The town of Onomichi, located in Japan’s charming Setouchi (Inland Sea) region, is a wonderful destination for travelers who love food, design, history, and cycling.
Until a few years ago, Onomichi’s claim to fame was being the starting point for Japan’s most famous bike ride, the Shimanami Kaido, a lovely island-hopping route across the Inland Sea.
But in recent years, the quaint and attractive port town — with its picturesque and hilly backstreets — has also steadily transformed itself into one of Japan’s most unique and appealing destinations for creatives and design lovers.
Originally written in 2015, this post was updated and republished on November 6, 2020.
When to Visit Onomichi
Like most destinations in Japan, Onomichi is generally speaking a year-round destination.
In terms of weather, spring and fall are typically most comfortable, but this doesn’t mean you should avoid visiting in other seasons.
Winters in this part of Japan can definitely be cold, though not usually quite as cold as Kyoto or Tokyo. As for summers, we won’t sugarcoat it: expect pretty intense heat and humidity (along with a lively summer atmosphere).
For more on Japan’s seasons and weather, see When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Japan?
Getting to Onomichi
Onomichi is located in Hiroshima Prefecture, and about 50 miles (80 km) from the city of Hiroshima itself. For most travelers, the easiest way to get here will be via Japan’s incredible rail network.
Travel to Onomichi Station via Fukuyama
Whether you’re arriving from the east (for example, from Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto) or the west, the most common route to Onomichi by train is to take the shinkansen (bullet train) to Fukuyama Station.
Fukuyama is a relatively small regional station, and it’s an easy transfer here to the small local line that takes you to Onomichi Station (it’s about 20 minutes from Fukuyama to Onomichi by rail).
Onomichi Station (as opposed to Shin-Onomichi Station, mentioned below) is right in the heart of the town.
Travel to Shin-Onomichi Station
An alternative is to take the shinkansen to Shin-Onomichi Station, which is located a little bit outside of the town center.
For travelers who don’t love trains, the benefit of this alternative is avoiding a train transfer, and skipping the short ride on local rail. In this case, from Shin-Onomichi Station the best way to the center of town is a short taxi ride (about 10 minutes).
What to Do in Onomichi
In recent years, Onomichi has become a magnet for creatives from throughout Japan, and the town’s old-fashioned “retro” feel melds beautifully with an influx of design inspiration.
The local design boom was kickstarted with the 2014 opening of Onomichi U2, a project by Onomichi-based DISCOVERLINK Setouchi and Hiroshima-based Suppose Design Office.
Located on the waterfront, about a 5-minute walk from Onomichi Station, Onomichi U2 is a renovated warehouse that is home to the cyclist-friendly Hotel Cycle, as well as a bakery, cafe, restaurant, bar, boutique, and bicycle shop.
While the town of Onomichi is very much worth strolling, you may be tempted to grab a book and spend the afternoon over coffee or drinks in the beautiful Onomichi U2 itself. The on-site Butti Bakery (pronounced boo-chee) offers fresh bread and pastries based on local ingredients.
Pick up a treat and head over to the Yard Cafe — where you can linger over an espresso while looking out onto the waterfront — or make your way to the Kog Bar for happy hour. The Restaurant is also a convenient option for an easy and delicious lunch or dinner.
Another highlight of U2 is the Shima Shop, where you can find an eclectic variety of local products, ranging from gourmet food and drink, to denim and pottery.
For those planning to cycle the Shimanami Kaido, there is also a GIANT bicycle shop on site, where you can rent (and buy) high-quality road bikes.
Walk Around Onomichi
Onomichi is a great walking town.
For a pleasant, slow-paced walk take a stroll through Onomichi’s long and atmospheric shotengai (central shopping arcade). You’ll find a charming mix of old-fashioned mom-and-pop shops, alongside stylish boutiques such as Onomichi Denim Project (a unique local project that brings together fascinating locals and the region’s renowned denim).
If you like walking hills, it’s worth spending some time wandering through the town’s steep and winding backstreets. Along with views of the Inland Sea below, enjoy hidden cafes, attractive old architecture, and the scenic Temple Walk, which showcases Onomichi’s unusually high concentration of Buddhist temples via a maze-like course through narrow streets.
The Senko-ji Temple Ropeway provides a less strenuous option for views without the sweat.
Other Highlights of Onomichi
- The Onomichi City Museum of Art, designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando (especially famous among travelers for his work on the art island, Naoshima).
- The Shimanami Kaido, a cycling course traversing the Seto Inland Sea.
- Onomichi is also known for its local varieties of ramen and okonomiyaki, and the town is also home to many excellent izakayas.
Where to Stay in Onomichi
Onomichi is a small town and doesn’t have any truly luxurious accommodations, but it does have some unique properties worth considering.
If you don’t mind being right in the heart of the action, Hotel Cycle — located within Onomichi U2 — is a nice mid-range hotel. Along with amusing perks like cycle-through check-in, Hotel Cycle offers simple but stylish rooms featuring an attractive mix of modern design and local touches (including soft denim pajamas).
For a more private, higher-end experience, we love the Minato no Yado villas. This is perfect for couples or families seeking a more residential-style stay. While not luxurious, per se, the villas are beautiful, blending western and Japanese elements.
LOG, located adjacent to Minato no Yado, is a stylish boutique hotel with a remarkable minimalist flair. Some travelers may find LOG more interesting than comfortable, but for those with profound interests in architecture and design, it’s worth considering.
It’s also possible to stay in nearby Hiroshima (or even Miyajima) and visit Onomichi as a day trip. Another option is to use the luxurious Ryokan Kurashiki as your base. One of Japan’s best ryokans, Ryokan Kurashiki is located just over an hour away from Onomichi.
I hope our introduction to charming Onomichi helps inspire your travels to this lovely part of Japan!
For more unique destinations, see our post on Japan’s best off-the-beaten-path regions.