This summer was particularly hot and I, for one, am glad for the cooler mornings and evenings finally gracing us with their presence. It’s September already and autumn is the perfect time to take a little trip away to restore your spirit (and sanity) as the end of the year draws nearer.
One such trip I took last year around this time was to a sleepy, little fishing village called Tomonoura, which I’d read about as an up-and-coming tourist destination. It didn’t disappoint.
The day I visited I was the sole foreigner and rather than being viewed with suspicion as to why I would want to visit such an off-the-beaten-track place, I was welcomed warmly with big smiles and hearty hellos from the locals. As I stepped off the bus and walked along the waterfront, the only sounds I could hear were the boats creaking against one another and the cries from the birds that circled overhead. It’s the kind of place where your breathing slows down, your shoulders visibly relax and you find yourself smiling at everyone and everything. In other words, it’s just what you need.
Tomonoura is a great place to wander around. Of course, there are maps, but I would suggest just strolling through the streets, which are, in parts, something akin to a maze. Right on the water’s edge you’ll find the famous Joyato Lighthouse, which dates from the Edo Period (1603-1867) and some great cafes that serve wonderful cakes and coffee. In the back streets you’ll find a number of shrines and temples that you can also visit, but my suggestion is to locate one of the many shops that sell houmeishu, a 16 herb medicinal sake that is said to give vitality to all those who drink it. I’m not sure about vitality, but I do know that drinking it for breakfast each morning as they recommend on the website and in the brochures, sure does give you a buzz. Even from a small sake cup it’s enough to pack a punch and make you feel suitably… relaxed, I believe the word is. By this I mean your limbs suddenly feel as though you’ve lost all control over them. I like to think it reminds me of how I felt during my visit. One or even two… or three… bottles are a great gift for friends or even yourself.
Recently, Tomonoura has become doubly famous for being the source of inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, ‘Ponyo,’ and the Hollywood blockbuster, ‘The Wolverine,’ starring my fellow Australian, Hugh Jackman. The visitor centre is a great place to pick up a little souvenir of your trip and believe me when I say there are a LOT of little Ponyo toys to choose from. If you like Hugh Jackman (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?!), it’s also really exciting to think that you’re standing where he did in scenes from the movie.
From Hiroshima it is a fair way to Tomonoura and you’ll need to take a train and then a bus. The local train from Hiroshima Station to Fukuyama Station takes approximately two hours and will require changing trains at either Itozaki or Mihara Station. Of course, you do have the option of taking the Shinkansen, which will only be 20-50 minutes or so, depending on which Shinkansen you use. The price for the local train is just under 2000 yen, but of course, a reserved seat on the Shinkansen will cost you 3000 yen. It all depends on how much time you have and how much you are willing to spend.
The bus to Tomonoura leaves from bus stop number five, right outside Fukuyama Station. According to all the websites it’s around 30 minutes, but having been there myself I can say it’s less than that. It will cost you 520 yen to the visitor centre in Tomonoura, or 550 yen to the Tomo Port bus station just near the lighthouse.
All in all, Tomonoura is a lovely little place to visit and the ideal place to sooth your soul and calm your spirit. I guarantee that when you leave you will feel ready to face the daily grind of life in the big smoke again. Then again, there is the possibility that you won’t want to leave…
For more information on both Tomonoura and the medicinal sake, please refer to these websites: