Tomonoura Fukuzenji Temple View

A Picture Perfect Day in Tomonoura

In Japan by Jaclynn Seah0 Comments

You might not recognize the name Tomonoura off a map, but you may recognise it if you are a movie buff, chiefly because it’s the location of the Wolverine movie by James Mangold, and the setting of the Studio Ghibli film by Hayao Miyazaki  called Ponyo on the cliff by the sea.

Tomonoura Sign

Welcome to Tomonoura!

I was in central Japan, fresh from the art and islands of the Setouchi Triennale and keen to explore more of the Seto Inland Sea area, and I was recommended to check out Tomonoura. It’s a beautiful quiet little town that’s perfect for a day trip if you want somewhere relaxing to visit, away from the crowds while in the Fukuyama area. Here are some of the things I checked out when I was there.

Pin it: Why you should check out Tomonoura, Fukuyama, Japan

WHAT TO SEE IN TOMONOURA:


FUKUZENJI TEMPLE

This temple is renowned for having a view that a Korean envoy in the 1700’s claimed to be the “most scenic in the East” – naturally I had to go see for myself, so I found my way up a little hill to Fukuzenji Temple. It costs 200 JPY to enter (8am – 5pm) and while you can poke around some of the Buddhist statues and artifacts in the back (including a Buddhist-disguised Virgin Mary statue), the highlight is of course, the perfect window view.

Tomonoura Fukuzenji Exterior

Fukuzenji Temple from the outside

Tadah! It really is quite a postcard worthy view, but the most beautiful in the East? Well… it’s pretty but I’m not sure it’s the best! I had the place pretty much to myself when I was there in the afternoon, so I could take in the view and watch the ships pass by in the waters in peace. You can see the island Bentenjima just across the water, and beyond it the much larger Sensuijima.

Tomonoura Fukuzenji Temple View

The window frame makes this practically a postcard

Tomonoura Fukuzenji Actual View

Here’s the view without the window blocking – there’s an olden style ship passing by which adds to the ambience of this spot

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IOJI TEMPLE

For a scenic bird’s eye view of Tomonoura that is much less crowded, head west towards the inland area to Ioji Temple. Perched on the steep hill side, you have to brave a bit of a slope to reach this temple, but it is worth the short climb as it offers unblocked views of the Tomonoura bay area and the surrounding islands Sensuijima and Bentenjima. On fine days, you can see far across the Seto Inland Sea to the rolling hills of Shikoku in the distance.

The temple itself is not very big so you can explore it quite quickly – it was founded by Shingon Buddhism founder Kobo Daishi during the Heian era as Buddhism spread across Japan. The large bell tower that faces the bay is an original structure built in 1642, while the main building was rebuilt in 1685.

Tomonoura Ioji Temple

Ioji Temple from the outside

Tomonoura Ioji Sakura Trees

A little staircase leads down to a ledge beneath the trees

If you are there in spring, there is a row of sakura trees just in front of the entrance which turned out to be my favourite thing here in Tomonoura.  Sit under the shade of the trees and have sakura petals fall in your hair while you take in the view – no one else was there when I visited so I had freshly fallen, uncrushed pink petals that felt so soft in my hand. I tried tossing them into the wind to reenact some romantic music video – let’s just say that works better when you have additional hands to help 😛

Tomonoura Ioji Sakura Hand

So pretty!

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TAISHIDEN HALL

For an even more spectacular view, head through the graveyard to the back of Ioji temple and climb up the stairs through the wooded area to Taishiden, a small platform high up on the hill side marked by a little red tower. The sign claims it that the climb takes just 15 minutes, but perhaps only if you are an avid Stairmaster. I counted 614 steps that wind their way up the slope through a thicket of trees, but you do get a magnificent view from high up that you are unlikely to find elsewhere in this area. I was winded by the time I made it up, but the tranquility and the view was definitely worth all the effort!

Tomonoura Taishiden Slope

That’s Ioji Temple at the bottom of the red line – you then take a zigzagging trail up the slope until you reach Taishiden Hall

Tomonoura Taishiden Path

SO MANY STEPS OMG

Tomonoura Taishiden View

But the view is totally worth it! You’re facing the Seto Inland Sea – the moutains in the far distance belong to Shikoku on the other side of the sea!

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OLD TOWN

The rest of my time I spent wandering around the old town area, not doing very much in particular. There’s a charming feel to these quiet streets lined with traditional houses.

Tomonoura Street

Walking around town

I visited Ota’s Residence – Ota being a rather wealthy ancient merchant who had a very large traditional house where you can see how the rich folk used to live back in the day. The Ota family gained fame for producing Homeishu, a 16-herb liquor that is supposed to have some serious healing properties. Homeishu is still made today and produced by just 4 breweries in Tomonoura, a good unique souvenir to take home.

Tomonoura Ota house Homeishu Ingredients

Tomonoura Ota house Homeishu Ingredients

I also spent a lot of time just walking along the bay and admiring the view. Something about Tomonoura’s beauty really does inspire creative folk – there were lots of artists with easels and boards sketching and painting the view.

Tomonoura Joyato Lighthouse

Joyato Lighthouse is not very big and shaped like an old-style lantern

Tomonoura Bay View

All the little boats bobbing in the bay

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HOW TO GET TO TOMONOURA

I was staying at the Yadocurly Guesthouse in Onomichi (preparing for the Shimanami Kaido!) and took a day trip to Fukuyama, here’s how:

  • Train: I took the JR train from Onomichi Station to Fukukyama Station (410 JPY / S$5)
  • Bus: from Bus Stop right outside the entrance to Fukuyama Station, I caught a bus headed for Tomo Port or Tomoko. It took about 30 minutes (520 JPY / S$6.30)

Tomonoura is small enough to walk around quite comfortably, or you could cycle as well if you prefer.

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A short version of this article appeared on JapanTravel.com where I was a photojournalist intern in 2016

Thanks to R and her Japan Guide which had pretty useful and practical information about Tomonoura

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