Onomichi is famous for being a filming location for movies, dramas and TV commercials. It’s a town known for its hilly roads, but there’s also a mysterious place that make you feel like you’ve wandered into a very different world.
The Cat Trail
Visited by numerous cat lovers, the Cat Trail is a narrow lane that continues up the hill behind Ushitora Shrine and is located right by the ropeway leading to Senkoji Temple.
Before talking about the Cat Trail, we’d like to tell you about a space project called Onomichi Ihatov. Coined by Kanji Miyazawa the word Ihatov means utopia. Artist Shunji Sonoyama started the project in 1997.
This Onomichi utopia connects art, the town, people and greenery in a space created with a unique perspective.
A stop for cargo ships sailing on the Sea of Japan during the Edo period, Onomichi prospered as a merchant town. The Yamate district was a particularly beautiful area filled with elegant Japanese style houses owned by merchants who made their fortunes in business.
Fast-forward to the 20th century and both vacant and abandoned houses had become a problem, which is why Shunji Sonoyama began renovating them. In 1997, “Izumi no Kan” , an art museum that opens only on nights of the full moon, was opened. From there, he continued renovating houses one after another, and with this, Onomichi Ihatov took form.
Entering the world of Ihatov feels almost like you’ve entered a film.
The Cat Trail connects the Ihatov buildings. Here you will find stones like this…
They are called “fukuishineko” (‘lucky stone cats’). Along the way you can find several fukuishineko that Shunji Sonoyama painted in 1998 that almost seem alive!
Apparently, some have mysterious powers and can help fulfil love or regain health!
Arriving at the entrance of the Cat Trail with the “fukuishineko”, the first thing you see is the Maneki-neko Museum, which is home to around 3000 maneki-neko (cat’s that are said to beckon good luck).
The museum is housed in a renovated traditional Taisho era (1912~1926) Japanese house. As you enter, you’ll see that the entrance is full of maneki-neko. The first floor is a shop, and the second floor is the gallery.
There are plenty of imported pieces, some very old pieces, and even some that are unlike any you’ve seen before.
Among those pieces, this one particularly stood out for me.
In addition to this piece, there are many rare maneki-neko to be found. Indeed there are so many that we can’t fit them all into this article.
A myriad of Maneki-neko cats that beckon good fortune… definitely a spot we recommend.
After leaving the museum and heading up the hill road, a space that seems to lead you to an even more mysterious world awaits.
Surrounded by greenery, this is a space where you can become one with nature.
If you climb the stairs and walk a bit, you will find an entrance among the greenery…
The Onomichi Herb Garden Bouquet d’Arbres is a place where you can find 100 different types of herbs.
And in there, you’ll find this charming café.
The building is so well renovated it’s hard to believe that it’s from the Taisho era.
It’s a spot popular among women for having a cup of delicious herb tea while gazing over the views of the town of Onomichi.
It’s also a great spot for observing the Onomichi water channel and Shimanami Kaido.
Even now Ihatov Onomichi is continuing to develop!
Currently, new spaces such as Chaon (studio), Onomichi Retreat Sumire, and 29 (Fuku) are being created in buildings from bygone eras and by incorporating nature.
This is our recommended Onomini spot!
Do drop by for a visit at least once.
Maneki-neko Art Museum
Open: 11:00~17:00 (Sat, Sun, National holidays from 10am)
Admission: Adults JPY200, Elementary school students JPY100
Closed: Every Thursday
Address: Cat Trail, 19-36 Higashitsuchido-cho, Onomichi city, Hiroshima prefecture
Onomichi Herb Garde Boquet d’Arbres
Wed – Fri: 11-17
Sat & Sun: 10-17
Closed: Every Tuesday
Homepage: http://ihatov.in/ihatov/ (Japanese)
Setouchi Finder Photowriter: Maki Ohashi
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