A quiet fishing town with a charming old city center where some of the buildings are several hundred years old, Tomonoura is one of the hidden gems in the eastern part of Hiroshima prefecture.
Tomonoura is a somewhat strange place. It’s not even an official town, but rather just a part of the hub city of Fukuyama, with a population of around half a million people. The ride from Fukuyama station takes a mere 30 minutes, yet it feels like the two places are much further apart.
In Tomonoura there are no skyscrapers nor neon signs, instead, the town greets you with splendid views of the Seto inland sea, some nearby islands, a Meiji period town and what feels like at least a thousand fishing boats in its half-moon shaped harbor. Most of the people living here refer to the town by just “Tomo”, and all of the locals we talked to during our visit seemed to have humble pride of their town.
Not too long ago, Tomonoura gained quite a fair bit of attention due to the fact that Hayao Miyazaki from Studio Ghibli spent several months here while doing research for the 2008 movie “Ponyo”, about a goldfish princess who wants to become a human. Since the release of the movie this town has seen an increase in tourists – both domestic and international – and there are plenty of ponyo statues and other details paying homage to the movie all over town. Some scenes from the 2013 Hollywood movie “The Wolverine” was also shot here in Tomonoura.
Tomonoura has several places that offer a beautiful view of the town and its surroundings, one of these is the old guesthouse Taicho-ro, that dates back to the Edo period. Several hundred years ago the view from the guesthouse was called “the most beautiful scene in Japan”, by an early envoy of Koreans.
In the 1980s, the local authorities had plans to build a huge bridge over large parts of the harbor area. As the local residents didn’t want to see their town’s greatest asset – it’s beauty – get ruined, they protested. This was the start of a conflict that went on for decades. Much to the relief of the residents, as well as Hayao Miyazaki, these plans was finally scrapped after a court ruling in 2009 blocked the project in favor of the residents right to preserve the beauty of their town.
If you plan to visit Tomonoura, you should be aware that accommodation options are limited to higher-end guesthouses and ryokans. Budget travelers are recommended to opt for accommodation in Fukuyama instead.
Open the mapCheck access information
- Hiroshima Fukuyama-shi Tomochotomo 623-5