Our reporter Marie Morimoto was recently given the opportunity to participate in a tour of Onomichi, a hilly and coastal city in Hiroshima Prefecture with a population of about 141,000 people.
It’s widely known in Japan for a few things: its Temple Walk connects 25 temples; it’s the setting for many books, manga, movies like "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time," and even games like "Yakuza 6;" and two cats that keep trying to break into a museum.
On this tour, Marie was scheduled to tour a guest house complex constructed in vacant or abandoned houses called akiya. Her excitement for the journey ahead began the moment she exited the train station. Before her was a wide and open sky, nearby islands, and the ocean.
About a 10-minute walk from the station was her tour destination: Anago no Nedoko. Within the complex was a guest house, a café, a socializing space, and a book and music shop.
It’s entirely made of renovated traditional wooden houses, and, boy, did it mix retro and modern in a way that made Marie happy. The café’s long and narrow setup in particular piqued her interest.
There were also items inside that were recycled from nearby schools, like the chalkboard on the wall and the shoe shelf-turned-bookshelf on the floor. Can you spot any other school-related items?
Beside the café was the guest house, and the hallway was so long and inviting that Marie wanted to explore every corner of it. The interconnected buildings were like a maze perfect for explorers. The complex was designed with the intention of showing both travelers and residents the traditional architecture of Onomichi.
The guest house is set up in a dormitory-style fashion–there’s a common space, and the main rooms are bunk beds in a shared room. There are a few private rooms available, though! Marie couldn’t get over how stylish the common space was; it was the essence of Japanese interior design.
It’s managed by the Onomichi Vacant Housing Revival Project, a team of designers, architects, and artists that clearly know what they’re doing.
The evidence that they helped design the guest house was overwhelming. After touring the guest house complex, Marie had some free time. She decided to wander the town aimlessly and see what she could find.
The answer: a lot of house-roasted coffee shops. Many of them are run by young entrepreneurs that moved to Onomichi for a fresh start in life. Some of these would definitely create queues in Tokyo’s streets solely based on their design.
She also came across some public baths, boutiques, and fresh produce shops, some of which sold mostly citrus fruits that the area is well-known for.
More than anything, Marie loved the blend of traditional and modern. She was struck with the analogy when she spotted a mother-and-daughter pair of travelers–the mother would surely find the scenery nostalgic while the daughter would be amazed by the new sights.
Besides that, it’s got a bit of everything in terms of scenery: hills, islands, ocean, and bay. You can even hop over to Ehime Prefecture if you take the Shimanami Expressway.
Marie definitely recommends adding Onomichi to your travel itinerary, especially if Hiroshima is already in your plans. It’s only a 40-minute bullet train ride from Hiroshima Station to Shin-onomichi Station; and if you’re heading to Hiroshima from the Osaka area, it’s right on the way.
Related Links: Anago no Nedoko (English)
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You should’ve mentioned Tokyo Story…; probably the best Japanese movie of all time…; a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful movie…;
… that woman in the picture is based on Setsuko Hara… (one of the most iconic photos in the history of Japanese cinema).
… is based on Setsuko Hara… (that particular photo is one of the most iconic photos in the history of Japanese cinema).