A quaint adventure before doing the Shimanami Kaido.
Sure, Onomichi is probably most well known as the small port town at the starting point of the Shimanami Kaido — the bikeable bridge between two of Japan’s main islands, Honshu and Shikoku. However, Onomichi has much more to offer than just the main road out of town.
Visually, Onomichi is memorable. Wedged between the Seto Inland Sea and steep hills, Onomichi’s downtown area is marked by a long, retro shopping arcade. The compact but hilly town quickly begins running up the nearby slopes, which are dotted with temples, narrow footpaths, hidden cafes and a surprising number of cats. The shopping arcade itself and the surrounding streets are a picture of a town in transition. Older kissaten (traditional coffee shops) and boutiques rub shoulders with galleries, bakeries, a denim shop specifically selling used jeans worn by locals, and one noisy, overflowing pet shop looking like a remnant of a bygone era.
An old town to discover
The majority of Onomichi’s sightseeing spots lie up the hill from the shopping arcade. Clambering up the winding streets yields picturesque views and turns into decent exercise. For reluctant climbers, the Mt. Senko-ji Ropeway, which begins at Sanroku station near Ushitora Shrine, can take visitors all the way to the hill’s summit. From there, it’s a pinch to visit Senko-ji Temple or take in a sweeping view of the town from Senko-ji Park.
There are two well-trod paths in Onomichi. The Temple Walk offers the simplest route to seeing Onomichi’s numerous temples. The Path of Literature snakes down from the top of the hill. It is a tribute to famous Japanese writers and poets, including Basho, many of whom were inspired by Onomichi. The path is lined by large stones engraved with poems or songs.
After working up an appetite on Mr. Senko-ji, try the town’s most famous dish, Onomichi ramen. This classic dish is known for its soy sauce-based broth, flat noodles, and bits of fat suspended in the soup. Syukaen is the town’s most famous ramen shop, but if the long lines (or the bits of fat) aren’t appealing, there are many other worthy ramen shops in town, peddling both Onomichi-style and others.
Rent a bike
When visitors have had their fill of Onomichi and are, in fact, looking to get out of town, renting a bike to cross the Shimanami Kaido is a cinch. Cyclists are under no pressure to make a round trip: Bikes can be dropped off at the end location, Imabari, or at various drop points along the way in favor of a bus or ferry home.