Today I’m going to write about yet another smaller city you can visit in west Japan. I think a lot of cycling enthusiasts will already know about this city, as it is a very popular starting city on a very popular scenic cycling route. What city is it? I want to tell you a bit about Onomichi city.
One of the most scenic cycling routes in Japan is the Shimanami Kaido. This route passes through several islands in the Setouchi Sea, connected by bridges that you can drive or cycle on. The starting (or ending) city of this route is Onomichi, as effectively, the first (or last) bridge of the group is from this city.
It is one of the most scenic routes I’ve driven on and I personally highly recommend going through it, whether it’s by driving or cycling.
You can rent bicycles in the city if you wish to complete this route. If you do not wish to cycle or go through the Shimanami Kaido, that’s great too. Keep reading and see what’s in store for you as a tourist in Onomichi! (if you are looking for ideas after your cycling, congratulations and please read on)
Getting to Onomichi
How do you get to Onomichi? You can take the Shinkansen to Shin-Onomichi, but I think this is not the best route.
I highly recommend taking the Shinkansen to Fukuyama Station, then change to a local train for a short(ish) ride to Onomichi Station. The main reason is that the local train will take you right into the city center. Shin-Onomichi (the shinkansen station) is quite a ways away from Onomichi, so you would have to do a bit more walking or find another way to get to all the attractions.
Taking the local train will also give you a more scenic ride. The local train hugs the Setouchi Sea a little bit before getting into Onomichi station, whereas the shinkansen does not take the same route.
Last thing is if you are not a JR pass holder, you can get to Fukuyama station faster on the Nozomi shinkansen. Connecting onto a local train after the nozomi may be a faster route.
What is there to do?
I only had 3 hours at Onomichi, but even with 3 hours, you can do quite a lot! I actually wasted a lot of time at one point, but if I hadn’t, I think I would have seen some other things. But that’s ok!
When you get out of the station at the exit facing the pier/sea, turn left. That side is where most of the attractions are concentrated at. There are other things on the right side (west), but if you are on a time crunch, the east side is going to be your main focus. You can either hug the train tracks and walk along there for 10 minutes, or you can cross the street and go into the shopping street. This shopping street isn’t too different from other Japanese style shopping streets if you’re used to seeing them, but I think it has a lot of interesting cafes and restaurants tucked along this long street. You can also get snacks and fresh produce here to.
Almost at the end of the street, turn left towards the mountain. Don’t worry, you don’t have to hike up. In fact, you should hike down. Or not at all (but I really think you should).
There is a ropeway that will take you up to the hill you see. This houses the observation deck looking out to Setouchi Sea and the Onomichi Art Museum, which recently got some attention due to these cats . And speaking of cats… Onomichi is famous for something called the “cat alley”. It is a narrow strip of path that has cafes, shops and street art dedicated to cats. If you choose to hike down the “Path of Literature” (kind of like the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto) from the top of the observatory, you will come across cat alley on your way down…... which is why I chose to take the ropeway up, and hike down.
And if cats are not up your alley, the Path of Literature I mentioned just now will take you through some interesting temples. Particularly, Senkoji Temple (which is the intended purpose of the ropeway). On the way up to Mt. Senkoji to the observatory, you will have seen Senkoji Temple sitting on the mountain-side. It’s not a very big temple, but I find mountain side temples to be very fascinating.
Before you come down the Path of Literature and into Cat Alley though, don’t forget to stop into the 2nd floor of the observatory to get some mikan ice cream! Make sure you get the mixed mikan ice cream to try both types of mikan.
When you get to the bottom again, you can either continue temple hopping if you have time or if you are hungry, head back into the shopping street. There are a lot of restaurants that will serve you up a good Onomichi Ramen like this one:
(and if ramen is not your thing, there are other cafes in the shopping street and by the pier that will serve you up other delicious Japanese foods!) And that’s it! Make sure you check the time your next train will come, because you definitely don’t want to be like me with only 5 minutes to spare after my ramen. Thank you for reading this post! I’ll be posting what I did after Onomichi city, so please keep your eye out for that soon!