Written by: Courtney D
It’s no secret, at least to those of us who live here, that Hiroshima is a beautiful prefecture. Facing the island studded Seto Inland Sea, it has arguably some of the best scenery to be found in Japan. Most people’s thoughts jump to Miyajima, the Shimanami Kaido, or the Peace Memorial Park when they think of travel to Hiroshima, but this southern prefecture has so much more to offer. From islands overrun with wild rabbits to scenic temple strolls, here are five places off the beaten path that you won’t want to miss in your adventures.
Okunoshima (a.k.a. Bunny Island)
Okunoshima isn’t quite the well-kept secret that it used to be. Inhabited by hundreds of wild rabbits that will mob you at even the slightest prospect of food, Okunoshima’s popularity has grown rapidly over the years. That said, how can you pass up a chance to check out that much fluff? Besides its kawaii factor, Okunoshima has even more to offer. For the history buffs, it’s home to the ruins of a poison gas manufacturing plant that was shut down at the end of World War II. The ruins are an eerie contrast to the rabbits which frolic among them and a great photography opportunity. There’s also a small museum with some English signage. For the nature lovers, there are campsites and beautiful trails which lead to the top of the island for a stunning view of the Seto Inland Sea. And for the beach bums, there’s also a small stretch of sand for your sunbathing needs. I recommend packing a lunch though as facilities on the island are limited. Additionally, bring your own food for the rabbits (think cabbage, carrots, or food from the pet store) as word has it that the hotel on the island no longer sells pellets to visitors.
To get to Okunoshima, take the JR Kure line to Tadanoumi Station. From there, follow the inevitable crowds of people around the corner to the port where you can catch a ferry to the island for about ¥300. Bicycles can be rented on the island for day use. Campsites and hotel rooms are also available for visitors wishing to spend the night.
Tomonoura is a historical fishing village at the southern end of Fukuyama. With gorgeous views of the Seto Inland Sea, historical buildings, and a rich cultural atmosphere, it’s a great place for a day trip. Tomonoura was the basis for some of the artwork in the Studio Ghibli film, Ponyo, and was also recently featured in the 2013 X-Men film, The Wolverine. In addition to its picturesque setting, Tomonoura also presents visitors with the chance to visit several small museums, shrines, and temples, notably, Fukuzenji Temple which offers the famous view often seen on postcards and advertisements.
Tomonoura can be accessed by bus from Fukuyama Station. English signage is minimal so look for the kanji 鞆港(Tomo Port) at the number five bus stop. The trip takes approximately thirty minutes and should cost about ¥520.
Setoda is a small town on Ikuchijima and is part of the municipality of Onomichi. At first glance, this sleepy village might not seem like it has much to offer but it may surprise you. Setoda is home to the beautiful Kosanji Temple which was constructed by a wealthy businessman about thirty years ago in devotion to his mother. The temple features beautiful buildings modelled after other famous structures as well as a garden of marble imported from Italy at its top. If that doesn’t appeal to you, consider the winding tunnel through the mountain which brings you there. Featured on the walls are graphic portraits depicting the Buddhist Hell. Eerie but intriguing, the tunnel is also a welcome chance to escape the heat during the summer.
Besides Kosanji, Setoda is also home to the beautiful Setoda Sunset Beach which is roughly thirty minutes from the temple and best reached by bicycle or car.
Setoda can be accessed by bus or ferry from Onomichi, or by ferry from Mihara. Ferry costs run around ¥500 to ¥800. Setoda is also near the famous Shimanami Kaido and can be reached by bicycle.
Onomichi Temple Walk
Also in the Onomichi area is the famous Onomichi Temple Walk. About two and half kilometres long, this scenic route winds up and down through the old town of Onomichi with stops at twenty five temples and diversions to other notable places such as the Literature Museum, Onomichi City Art Museum, and Senkoji Park. For those who prefer not to walk, a ropeway will take you to Senkoji Park which is situated at the top of a tall hill and offers a breathtaking view of the city below. It’s also a great place for cherry blossom viewing during the spring season.
The temple walk can be accessed by foot from Onomichi Station. It’s about a two minute walk to the start of the trail. Walk north past the first bridge over the train tracks to find it.
Roughly seventy-five kilometres from Hiroshima City, Sandankyo Gorge is the perfect place to revel in the beauty of nature. Designated as a National Scenic Beauty, Sandankyo offers waterfalls, rapids, and rock outfaces as part of its gorgeous scenery. It’s particularly stunning in autumn when the leaves change their colour. Sandankyo is a great place for hiking and also has a ferryboat and hot spring.
Sandankyo is without a doubt most easily accessed by car. However, for those without wheels of your own, there is a bus which departs from Hiroshima Station once every morning. It costs ¥1400 but will take you right to the gorge for your very own escape into paradise.
So these are my top five places to explore off the beaten path in Hiroshima, but I am sure that there are many more out there. Agree? Disagree? Tell me what your favourite places are in the comments below!