Tomonoura is something of a place of pilgrimage for fans of Studio Ghibli’s movies, in particular those of whom put “Ponyo” on top of their list of favorite movies. Many of the locals shares stories of how he, and the rest of the production team, initially came here on a company trip, and fell in love with the place. This is supposed to have been when Hayao Miyazaki himself decided that this quaint little Edo Era town was going to be the biggest inspiration for his next movie. Before beginning production of “Ponyo”, director Hayao Miyazaki even rented a house and lived in Tomonoura for about two months, doing research, enjoying the atmosphere and also interacting with a large number of the locals.
Today, there are plenty of homages to Ponyo hidden on the streets and in the shops all over Tomonoura. Small handmade statues of Ponyo are seemingly everywhere, and many of the restaurants and cafés we visit have hand-written greetings from members of the animation studio hanging on the walls.
Director Hayao Miyazaki also played a big role in the restoration process of the Onfunayado Iroha, a historical building where negations took place after Japan's first naval crisis. The building was slated for demolition, but thanks to the efforts of an ambitious NPO and the famous animation director, it got renovated and turned into one of the most beautiful guesthouses in Tomonoura.
If you want to explore all the spots in Tomonoura related to Ponyo, we recommend a visit to the local tourist information office, located near the bus stop in Tomonoura. They have a comprehensive map where you can learn a lot about all the places that make appearances in the popular movie, and will be able to point you towards memorable destinations such as the supermarket that appears more or less as a carbon copy in the movie, and the shore where Ponyo appears on land for the first time.
There are also several residential houses around town that should look very familiar to anyone who has watched the movie multiple times, especially those on the hillside, not far from the Ioji temple.
And of course, no true Ghibli-fan should miss a chance to have Hayashi Rice (hashed beef) at Tabuchiya. This was one of the favorite restaurants in town for several members of the animation studio, and they’ve left a nice hand-written greeting to the proprietor, which is now decorating one of their walls. The small canoe-school and café near the lighthouse also had a similar greeting plastered on the wall as well.