The Onomichi Temple Walk
After having checked out of Onomichi Hotel U2 Cycle we stored our luggage in the car and walked past the station, we crossed the train tracks to the start of the Onomichi Temple Walk for which the town is rightly famous.
The temple walk is one of Onomichi’s sights that shouldn’t be missed. It consists of 25 temples that suffered little from the bombing in Word War II and is linked today by a well sign posted trail.
The walk led us up the steep hills, over seemingly endless stairs in the morning heat past small shrines, big temples complexes including pagodas and cemeteries. The route was marked by a coloured path and with clear signposts. A map for the Onomichi Temple Walk can be collected from the Tourist Information Office by the station, in your hotel or downloaded online.
Savour the Views
We climbed higher up towards the mountaintop and stopped to take a drink from our water bottles every so often, and savour the view over Onomichi and the Seto inland sea in the distance.
The Cat Walk
Jerome seemed to like stroking the many cats along the path, lazing in the shades of trees and houses. Some people also call the temple walk, the “cat walk” because of all the cats that can be seen along the path.
Stop at a Shrine
At one of our many stops to rest along the temple walk we were in awe of a woman pulling a rope with big wooden beads making a clicking sound instead of the traditional bell to bring the deity at one of the temples. Having been to many shrines and temples this seemed to be quite a rare feature.
Shortly afterwards we reached Senko-ji temple, a bright red structure built among huge rocks that overlooks Onomichi. Senko-ji temple dates back to 806 and according to legend the stone ball on top of the 15 metres high rock Tama no Iwa used to glow at night illuminating the surrounding area.
The Cable Car
Many people visit this temple by taking the ropeway that passes the temple literally overhead, but the stairs are perhaps more fun and better exercise!
End of our Temple Walk
Here we decided to finish our temple walk, as the heat was getting more oppressive and we had seen enough of the temples.We climbed the last few metres to the observation deck, next to the ropeway station. Using the ropeway might be the best way to enjoy the Temple Walk if you are travelling with small children besides which child wouldn’t love to go on a ropeway? I would advise you to get a one-way ticket and then stroll the route downhill and detour as far as little legs will allow you, but be aware the Temple walk is not accessible with a pushchair!
Observation Tower on Senko Mountain
We took in the full view from the roof of the observation tower on Senko mountain and wanted nothing else more than to cool off. Thanks to the shop just below the peak we bought a Seto orange ice cream and enjoyed it before it melted in the summer heat. Having spotted a local outdoor pool on the map we thought there would not be anything better than to jump into the refreshing water of an outdoor pool. However, we were disappointed when one of the staff told us that it was closing in 15 minutes for their lunch break! We then made the decision to go back to our car onto the ferry.
On the way we bought some fresh sushi in one of the supermarkets on Mukoujima and drove to the beach we had been to the day before for the swim instead. We ate our lunch in the shade of Innoshima-hashi bridge and then went to the beach.
On the Beach in Mukoujima
Jerome played catch with some of the other bathers, children make friends so quickly, while I relaxed in the sun and read the next few pages on my kindle.
Check in time for our Ryokan Innoshima was not until late afternoon.The modern ryokan I had booked stands on a hill in the Setonaikai National Park with views outstanding views of the docks and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. Hotel Innoshima offers both western and Japanese style rooms, but when travelling with children and to experience sleeping on a futon on tatami mats it makes sense to go for Japanese style room.
Our room provided us with stunning views towards Ikuchijima and Ikuchi bridge and the sun setting over the hills and into the sea.
Time for the Onsen
Some people might raise their eyebrows at the architecture of the building; I have always taken a liking to weird architecture. The hotel is housed in a building that probably was built in the 1960/70s but has been recently renovated. The rooms are therefore up to date and they have a super onsen with saunas for both men and women. Jerome was impatiently waiting to go down to the onsen and sit in the hot bathtub with Chris.
Relax in the Hot Water
I went into the female part, where I stored my clothing and items in one of the lockers. The onsen is located on the lower ground floor but has panorama windows looking into field of cherry trees (must be incredible to be there during sakura) and the sound of the cicadas sitting on their tree trunks. After the ritual of having washed myself thoroughly, as you do when going to an onsen, I found myself restlessly sitting in the bath. I cannot, for some reason, relax in the hot bath, so instead got dressed in my yukata and purchased a bottle of my favourite cool Itoen jasmine tea from the vending machine.
Kaiseki Style Dinner
When the boys came back, having steamed in the tub with some of the locals, Jerome insisted on having a Ramune. This is very traditional JapAnese lemonade made in glass bottles with a marble stopper. Refreshed, we went for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant still seems to be stuck in a bygone era from the times of the “Japanese Bubble” with brass chairs, orange tablecloths and curtains. The food made more than up for the décor, it was fresh, Kaiseki style and cooked for us by 3 chefs, each of them specialised in their own cuisine. They also prepared a special children’s meal for Jerome and the other children in the restaurant while we got served 7 courses, plus small a dessert. We booked the standard dinner plan and we could only imagine what the deluxe plan must include. Everything was delicious and one of great things about Kaiseki dishes is that we ate food we normally would never dream of ordering.
When we walked back up the stairs to our room we could see outside on the terrace a group of guests having their dinner under the light of red and white coloured lanterns.
Where to Stay on Your Tour of the Shimanami Kaido:
Onomichi: The uber cool U2 Hotel Cycleeven Paul Smith stayed there…
Innoshima: Hotel Innoshima somewhat dated but a truly authentic experience and very helpful staff offering amazing views
Ikujijima: Tsutsui, a lovely, modern ryokan in the heart of Setoda
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