Summer has officially arrived and the beach and all things cool and refreshing are the flavours of the month. The days are long and the blue skies and sunshine combine to create the perfect conditions for a trip to the seaside. Nowhere is more perfect or picturesque than the sleepy little fishing village of Tomonoura. Not even the longer than average train trip to Fukuyama Station and then the bus ride to Tomounoura can dim your excitement of finally getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life and taking some time out to relax.
Although Tomonoura is well-known for other more traditional things, it has recently become famous as the setting for the Hugh Jackman movie, ‘The Wolverine,’ and was also the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, ‘Ponyo.’ In fact, Miyazaki spent two months living in the village and drawing on the scenery around him to inspire his work. To all the Hugh Jackman fans out there (and by that, I mean the hordes of women!), there is nothing more exciting than standing on the same patch of ground that he did.
Perhaps the best part of Tomonoura though, is that despite the fact that it’s become more well-known, few foreigners actually take the time to visit. Depending on when you decide to go, you may be lucky enough to be the only one (or ones) there. Rather than feeling self-conscious and shy, you will be welcomed with open smiles and nods from the villagers who appreciate the fact that you’ve come to see a place that is clearly very special to them.
Tomonoura is the kind of place that makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. The cobbled paths that twist and turn through the village can lead you to the recommended tourist attractions that it’s famous for or simply allow you to wander aimlessly. I guarantee you will go with grand plans to go here and there with your Google Maps app and checklist, but you will soon realise you don’t want any of that. You will want to just get lost here and forget the outside world for a moment in time.
Perhaps the most famous of the recommended attractions is the Joyato Lighthouse which was built during the Edo Period (1603-1869). It remains to stand guard over the harbour, guiding small fishing boats and ships to safety. The steps that lead down to the water are a favourite spot for locals to sit and contemplate life… or maybe nothing at all.
Although there are a number of museums and historical houses to visit, the lack of explanations in English make them redundant for most expats. I do, however, thoroughly recommend sampling the houmeishu, a type of medicinal shochu made with 16 herbs for longevity. It can be found at a number of stores that are dotted around the village. I also purchased a bottle to take home with me to try and recapture the feeling and spirit of a tiny but truly enchanting and traditional place in Japan.
From Hiroshima Station you have the option of taking the Shinkansen or local train. The Nozomi Shinkansen will have you there is only half an hour and costs just over 3000 yen for a reserved seat. The local train takes a taxing 1 hour and 45-minute ride and yet will still cost you nearly 2000 yen.
When you arrive at Fukuyama Station, proceed to bus stop number 5 which is right in front of the exit. The thirty-minute ride from here to Tomonoura will cost you just over 500 yen and the scenery from both sides of the bus will soon have you in the mood for a day in the quaint village.
Tomonoura is the perfect day trip for summer days and is a place that will be etched into your memory for many, many years to come.