Japan · Life in Japan

Hiroshima – Part II: Onomichi City

Onomichi City – known as “Saka no machi” (坂 の 街) “the city of hills”.

Click on picture to enlarge

Also known as the city of many temples and cats!

Welcome to my soon-to-be new home town, Onomichi! That’s right, I finally found out where I will be living in Hiroshima prefecture. I actually heard the exciting news last week, but since then I have been busy with packing up my place, chatting with my predecessor, and researching everything I can about Onomichi. But now I find myself able to sit down and reflect on what I have discovered.

At first glance, I thought Onomichi was just another small city that didn’t have much to offer in comparison to Hiroshima city (a 1hr 45min train ride away) and the other larger cities, like Kure. Fortunately, after a bit of in depth research, I discovered that I have been placed in a real gem of a city. 🙂

hiroshima-pref-e

This is what one website, Ononavi.com, has to say about the city:

“The city of Onomichi has been prospering as a seaport town since ancient times. Close lying mountains approach the coastline of Onomichi waterway that runs calmly from east to west in the appearance of a canal. The streets and mountain sides in this slender hillside town are lined with houses and venerable temples which make for truly beautiful scenery in this town which is famous for its slopes.
Historical and traditional temples are prevalent in Onomichi since this town escaped damage from the war. Onomichi is so called a town of cultural heritages. The many temples and shrines found throughout the city remain in the olden Japanese style and are main tourist spots for many visitors. Visitors are always warmly welcomed when they come to these sacred grounds.”                              

Onomichi is divided into three areas: mountain, central, and ocean. In the central area, there are 25 temples, all located within walking distance of each other. The ocean area includes a few islands just off the mainland. On the one island, Innoshima, there are 88 temples! The city is very popular with the media. Many films have been set there, including a famous classic 1953 Japanese film, Tokyo Story. Also, it is the setting for the 2005 anime, Kamichu! – which I am currently watching 😉

Another famous attraction in Onomichi is the “Shimanami Sea Route”. This is a 70km cycling route that connects six islands, starting in Onomichi and ending in Imabari city in Ehime. It is said to be one of the best cycling roads in Japan. Definitely something I would love to try one day, and hopefully I could get my brother to join me as he has done the Cape Town Argus Cycle tour a couple of times, so I am sure he would love this!

Cycling
The 70km-long “Shimanami Kaido Highway”

Oh yes, I mentioned cats didn’t I? So apparently there are many stray cats around, but they are not seen as a nuisance or anything (from what I gather). In fact, there is actually a cat museum (Maneki-neko Museum) and a ‘path of cats’ route where one can walk through the narrow lanes and hopefully spot a cat or two, or three… or ten. Who knows, but I hope I have a few in my neighbourhood because I absolutely love cats.

Lucky stone cat
One of the many lucky stone cats found in Onomichi

Onomichi also has quite a few major festivals throughout the year, though one of the highlights is the Sumiyoshi Fireworks Festival which happens at the end of July/beginning of August. Said to be the largest display of fireworks in western Japan, this festival “has been held since the middle of Edo period in order to wish for the prosperity of business and the safety of sea traffic” (Ononavi). Over 13 000 fireworks, or something crazy like that, are let off. 😯

Festival

There definitely seems to be so many fabulous things that Onomichi has to offer. I really am excited to be moving there and look forward to experiencing as much as I can. If you are keen to find out more about Onomichi, I suggest clicking to this website, Ononavi, as they give a very good summary of all the highlights, attractions and activities one can do there.

Only two weeks to go until I leave for Japan! 😀

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