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Highlighting the culinary charms of the Seto Inland Sea

Region:

The city of Onomichi, a port along the Seto Inland Sea, encompasses hilly slopes, coastal shores, and several large islands. Onomichi’s diverse terrain is known for both its catches of seasonal fish and its many varieties of citrus fruit. Over the generations, a distinctive food culture has evolved hand-in-hand with the region’s history. In pre-modern times, the Inland Sea was a thoroughfare for boats transporting rice vinegar. This vinegar was used locally not only to preserve fish, but to bring out its flavor, and this practice produced a local cuisine that is centered on seafood. Today, Onomichi’s characteristic ingredients and regional specialties attest to the area’s rich cultural inheritance.

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Regional foods: Citrus Fruit

Capitalizing on the warm temperatures, sea breezes, and extended daylight hours of the Inland Sea climate, farmers have long made use of the slopes around Onomichi for citrus cultivation. The first cultivars were saplings brought back centuries ago from the Chinese mainland by the Murakami “pirates,” a naval force that maintained security in the Seto Inland Sea. Soon, the islands and surrounding hillsides were cleared to their very summits and citrus trees were planted in terraced rows —a practice known as “tilling an ascent to the heavens.” Today, the spirit of this historical enterprise endures in the fame of Onomichi’s citrus farms.

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Regional foods: Lantern Onomichi Garden

In December of 2018, the newly renovated Lantern Onomichi Garden (LOG) opened to visitors. Located on Mount Senko not far from Senko-ji Temple, this former apartment complex offers guest lodgings, a garden, and singular shopping and dining experiences. At the LOG restaurant, seasonal freshness is the focal point of every dish, and each meal is made with ingredients that conjure an image of the locals who produced them. The facility also holds frequent workshops and public events with themes that highlight regional foods, local traditions, and the wisdom of living in accordance with the seasons.

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Scenery: A miniature garden straight from the middle ages

The visual appeal of Onomichi has been likened to “a miniature garden straight from the middle ages.” It is a city where historic temples and shrines—some containing national treasures—line the winding streets, and whose higher slopes give views that look out across the sprawling coastal landscape. Notable artistic figures have also found Onomichi’s scenery captivating: novelist Shiga Naoya (1883-1971) stayed at a residence not far from the LOG, and director Ozu Yasujiro’s 1953 masterpiece Tokyo Story begins here. In fact, the town’s aspect has changed very little from the views recorded in the film’s opening scene.

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Activities: Cycling along the world-famous Shimanami Kaido

Onomichi is a leading destination for cyclists seeking to traverse the Shimanami Kaido. This 64-kilometer stretch of coastal expressway was selected by the American television network CNN as one of the “7 Best Bike Routes in the World.” Located at its head, the Onomichi U2 facility has twenty-eight rooms for lodgers, on-site bike rentals, shops, and restaurants featuring hand-selected local ingredients. Visitors seeking a more aquatic experience can book rooms on the “guntû,” a nineteen-room cruise ship that circles the Seto Inland Sea. Passengers can dine on Inland Sea specialties and participate in cultural excursions, like purchasing fish under the guidance of local experts.

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