My very first day trip outside of Hiroshima was to the port city of Onomichi, located approximately an hour and a half east by local train from Hiroshima Station. I’d heard it was a beautiful spot to relax and take in the sights and I wasn’t disappointed.
I’ve now lost count of how many times I’ve been to Onomichi and when people ask me why I like it so much, I simply say that it has a nice feel to the place. It’s great for getting away from the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Hiroshima without having to go too far or breaking the bank. With direct access to the Seto or Inland Sea of Japan, it has an, ‘old-town,’ feel to it, you can try delicious local specialties, the view is spectacular and best of all, it has many, many cats. Yes, cats. In fact, it’s famous for them.
As the gateway to the Seto Sea, Onomichi is famous for being the starting point of cyclist enthusiasts wanting to cross the Shimanami Bridge all the way to the island of Shikoku. If you’re not into cycling (or you think it’s just too hot right now to even consider the idea), don’t worry. The bridge itself is a feat of engineering and impressive enough to simply look at and take photos of, especially if you go to the top of the hill behind the station.
When you arrive at Onomichi, cross the road straight in front of the station and head to your left where you’ll find the 1.6km undercover shopping arcade. Despite its, ‘shita-machi,’ or ‘low town,’ feel about it, the street has recently become home to a number of modern cafes and coffee has become a thriving business, especially when paired with traditional sweets. You can also check out quaint family-owned shops full of trinkets or stop in at one of the many new art galleries that have sprung up. I won’t recommend any particular place here because it’s constantly evolving and you’re best to just duck in-and-out and dip into whatever it is that pleases your senses. If you’re lucky you may even see a few of the, ‘locals,’ and by that, I mean cats, who like to stroll leisurely through the area.
Perhaps the most famous local specialty is Onomichi Ramen. This soybean-based soup includes pork with flat noodles and let me just say it is very, very popular. So popular in fact, that there is always a long line at the various restaurants and people are quite prepared to wait an hour or more to taste it. My advice: get there really, really early. And take a book.
The most famous sight in Onomichi, however, is Senkoji Temple and the Park surrounding it. Although there is a ropeway to access the area, I would recommend walking up and stopping to take photos along the way. Last time I walked up it was summer and yes, I did sweat, but I was kept cool by a lovely breeze and rewarded with a spectacular view from the top. On the way you’ll also find, ‘The Path of Literature,’ which has monuments to famous artists and at the very top you can visit the Onomichi City Museum of Art. Inside the museum you can see a view of the harbor, but the best vantage point is at the observatory where you have a 360-degree view of the islands. I’ve always been during the day, but the night view is considered to be one of the ‘Top 100,’ in Japan, so it’s definitely worth your time and effort.
Now, the cats. You’ve been wondering about the cats, I can tell. Onomichi is famous for them like I said. They can be found strolling, sleeping or simply draped over various pieces of ‘furniture,’ looking as though they do in fact own the place. The cats have become so famous that there’s even a street view camera that allows you to navigate your way around the city as though you were looking through the eyes of one of the cats. For more information on this, check out the website at the bottom of the page.
Onomichi is an easy day trip from Hiroshima and whether you’re a foodie, a temple enthusiast, an active person or just like shopping and cats, there is something for everyone. It’s also a place that has something for every season, particularly spring and summer. Onomichi has become famous for its many cherry blossom trees and in summer the Saturday night markets and annual fireworks display attract tens of thousands of people. Go on, get out there and enjoy Onomichi life!
http://www.ononavi.com Onomichi Tourist Association website
http://www.hiroshima-welcome.jp Hiroshima (Onomichi) Cat Street View