ponyo town top

If you’ve seen Ponyo, Studio Ghibli’s adorable movie about a fish girl who wants to be human, then the above location may seem pretty familiar. That’s because it was taken in the port town of Tomonoura, where Hayao Miyazaki and his team spent months getting the inspiration and imagery to create their next animated film.

As massive Ghibli fans, we had to take a look at the town for ourselves and see what real-life Ponyo looks like. Read on to check out the beautiful scenery for yourself, and see the effect that Ponyo has had on the town, as well as the effect the town had on Miyazaki.

To visit Tomonoura, we first had to get there. It’s located at the southern tip of Fukuyama City in Hiroshima Prefecture, right along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea. All it takes is a Shinkansen ride to Fukuyama City, then a bus ride to get to this scenic port town.

▼ The view of Tomonoura from the surrounding mountains. Let us descend into the beautiful port town!


▼ Ah, I can hear the ship bells and sea gulls harmonizing with the waves.


▼ To the surprise of no one, Tomonoura is not only one of Japan’s top 100 most historical towns, but also top 100 most scenic.


▼ This basically looks like a cell out of a Ghibli movie. I can see Ponyo and Sosuke running up this to escape the encroaching sea monsters.


▼ Here’s the inside of Fukuzenji Temple, where a quote from a Korean ambassador visiting pre-modern Japan declares it “the most picturesque spot in Japan.” We’d be hard pressed to disagree.


▼ Tomonoura has been the inspiration and filming location for several other dramas and movies as well.


But enough of those other shows; back to Ponyo! While spending the two months in Tomonoura doing research, Hayao Miyazaki spent some of it living in a traditional old-style Japanese house, to get that authentic, rustic feel.

▼ It’s unclear whether he ate nothing but ham his whole time there to inspire Ponyo’s love of the meat.


Walking around the town, you really do get this feeling like you’ve just stepped into Ponyo. The houses, the boats bobbing in the harbor, and the view of the town when looking at it from above on the surrounding mountains make you wonder whether you should start diving and looking for some magical fish.

▼ Knowing that Ponyo is a huge draw to the town, the tourist center puts out a map of all the Ponyo-based spots to visit.


▼ There’s a spot that looks just like where Fujimoto captured Ponyo.


▼ And the model for the movie’s supermarket “2TOMO”?


Homeishu, medicinal alcohol special to Tomonoura, provided the inspiration for Fujimoto’s “water of life.”


▼ This is pretty much a replica of Sosuke and Risa’s house.



▼ If you keep your eyes peeled, you can sometimes spot Ponyo in places you wouldn’t expect.


And it wasn’t just Hayao Miyazaki that took inspiration from Tomonoura; in some places, the town took inspiration from him. During the two months that Miyazaki spent in the town, he befriended many of the residents, resulting in a lot of places having his artistic fingerprints left all over them.

▼ Miyazaki helped design the restoration of Onfunayado Iroha, the historic building that served as the place where negotiations for reparations took place after Japan’s first naval incident, the sinking of a borrowed warship, the Iroha-maru.


▼ The building was purchased by an NPO right before it was going to be torn down. Here is Miyazaki helping out with the design of the restoration.


▼ Now Miyazaki’s sketches fill the building.





▼ Here’s the view from inside, where the building is used as a restaurant today.


▼ And the historic rooms in their new, fully preserved states.


▼ His staff also left their mark at this hayashi rice restaurant.


▼ A thank you picture to the restaurant staff signed by staff from the studio. I guess their hayashi rice must be really good.


If you’re a fellow Ghibli fan and you want to see the gorgeous inspiration behind some of your favorite films, then definitely make Tomonoura one of your next travel spots. But if Tomonoura is on the other side of the world for you fear not; we visited there last year as well and have a bunch more pictures of this scenic place for your Ghibli-loving eyes and heart to feast upon.

Featured image: Flickr/Amal FM (edited by RocketNews24)
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