Some 65km west from Okayama along the industrialized San’yō coast is the old castle town of Fukuyama (福山), now the key industrial city of Hiroshima-ken’s Bingo district and a jumping-off point for the lovely seaside town of Tomonoura.
There are few more pleasant ways to spend half a day or more in Japan than exploring the enchanting fishing port of TOMONOURA (鞆の浦), at the tip of the Numakuma Peninsula, 14km south of Fukuyama, and the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s 2008 film Ponyo. The town has one of the most beautiful locations on the Inland Sea, and its narrow, twisting streets and surrounding hills are easily explored on foot or by bicycle. Boats unload their catch daily beside the horseshoe-shaped harbour, which has hardly changed since the town’s Edo-era heyday, when trading vessels waited here for the tides to change direction or rested en route to mainland Asia. Today, you’re just as likely to see locals dreaming the day away on the sea walls, rod in hand, waiting for the fish to bite, or selling catches of prawns, squirming crabs and other seafood on the streets.
Twenty kilometres west of Fukuyama lies the enchanting port of ONOMICHI (尾道), overlooked by the houses and temples that tumble down the steep face of the wooded hill, Senkōji-san. Many Japanese come here to linger along the town’s vertiginous byways, imagining scenes from their favourite films by local director Ōbayashi Nobuhiko. Onomichi is also a gateway to some of the islands of the Inland Sea, including Ikuchi-jima and Ōmi-shima, and to Shikoku via ferry or by road along the Shimanami Kaidō Expressway.