Tomonoura (Harbor, port and sea area [bay]) (鞆の浦)

The place name 'Tomo no ura' (literally, the inlet of an archer's bracer) refers to a time-honored harbor, port and sea area (bay), which is located in the south end of the Numakuma Peninsula in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture, having flourished from ancient times. Tomonoura was also called 'Tomo no tsu' (in which 'tsu' meant a wharf in older Japanese). Tomonoura is a circular harbor, which is characterized by having the well-conserved harbor facilities of the Japanese early modern period.

Presently, Tomo-ko Port is a part of Fukuyama-ko Port area.

The coastal regions and the whole islands offshore are collectively called 'the Tomo-koen Park,' which is designated place of extraordinary scenic beauty and national park of Japan. The Tomo-koen Park was chosen in 1992 as one of the 100 Best Townscapes, and in 2007 as one of the 100 Most Beautiful Japanese Historical Landscapes.


Today the place name 'Tomonoura' refers to a wider area including the city area, but etymologically, 'Tomo no ura' means an 'inlet which is located in Tomo,' thus specifically referring to the Tomo-ko Harbor. More accurately, the name of town is 'Tomo' (Tomo, Tomo-cho, Fukuyama City).

An area in and around Tomonoura was designated place of extraordinary scenic beauty in 1925, and it composes a group of the first national parks designated pursuant to the National Park Acts enacted in 1931 (the Seto Inland Sea National Park). Therefore, the landscapes of Tomo was depicted in some commemorative postage stamps and postcards which were printed in the year of the national park designation of 1934.

At high tide, the ocean currents from the Bungo-suido Channel and the Kii-suido Channel flow into the Seto Inland Sea, where they collide off the coast of Tomonoura (located roughly in the center of the Seto Inland Sea); at low tide, however, they flow away from each other, with the current from the Kii-suido Channel flowing to the east and that from the Bungo-suido Channel flowing to the west and the coast of Tomonoura serving as a kind of central border. Namely, at Tomonoura the flow of ocean currents turns opposite. During the period when a near-coasted voyage using the geonavigation called 'Jinori' was the mainstream, people had to wait for the changing tide at Tomonoura to sail across the Seto Inland Sea off the Numakuma Peninsula. Because of this particular topographical feature, Tomonoura became known as Shiomachi no minato (a port for awaiting a favorable tide) from ancient times onward, as chanted in some poems composed by Tabito OTOMO and others, in Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves). Further, Tomo is deemed as one of the candidate sites that may have been the land of 'Toma' that appeared in the Gishiwajinden (an 'Account of the Wa [inhabitants of the western Japanese archipelago in the late third century]' in "The History of the Wei Dynasty" which comprises "The History of the Three Kingdoms" written by Chen Shou, where the account is known as the first historical record of Japan).

Historical townscape is well conserved in Tomo, the harbor of which is the one and only place where we can see a complete set of the harbor facilities of the Edo period intact, consisting of 'joya-to' (all-night street lamp), 'gangi' (stair-like landing area), 'hatoba' (wharf), 'tadeba' (old dock) and 'funa-bansho' (old coast guard station). Note that a road construction and improvement project may demolish a part of the tadeba (see an article of Issues regarding Tomonoura Reclamation and Bridge Formation Plan). In addition, this project has created conflict between the opponents, who request to preserve the historical landscape, mainly Tomonoura, saying the project may seriously impair the scenery, and the proponents, the companies (the municipal and the prefectural governments) saying that the damage will be limited.

Ancient Times

Eight poems about Tomonoura can be found in the Manyoshu, including: 'My beloved wife saw this needle juniper at Tomonoura as we travelled down from Kyoto together./ Now that I am on the way back, the tree still remains alive though she departed this world.' (by Tabito OTOMO) and 'Whenever I see that juniper on the rocky beach of Tomonoura,/ I will remember my wife who used to see the tree with me./ How can I forget her?' (by Tabito OTOMO). Although the origin of Tomo until that is unclear, the distribution of ruins and others suggests that it is highly possible that some sort of settlement was organized to some extent in the Yayoi period.

In the Heian period, on the outskirts of Tomo were built Seikan-ji Temple by Saicho (founder of the Tendai sect of Buddhism in Japan) and Io-ji Temple by Kukai (founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism in Japan), serving as the hubs of the both Tendai and Shingon teachings, respectively, to be spread over the southern Bingo Province. The name of Nunakuma-jinja Shrine, which is the principal shrine of Yasaka-jinja Shrine in Kyoto, is stated in the 'Engishiki,' codes and procedures in the Heian Period. Including these temples and shrines mentioned above, 19 of old and historical temples and dozens of small and large shrines had been built by the Edo period and are still standing along the narrow streets of Tomo today, which sight redolent of their prosperity.

Medieval Times

In 1336, Takauji ASHIKAGA, who was on his way back to Kyoto after winning the Battle of Tatarahama, was granted here a decree of Emperor Kogon for tracking down and killing Yoshisada NITTA. During the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, many battles (Tomo kassen) were fought between the Northern Court and the Southern Court in an area covering the sea off Tomonoura and the town of Tomo, thereby destroying invaluable cultural properties such as a five-storey pagoda of Seikan-ji Temple.

In the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) (Japan), the Mori clan built the Tomo-yogai Fortress (present-day Tomo-jo Castle) in the center of Tomo, which made Tomo serve as a foothold of Bingo Province. After being banished from Kyoto by Nobunaga ODA, Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA who was the 15th Shogun of the Muromachi the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) moved his camp to Tomo, supported by the Mori and some other clans, where Yoshiaki attempted to seize the opportunity to defeat Nobunaga. Sons of the distinguished families making up the bakufu (shogunate), such as the Ise, Ueno and Odachi clans, are said to have followed Yoshiaki and gathered at Tomo.
From this, it can be also called 'Tomo bakufu.'
Further, as shown above, taking into consideration that Tomo is the place where Takauji ASHIKAGA received the decree which lead to the establishment of the Muromachi bakufu, Sanyo Rai as a historian in the end of Edo period thus remarked: "Ashikaga (Muromachi bakufu) came to power in Tomo and got overthrown in Tomo."

At the downfall of the Amago clan, the decapitated head of Yukimori YAMANAKA was delivered to Tomo for inspection. His kubizuka (burial mound for heads), as a remain of this, was built and still remains today.

Early Modern Times

In the Edo period, Masanori FUKUSHIMA who ruled Bingo Province inaugurated a large scale construction of 'the Tomo-jo Castle' by enclosing with the walls the whole town of Tomo with the Tomo-yogai Fortress as the center, but the construction incurred Ieyasu TOKUGAWA's wrath and was thereby cancelled. Katsunari MIZUNO, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA's younger cousin, took over the position of the governor of Bingo-Fukuyama Domain from the Fukushima clan, and set up a 'bugyosho' (Tomo Rural Magistrate Office) at the site of the ruined Tomo-jo Castle.
Katsutoshi MIZUNO, Katsunari's son, lived in Tomo at that time and was called 'Tomo Dono.'
Meanwhile, Tomonoura was repeatedly designated as a port of call for Joseon (Korean) diplomatic missions to Japan, and there remains an episode in which a Korean officer (従事官) named Yi Bang-won (李邦彦), a member of the eighth mission of 1711, praised the landscape of Tomonoura viewed from the Fukuzen-ji Temple where they stayed overnight as 'the most beautiful, picturesque scenery in the world east of Joseon' (the words were written down on the board and hung in on the wall inside the Taichoro Reception Hall of the Fukuzen-ji Temple).

However, as navigation technique developed, the mainstream navigation shifted from 'Jinori' to 'Okinori' (the offshore navigation), which resulted in less necessity for awaiting a favorable tide to come at Tomonoura. Consequently, Onomichi City began to be the hub port of Bing Province.

Modern Times

Modern Tomonoura had gradually lost its importance as a hub, and even the enhanced land traffic convenience based on the opening of railroads by Tomotetsudo Co., Ltd., in 1913 could not prevent Tomonoura from failing to catch up the others amid the sweeping tide of modernization due to locational disadvantages of being an isolated tip of peninsula and lacking developable plains. By shrinking users after peaking in right after the Pacific War, the Tomo Keiben Tetsudo railroad (light railway service provided by Tomotetsudo Co., Ltd.,) was going out of service in 1954, due to unprofitability. The sites of this old railroad almost coincide with today's Hiroshima Prefectural Highway 22 which is also called the Fukuyama Tomo Route.

On the contrary, as the place of extraordinary scenic beauty, the landscape of its east coast, consisting of Sensuishima and Bentenshima islands which had attracted a number of imperial families visits since the Meiji period, had been as highly esteemed as the Kannon-do of Bandai-ji Temple (Abuto Kannon [Buddhist goddess of Mercy]) located adjacent to the western Numakuma peninsula, thereby being chosen uppermost as a national park.

Presently, although few merchant ships call at Tomo Harbor, nevertheless it still is active as a fishery harbor which ushers fishing vessels in together with regular ferries and cruise ships. That kept Tomonoura from a wave of modernization, thereby having protected the old townscape with numerous old temples and shrines.

Note that, as explained later, Tomonoura is today confronted with an issue of the bridge formation and other development plans which may largely change the appearance of the townscape of Tomo in the near future.

Issues regarding the Tomonoura Reclamation and Bridge Formation Plan

For revitalizing Tomo-cho town, Hiroshima Prefecture announced a plan of reclaiming the harbor partially for roads and parks in 1983, but it was frozen for a while by the opposition campaign, and so on. In 2004, however, a Tomo-cho born, pro-development mayor of the city won the election and unfroze the plan to be realized, and the citizens are now being forced to choose between conservation of the scenic beauty or development.

Cultural Facilities

Fukuyama-City Tomonoura Rekishi Minzoku Shiryokan (Fukuyama Municipal Museum of History of Tomonoura)
Irohamaru Tenjikan (literally, The Iroha-maru Sailboat Exhibition Hall)
Registered Tangible Cultural Properties

Shrines and Temples

Amida-ji Temple
Ankoku-ji Temple (Fukuyama City): The Shaka-do Buddhist Sanctum and the Amida Sanzon-zo Trinity and so on are designated as nationally designated important cultural properties, and the precincts is a prefecturally designated historical site of Hiroshima Prefecture. Seikan-ji Temple: The oldest existing temple in Tomo that is said to have been founded by Saicho in 806. Io-ji Temple: Said to be founded by Kukai in 826.
Enpuku-ji Temple (Fukuyama City): Built over the ruins of Taigashima-jo Castle, and was an accommodation of feudal retainer of the Wakayama clan at the time of the Iroha-maru Sailboat incident)
Kensho-ji Temple
Komatsu-ji Temple: A memorial of the Ryukyuan missions is in the precincts, and it used to have a pine tree planted directly by TAIRA no Shigemori.
Jizoin Temple (the stamp office for temple number eight of the Chugoku Jizo-son reijo [the temples that are visited during Chugoku Ksitigarbha Pilgrimage])
Jitokuin Temple
Josen-ji Temple
Shobo-ji Temple
Zengyo-ji Temple
Daikan-ji Temple (大観寺)
Nanzenbo Temple: Having a grave of Michio MIYAGI's grandparents, and the Chinese-style architecture of the Shoro-mon [literally, belfry gate] catches the sight of people. Fukuzen-ji Temple (Fukuyama City): The precincts is a nationally designated historical site as being the 'site for commemorating Joseon missions which visited the precincts of Tomo Fukuzen-ji Temple,' while the temple was founded by Kuya Shonin under the command of Emperor Murakami, and the Taichoro Reception Hall has the Joseon envoy's words of praise for the scenic beauty of Tomonoura, which read 'the most beautiful, picturesque scenery in the world east of Joseon' in Japanese.
Fukuju-do Temple
Hosen-ji Temple: The Buddhist High Priest Daikaku daisojo directly planted a pine tree in the precincts, and the pine tree forming a canopy is today a natural monument of Japan.
Hongan-ji Temple
Nunakuma-jinja Shrine: Named in 'Engishiki,' it is the shrine of history and high status; the Noh stage related to Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and transferred from the Fushimi-jo Castle is nationally designated important cultural properties; and the torii gate made of stone is prefecturally designated important cultural properties of Hiroshima Prefecture; and this shrine is the principal shrine of Gion-jinja Shrine of Kyoto.
Meien-ji Temple
Myoren-ji Temple
Yodohime-jinja Shrine

Small Islands

Sensui-jima Island
The sea cave is a prefecturally designated natural monument of Hiroshima Prefecture.
Taigashima Island
It used to be one of the islands at Tomonoura, but today the island is connected to the main island which was made so by land reclamation at the time of constructing the Tomo-jo Castle in Keicho era (1596 to 1615).

Tsutsujishima Island
Kogo-jima Island
Benten-jima Island (Fukuyama City)
Tamatsu-shima Island
Tsugarushima Island

Other Places of Scenic and Historical Interest
Mt. Gozen
Sasayaki-bashi Bridge (literally, whispering bridge)
Gennai HIRAGA's Seishi (a small shrine dedicated to a Gennai HIRAGA while alive)
A list of Prefecturally Designated Cultural Properties of Hiroshima Prefecture
The gate of the head store of Kametaro OKAMOTO: The Nagaya-mon Gate of the Fukuyama-jo Castle (Bingo Province) was transferred.
Municipally designated important cultural properties of Fukuyama City
The residence of the Ota family (Fukuyama City) and the Choshu-tei Arbor
Nationally designated important cultural properties; a prefecturally designated historical site of Hiroshima Prefecture as remains of Tomo Hichikyo-ochi (the exile of the Seven nobles from Kyoto to Tomo).
Joya-to Allnight street lamp
Commonly called 'Torodo.'
Gangi (port and harbor)
Chikara-ishi (literally, power stone)
Municipally designated important cultural properties of Fukuyama City.
The ruins of the Tomo-jo Castle
Municipally designated historical site of Fukuyama City.
Kotori-jo Castle (小鳥城)
- The ruins of an old battlefield
The Merchant's House at Tomonotsu
Municipally designated important cultural properties of Fukuyama City.
Hiranoya Shiryokan (平野屋資料館, Hiranoya Resource Center)
A museum of history which utilizes the historical inn for sailors of the Edo period.
The Iroha-maru Sailboat Jiken Danpan Ato (literally, the site on which Ryoma SAKAMOTO and the others attended negotiation after the Iroha-maru sailboat had suffered ship collision)
Taicho-ro Reception Hall: Used as the reception facilities for Joseon missions.
The ruins of the Taigashima-jo Castle
Municipally designated historical site of Fukuyama City.
The site of Ryoma SAKAMOTO's accommodation
The Taisensui-ro Hall
The Taishiden (a temple dedicated to the Imperial Prince Shotoku): About 15-munite walk on the mountain road will lead you to this Taishiden that offers panoramic views of the Sensuijima Island and the Seto Inland Sea.

Bentenshima (Hyakkanshima) Island toba (stupa)
Municipally designated important cultural properties of Hiroshima Prefecture. Kubizuka of Shikanosuke YAMANAKA: Placed in front of the sanmon gate of the Seikan-ji Temple.
Tomonoura onsen (hot springs)

Festivals and Events

Otebi-matsuri Festival
On Saturdays near June 7 (in old calendar)
Tomo Machinami Hina-matsuri (the Girl's Festival to be celebrated in the town of TOMO)
February to March
Tomonoura Kanko Taiami (the show of traditional net fishing on shipboard)
Every May
Tomonoura Bentenshima Island Fireworks Festival
The last Saturday of every May
The Setouchi Cruising
Limited to the period of late March to late November; sightseeing cruising between Tomo Harbor and Onomichi Harbor.

Local Specialties

Homei-shu (medicated liquor)

Harabira-mochi rice cakes

Tenpura (Japanese fritter)

Tenpura provided by Amochinmi Corporation is the most famous.

Chikuwa (a tubular roll of boiled [grilled] fish paste) and kamaboko (a semi cylindrical sausage of boiled fish paste)

Seafood (dishes)


From south exit of Fukuyama Station of West Japan Railway Company (JR West) Sanyo Shinkansen, Sanyo Main Line and Fukuen Line, take Tomotetsu bus bound for 'Tomoko' (Platform 11) and get off at 'Tomonoura' bus stop after about 30 minutes ride.

Until 1954, the Tomotetsudo Railway Line was available to and from Fukuyama Station, but it went out of service in 1954. Present-day "Prefectural Highway Fukuyama Tomo Line" covers almost the same tracks of it.

In the Neighborhood

Bandai-ji Kannon-do Temple (dedicated to the Abuto Kannon [Buddhist goddess of Mercy])

[Original Japanese]