous Hayashi Fumiko, Takahashi Gen'ichiro, and Shiga Naoya. The so-called "Path of literature" is an evocative path dotted with various poems and writings engraved on large rocks. Local tourists seem very enthusiastic and admire the rocks carefully, but for a foreigner who is illiterate in Japanese of course this is not possible. Until a few years ago there was also a museum of literature that included the visit of some former residences of famous poets, now permanently closed.
Almost every city in Japan has its own covered shopping street (shotengai in Japanese) and so does Onomichi. The Ichibangai Shotengai is located a few meters east of Onomichi Station, and is about one kilometer long, parallel to the coast. Here you will find shops of all kinds.
Onomichi City Hall
The city hall of Onomichi has been recently rebuilt, and is today a futuristic building with a shape reminiscent of a ship, located right in front of the sea. It is located about 1 km east of Onomichi station, not far from the entrance to the Onomichi Shōtengai shopping arcade. The fifth floor of the building houses a panoramic terrace open to the public and free of charge till night. There is no shortage of viewpoints to enjoy a beautiful panorama in Onomichi, but if you are in the surrounding area and want to take a look, why not.
Onomichi is also the starting city of a very suggestive and famous route in Japan, usually called Shimanami Kaido, a long pedestrian and cycle path parallel to the Nishiseto Expressway. The latter is a modern highway that connects Onomichi with the city of Imabari on the island of Shikoku, passing through 6 islets in the Seto Sea (Mukaishima, Innoshima, Ikuchijima, Omishima, Hakatajima and Oshima), crossing the sea several times thanks to modern bridges. The peculiarity of this route is that, in addition to the highway for cars, a parallel route has been built, complete with dedicated access ramps to the bridges, only for pedestrians and especially bicycles. The cycle path departs from the highway in the sections that cross the interior of the islands, and rejoins it at each bridge connecting to the next island (crossing each of these bridges requires the payment of a small toll). In short, the Shimanami Kaido is a very long cycle path, over 70 km, along a breathtaking natural setting.
Bicycles can be rented for around 500¥ per day at many points along the route. In particular, there are 14 "cycling terminals" that allow, paying additional 1000¥, the return of the rented bike at any of the cycling terminals other than the one where you borrowed the bike. Thus, you can also do part of the route and stop whenever you want. In Onomichi, the easiest cycling terminal to reach is located opposite JR Onomichi Station, heading south, next to the "Green Hill Hotel".
Just behind this hotel there is also the ferry terminal for the islands of Mukaishima, Innoshima, and Ikuchijima, in order of proximity. You can take one of these 3 ferries to start your cycling adventure to the Seto Sea. The cycle path begins from the island of Mukaishima. If you don't feel like going all the way, you can take a short-cut ferry to one of the other two islands, the choice is yours.
a part of the Shimanami Kaido
cycling path along the Shimanami Kaido
Where to stay in Onomichi
There are very few tourists on holiday in Japan who decide to stay overnight in Onomichi. Usually, those who arrive here, visit the city (one day is enough) and then return to Hiroshima or continue to other places.
On the other hand, it is useful to sleep at least one night in Onomichi if you plan to take a bike ride along the Shimanami Kaido (see above).
Another reason for choosing to spend a night in Onomichi could be the fact that no foreign tourist stays there, and savor a bit of Japan off the major tourist routes.
A charming guesthouse in a centenary building, 5 minutes walk from Onomichi Station and next to the covered shopping street. Shared dorm beds are one of the cheapest options in the city to spend the night, but small, inexpensive private rooms are also available. Guests have access to a refrigerator, microwave, and small kitchen where cooking classes are sometimes organized. There is also a cafe on site.
Price range: bunk beds 3,000¥, private rooms 4,000-5,000¥.
A wonderful guesthouse on the slopes of the Onomichi Hills, along the Temple Walk and close to Senkōji Park. This is a fully restored old tea house, with traditional style rooms with windows overlooking the city and the sea. Both futon beds in a large shared room and private rooms available. The bathrooms are shared, as is a small kitchen. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is located at the end of a steep climb, so it may be difficult to reach it on foot if you have large luggage.
Price range: bunk beds 2,800-3,500¥, private rooms 7,000-10,000¥.
This hotel is located behind Onomichi station, on the hill where the temples are located, among suggestive alleys and stairways. It is located 500 meters high so you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city, the sea and the nearby island of Mukaishima. The structure is a little old but overall comfortable, and the rooms are spacious by local standards. Inside you will also find a panoramic Thai restaurant.
Price range: single rooms 5,000-5,000¥, double rooms 7,000-9,000¥.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for a standard Japanese business hotel, as close to transport as possible, the Green Hill Hotel Onomichi is probably the best. It is located in front of the sea (some rooms have a window overlooking the harbor), just 200 meters from Onomichi station and directly connected to the ferry terminal on the ground floor. Inside there is also a bar and an Italian restaurant.
Price range: single rooms 9,000-10,000¥, double rooms 13,000-16,000¥.
Eating in Onomichi, cafes and restaurants
Onomichi is one of the cities in Japan whose way of making ramen has become so popular that it gave life to the " Onomichi-style ramen
", in chicken broth and soy sauce, with the addition of fresh fish caught in the nearby Seto Sea. You can try this local delicacy almost everywhere in the city. Among our favorite restaurants, there are Todoroki
near Onomichi station, along the first street on the right just after entering the shotengai, and Miyachi
, always along the shotengai but further east.
an Onomichi-style ramen
How to get to Onomichi
The city of Onomichi has two main stations, Onomichi and Shin-Onomichi, about 3km from each other (the route is well served by city buses). Shin-Onomichi station
is served exclusively by shinkansen kodama trains, so you can quickly reach Onomichi from Hiroshima station (3600& yen;, 40 minutes). If you don't have the Japan Rail Pass and don't want to spend that much, no problem. Onomichi station
is served by the JR Sanyo Main Line
. Through this line you can reach Onomichi from Hiroshima station at a much cheaper price (1520¥) and in about 90 minutes. However, few trains are direct, you will probably have to change trains in Itozaki
Onomichi is a small town and can be easily explored on foot. Onomichi station in particular is in a central position to explore the main areas and also the ferry terminal for the islands is within walking distance. However, keep in mind that the city was built on hills, so you will encounter numerous slopes and stairways if you decide to take the Temple Walk.
Map of Onomichi
Guided tours, activities and other things to do
If you are planning a trip to Japan and you want to do something more than just visiting famous places and monuments, we suggest you to use Rakuten Travel Experiences
How to use Rakuten Travel Experiences
Rakuten Travel is a very useful website to enrich your travel experience
, especially if you are going solo or it's your first time in Japan.
Because of the language barrier (and more), in Japan it is very difficult to interact with the locals and to get off the tourist track.
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