As seen in the movies!

There has to be a good reason to visit Tomonoura if Wolverine (haven’t seen) was filmed there and the town was inspiration for Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo.

We catch bus number five from in front of Fukuyama Station to Tomonoura. After passing through Fukuyama’s commercial centre we follow the Ashida River, then drive through some local areas that have seen better days. Tiny shops and houses in various states of disrepair. Some still cling on, a Chinese restaurant that looks like one from an Australian country town, a golf driving range of tiny islands in a pond, overlooked by a cafe.

There are factories along the coast, then we stop outside a tourist shop where you can pick up Ponyo and Wolverine maps on Tomonoura if you ask. On the other side of the road a concrete sea wall separates the Seto Inland Sea from the land.

Fisherman tents line the wall, small fish hanging to dry. Haze obscures most of the islands, but the temple on Bentenjima can be seen as a magic shadow rising from the water. A replica historic cutter carries travellers out to the islands.

Narrow paths and steps lead up to the Enpukuji Temple on the headland while cats keep a watchful eye. There are wonderful views from up there.

On the other side is the port of Tomo. Fishing vessels come and go, conveyor belts load new boxes on to the boats. A dredge works back and forth across the harbour.

Walking around to the iconic Joyato lighthouse, I am convinced to buy expensive apricot sweets from the convivial owner/farmer.

On the narroback streets we find the Ioji Temple. Alex and I brave the steep steps, 583 of them (they are numbered), through the forest to reach the Taishiden shrine. There are magnificent views across the port and the Seto Inland Sea now most of the fig has burned off.

Then down again. The down is very quiet and, being a Monday, many shops and sights are closed. We return to the souvenir shop and Alex orders a delicious lemon and salt soft serve ice cream.

I like the town and can understand the inspiration, but the other two are a bit underwhelmed.

The bus returns to Fukuyama. We can’t find seats on the express train, so it’s another Kodama Shinkansen, a RailStar 700 Series that is showing its age, to Okayama.

After buy omiyage at Okayama, we board a Hikari Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka. It’s the latest Tokaido Shinkansen, a N700S, with a fresh white and blue interior and power in the arm rests.

I’m so tired that I have micro sleeps.

At Shin-Osaka we change to the Haruka service to Kansai Airport. I can’t figure out the car locations and we board at the wrong end. The race to the other end means exiting the train and re-entering it as it is made up of multiple sets. The front set, which we are seated in, is the latest version, more comf and with power to the seats.

It is the same time of day we’d usually be catching this train to get to our flight, but I’m glad this train isn’t actually delivering us to the airport tonight.

There are glimpses of local life along the way. Osaka isn’t a particularly attractive city, but the gritty nature gives it a particular atmosphere at this time of day.

We change to a local at Hineno for one stop to Rinku-town. It’s a long walk through unkempt and almost deserted buildings and parkland beneath towering, curving overpasses, to the Henn-na Hotel. I can feel the disapproval of the others for taking them to this miserable place.

The robot dinosaurs at reception have been decorated with pink floral frills for spring. But further disappointment awaits when we discover that our room does not look out over the sea.

It does have a projector, which takes us a while to work out how to use properly.

A need for dinner leads to a long walk across to the other side of the railway tracks to Seacle. Alex has a pre-meal of Mos Burger, then it’s tonkatsu for us all. The shops are closed by the time we are finished, but the Ferris wheel is still lit up green and rainbow and turning slowly.

At least the spa is nice. Sitting in the outside bath overlooking the bay and bridge to Kansai Airport, watching a plane land.

And Beginnings are such delicate times from Dune Part 2, playing over the projector. That is magic.

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