Top Things to do in Onomichi! A Full Guide of Everything from Must-See and Hidden Spots to Food, Shopping and more!
Onomichi is one of the most famous bays in the Seto Insland Sea. It sits wedged between the Onomichi Channel and the 3 Onomichi mountains at its back, dotted with little houses and neighborhoods, temples, shrines and gardens. Onomimchi is also a historic city that was designated in 2015 as a site of Japanese Heritage. With gorgeous landscapes, retro city streets, and a cyclist’s mecca at the Shimanami Kaido, Onomichi is a coveted destination for many tourists. Here are some highlights of the area.
What’s Onomichi Like?
Onomichi is narrow town in the southeast part of Hiroshima prefecture that measures approx. 20 kilometers from east to west and 35 kilometers north to south at its longest. Its broken into two large halves, the “Onomichi Area” covering the townscape and sprawling rice paddies up north and the “Shimanami Area”, which covers the connected islands along the Shimanami Kaido. In the Onomichi area you’ll find retro-vibes and charming, old-streets, artisans, and many shot locations used in popular films. The Shimanami Area is a warm area that’s home to the Shimanami Kaido, an expressway considered by many bike enthusiasts as a cycling heaven.
With both land and sea so close, you can be sure this town is also home to a rich and tasty food scene.
5 Must-see Spots in Onomichi
Onomichi, overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, is home to popular tourist destinations and the world-famous cycling destination, the Shimanami Kaido. Below are 5 best spots to note when planning a visit to Onomichi.
Senkoji Temple is a longstanding, historic temple constructed in 806 on the mountainside of Mt. Senkoji. The main hall, also known as “Akado” (lit. “red hall”) is nicknamed for its vibrant vermillion walls. Many people enjoy its scenic appearance as it stands in gorgeous contrast against a backdrop of blue sky, ocean, and verdant green forests. This temple is worshipped for traveling mercies, family well-being, high test scores, love and more. For an extra thrill, you can even try climbing to the former spiritual training ground atop Mt. Ishizuchi and feel like you’re on a pilgrimage of your own.
2. Shimanami Kaido (Nishi Seto Expressway)
The “Setouchi Shimanami Kaido” is a 60km road that connects Onomichi in Hiroshima to Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture. It connects 6 different islands across the Seto Inland Sea by bridges, offering a beautiful way to enjoy the each island and bridges as they span the azure sea. The expressway even includes a dedicated cycling road, which has earned it the nickname of a cycling “mecca”.
3. Setoda Sunset Beach
Setoda Sunset Beach is an 800-meter long beach recognized as one of the best Japanese 88 Swimming Beaches. Home to beautiful white sands and plenty of space for watersports, this beach waterfront is true to its name, offering up beautiful views of the sun as it sets over the Seto Inland Sea. This beach sits at the center of the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Road, making it a perfect place to stop for a view of the coast and a bite at the café restaurant.
4. Neko no Hosomichi (“Cat Alley”)
Cat Alley, or Neko no Hosomichi, is the 200-meter narrow road that stretches from Ushitora Shrine in Nagae, an area of Onomichi City (Hiroshima). The road was started in 1998 when artist Shunji Sonoyama painted the “fukuishineko” lucky stone cats found along the road. Since then, it has been nicked named “Cat Alley”, an attraction loved by many visitors to Onomichi. Nearby you can also find a hidden shop made from a renovated home, museums, and plenty of places to visit over a stroll.
5. Innoshima Park
Innoshima Park is the large park located atop the 207m-tall Mt. Tenguyama in Innoshima. Here you can find seasonal blooms planted along the hiking trail year round, including cherry blossoms, autumn leaves and azaleas. At the summit you’ll find a lookout point with views over the islands that dot the Seto Inland Sea, seeing out as far as the distant mountains of Shikoku. The sunset from this lookout point has been selected as one of the 8 Views of Innoshima.
Onomichi Foods You Won’t Want to Miss
No trip to Onomichi is complete without a taste of Onomichi ramen, the cherished local sweets, or mouth-watering food to try in the area. Here are 4 spots to try.
Tonchinkan is a popular, “Onomichi Ramen” specialty ramen shop in Onomichi that has been covered by TV, magazines and other media. It’s known for a rich soup based, made with Onomichi spring waters, pork and chicken bones, kombu and more. You know you’ve got an authentic bowl when it’s made with plenty of pork fatback.
2. Onomichi Ramen Ichibankan
Ichibankan, an Onomichi Ramen specialty shop set in front of Hiroshima Sumiyoshi Shrine along Onomichi Kaigan-dori. It got its start when its mail-order goods became especially popular. Their most famous menu item, Kakuni Ramen, is a volume-packed bowl with large pieces of braised kakuni pork.
Karasawa is a long-standing, charming little shop that sells handmade ice cream in Onomichi. The signature item, Ice Monaka (a wafer ice cream sandwich), is always made to order by sandwiching ice cream between the Monaka wafers. The thin crispy wafer is fragrant, and the delicate sweetness of the ice cream made from plenty of rich eggs is simply divine. We recommend grabbing a seat by an open bench and watching the Onomichi sea while you eat.
4. The RESTAURANT / ONOMICHI U2
ONOMICHI U2 is a seaside multiplex on the west side of JR Onomichi Station. It’s known especially for providing a full range of services for cyclists that are traveling along the Shimanami Kaido. Inside is one spot called “The RESTAURANT”, which serves Italian cuisine prepared used fresh ingredients from Setouchi. You can sit and enjoy casual wines collected from around the world and original cocktails.
3 MUST-visit places to shop in Onomichi
When you take a trip to Onomichi, you have to try some shopping! Here are some shopping streets along the retro townscapes and Onomichi-special souvenirs to look out for.
1. Onomichi Hondori Shopping Street
"Onomichi Hondori Shopping Street" runs 1.6km in parallel between the sea and mountain, dotted with sightseeing spots in Onomichi City. The shopping streets have about 400 unique shops along the entire district. Well known for its retro atmosphere, you can also see popular spots like "Anago no Nedoko ('Conger eel's bed room')" a guesthouse renovated from an old folkhouse, as well as the Onomichi Commercial Chamber Memorial Hall, designated as a cultural property of Onomichi City. There are so many spots to check along this long corridor that’s also a popular place for filming.
2. Onomichi Emonya
Onomichi Emonya is a shop that, at over 500 different varieties holds the largest collection of Onomichi souvenirs. “Emon” means “good quality products” in the local Onomichi Dialect, and there’s no doubt that there are plenty of good quality souvenirs to browse through. As an added charm and vibe, the storefront sits in a renovated merchant house from the Meiji Era.
3. Onomichi Fukuya
Onomichi Fukuya is a charming spot that’s easy to get to, located just west of Onomichi Station. The basement floor is the grocery floor, selling fresh foods, produce, in addition to its wine shop and specialty rice shops. There are even a few spots selling Onomichi souvenirs. If you’re looking for a last minute spot for souvenirs, this is one easy recommendation to swing through.
Best Places to Stay in Onomichi
Onomichi is especially loved because it makes an easy day trip from Hiroshima. But if you’ve come all this way, its always fun to stop and stay awhile. Here are a few relaxing hotels and wallet-friendly guest houses to note.
1. Onomichi Guest House Anago-no-Nedoko
Anago-no-Nedoko was created out of a renovated Japanese house along the Onomichi Hondori Shopping Street. It includes dormitory-style rooms at wallet-friendly prices. There’s also a shared kitchen and communal lounge called “Anago Salon” that feel like home away from home. For breakfast, we recommend grabbing a bit at the “Akubi Café”(lit. “Café Yawn”) next door.
- 2-4-9 Tsuchido, Onomichi City, Hiroshima
- Official Website
- Official Website (English)
2. HOTEL CYCLE
This is a hotel inside ONOMICHI U2 that offers a full array of services for cyclists traveling across the Shimanami Kaido. To start, you can ride up to the front counter to check in and take your bike inside with you to your guest room. In the shared space there’s even a repair space where you can do a quick tune up or maintenance.
- 6-15 Nishigoshocho, Onomichi City, Hiroshima
- Official Website
- Official Website (English)
Onomichi Souvenirs to Impress your Friends
Finding the perfect souvenir is one of the most fun parts of travel. Onomichi is a town known for its tea, and it even has a historic teashop to boot. Otherwise, there are plenty of boutique shops to browse. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Onomichi Black Tea by Imagawatamakozono
Onomichi Black Tea from the veteran tea and teawares shop, Imagawatamakozono. Here you can find imported Ceylon teas from Sri Lanka, straight teas sold by region, and special black tea blends made with a local flair that’s reminiscent of Onomichi. You can also find tea favorites like Earl Grey or Cherryblossom flavor teas to try. The tea packaging features a cartoon cat design that is especially cute.
2. Dyed Tenugui towels by Kokoro-iki “
This original tenugui towel features a design that’s made to “truly express the culture and way of life of those who live here”. It’s made with the authentic chusen dyeing technique, which imparts different individual patterns and individual charms to each tenugui. The cute design of this towel can serve as a perfect memento from your trip every time you see it.
3 Best Festivals to See in Onomichi
Onomichi is home to many historic and unusual local festivals. If you’re around, it’s a great chance to experience a side of Onomichi that only comes out during festival season. Here are our recommended 3 festivals to note:
1. Onomichi Betcha Festival
Onomichi Betcha Festival is designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Onomichi. It occurs every year on November 1st, 2nd and 3rd. For three days, 3 figures wearing oni-masks will lead a parade of portable mikoshi shrines through the city. The festival is said to have got its start when many prayed for protection against a sickness that was spreading in Onomichi. The performances are truly remarkable, and the Betcha Taiko is another sight worth coming to see.
2. Onomichi Sumiyoshi Firework Festival
This is a regular, historic festival at Hiroshima’s Sumiyoshi Shrine, beloved by the locals here since the mid-Edo Period. Over 13,000 fireworks are lit over boats floating across the Onomichi Channel, lighting up the sky above. During the day the portable mikoshi shrines are paraded through the city shopping streets, and many festival stalls open up, drawing plenty of crowds.
3. Onomichi Lantern Festival
Onomichi Lantern Festival gives Onomichi a mystic, magical air as 34,000 lanterns are placed in spots all across Onomichi, including on the JR Onomichi Station front lawn and paths leading up to temples. At the same time, the temples will open up their treasure halls, and live concert events are held. This is one way to see Onomichi like never before, lit up beautifully in the dark of night.
Hopefully this guide of recommend sightseeing, food, hotels, guest houses, souvenirs and more has helped inspire your trip. While Onomichi is a small town, it’s jam-packed with plenty to see.
Once you’re done, we recommend taking the Shimanami Kaido for some sightseeing in Ehime Prefectures Matsuyama City next, for a new adventure and a soak at Japan’s oldest hot springs, Dogo onsen.