The heritage left by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli during their time in Tomonoura can be seen in many places, both big and small. One of the most noteworthy things left behind however, is the guesthouse Onfunayado Iroha, one of the best accommodation options in Tomonoura.
This building has a long history. Built towards the end of the Edo Era, this was where the negotiations took place after a naval collision between two ships which led to the sinking of the Iroha-maru, a steamship of great historical significance owned by Sakamoto Ryoma, one of the most prominent figures to overthrow the Shogunate. This event took place in 1867 and is sometimes referred to as “Japan's first naval accident”, an event so significant that it even has its own museum, located next to the lighthouse.
By the time Hayao Miyazaki came to Tomonoura, the building was abandoned and slated for demolition. It was however purchased by an NPO, and it was decided that this historical building would remain standing, and instead get its interior restored.
Miyazaki-san got very involved in the restoration process. According to the staff we talked to during our visit, many details of the restored building, such as the patterns on the windows facing the street, was designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself. There’s even a small portion in the building displaying the original sketches he drew to explain his vision as well.
Today this hostel has three rooms only, all of which are very tastefully decorated, yet all also somewhat different in style, atmosphere and size. The smallest room accommodates two guests, and the biggest one accepts groups of up to six people.
Onfunayado Iroha also has a tastefully decorated restaurant that serves Japanese-style Kaiseki meals. Most of it is made from locally sourced vegetables and seafood, and they also have a fully vegetarian option, something that’s quite rare to see at Japanese hotels and guesthouses. The restaurant also serves lunch, coffee and snacks for non-staying guests.
In a separate building that used to be a “kura”, or storage house, you’ll find the public bath of the guesthouse. The bath is only open to guests staying overnight.
If you want to stay in this building, and take in both the historical atmosphere, as well as the knowledge of sleeping in a room that has been visited by this superstar of the animation world, their rates start at 12,000 yen per night (including breakfast, off peak season). Plans with dinner included start at 19,000 yen per person. Advance bookings are possible in English.