The central part of Tomonoura consists of a few blocks that date back all the way to the Edo Era (1603-1868). This area is very pleasant to walk around, and many of the buildings has been turned into cute shops as well as a few museums where you can learn more about how life used to be in this quaint little town. There are also a few shops specializing in Homeishu, a local liquor made from a number of different herbs, which is said to have good effects on your health. Although we’re not sure about those health claims, we did enjoy its sweet flavor. The bottles are beautiful and make a good souvenir for friends back home.
One of the most famous landmarks of Tomonoura is the iconic lighthouse in the bay. It was built back in the 17th century, and is roughly eleven meters tall, making it the tallest lighthouse built during the Edo Era that’s still standing today. The pier that the lighthouse stands on is a popular photo spot, as everything that makes this town so scenic can be captured in one photo. The old charm of the Edo Era architecture, the Seto inland sea and the dramatic mountains framing it all in the background.
This small island is a mere 6 km in circumference, but well worth the 5-minute ferry ride it takes to get there thanks to its beautiful nature. There are a few hotels and a campground on this little island, as well as a few beaches and some interesting rock formations as well. We liked the small shops near the beach selling everything from souvenirs to home made lemon liquor. Sensuijima is a part of the Setonaikai National Park, the oldest national park in all of Japan. Ferries depart three times per hour from 7:10 am to 9:30 pm and cost 240 yen one way.
Tomonoura has several beautiful shrines and temples. One of the most famous ones is the Ioji Temple, located on a steep hill with gorgeous views of the town and the bay down below. Another famous temple is Fukuzenji Temple, where you also can enjoy a splendid view of the sea and the nearby islands, including Bentenjima with its little pagoda, as well as the bigger Sensuijima behind it. Most of the temples and shrines can be visited for free, although a few of them charge a small entrance fee ranging from 100 to 200 yen.
On the hillside, not far from the Ioji Temple, you will find this charming place that is a combined shop, gallery and café all under one roof, in a glorious minka-style villa with a beautiful garden and great view to boot. Here you can have a coffee while enjoying the amazing view from their nice veranda.