Shimanami Kaido Bicycle Road
Shikoku Island is connected to Japan’s main island Honshu by 3 big bridges: the Akashi-Ohashi Bridge between Kobe (Akashi) and Tokushima (Naruto), the Seto-Ohashi Bridge between Okayama (Kurashiki) and Takamatsu (Sakaide) and finally the Shimanami Kaido between Hiroshima (Onomichi) and Ehime (Imabari). This area is considered one of the best in Japan for a cycling tour.
Shimanami Kaido: A Cyclists’ Paradise in Japan
The Shimanami Kaido road connects the islands of the inland sea, Setonaikai (瀬戸内海) by 9 bridges and a 70km bicycle path that has been built between Onomichi (Hiroshima prefecture) and Imabari (Ehime prefecture). This part of the Shimanami Kaido is considered the “holy land of cyclists”.
It’s simply an amazing view to see the small islands on a shining sea from above. In order to enjoy this view, a track reserved for only cyclists and pedestrians was constructed next to the car road of the Shimanami Kaido. You can rent bicycles by the hour or by the day at the Imabari or Onomichi starting points, or on a few of the islands of Shimanami Kaido. Each island is not very big, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost.
To take the simplest recommended route, you just have to follow the blue line that is clearly marked on the road. There are more than 100 rest points for cyclists along the road to Shimanami. Let’s see what the Shimanami Kaido for cyclists looks like!
Onomichi To Mukaishima Island (向島)
The starting point on the Honshu side is Onomichi, a pretty little town in Hiroshima. Mukaishima Island is located right in front of Onomichi, you can see it clearly from Onomichi. The bridge connecting Onomichi to Mukaishima Island, Shin-Onomichi-Ohashi (新尾道大橋), does not have a track reserved for cyclists and pedestrians (it is the only road that lacks a dedicated bicycle path on the way to Shimanami), so we strongly advise to take the ferry for this crossing.
It only takes 5 minutes to cross the water using the ferry. On this island, you can see citrus fields. Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures are known for the production of citrus fruits and also for the production of citrons.
Mukaishima Island To Innoshima Island (因島)
These 2 islands are connected by the very beautiful Innoshima-Ohashi (因島大橋) bridge that has a suspended style and is 1270m in length. The track that leads you to the bridge is uphill and wooded, and it is very pleasant. The Innoshima-Ohashi Bridge is the only bridge on the Shimanami Kaido with a double structure and the bicycle path is located under the car lane.
To See on Innnoshima Island
★La Shirataki Mountain-san (白滝山) and Gohyaku Rakan (五百羅漢):
On the summit of Shirataki-san mountain (226m high), you can find around 700 stone Buddhist statues which are all different from one another. These statues belong to the Kannon-do temple founded by the 6th generation of the Innoshima Murakami family, a pirate family who controlled the inland sea until the 17th century. The 180-degree view from the top of this mountain is just beautiful.
★Hassaku Daifuku (はっさく大福): Daifuku is a Japanese candy with sticky rice paste on the outside and red bean paste in the center. Hassaku is a Japanese variety of citrus fruit that was first cultivated on Innoshima Island. On Innoshima, one can find the Daifuku in which Hassaku is found. It’s sweet and a little sour at the same time, and it’s delicious.
Innoshima Island To Iguchijima Island (生口島)
Innoshima Island and Iguchijima Island are connected by the Iguchi-bashi Bridge that has a length of 790m. Japanese citron culture started on this island, and you can see several lemon fields there.
To See on Iguchijima Island
★Temple Kosan-ji (耕三寺): The Kosan-ji temple, a Buddhist temple of the Jodo Shinshu school, was founded in 1936 by industrialist Koso Kosanji in honor of his deceased mother. Most of its buildings are inspired by the most famous historical temples and shrines in Japan, especially the Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
★La Setoda Sunset beach Beach (瀬戸田サンセットビーチ): This beach with white sands stretching on for 800m is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Shikoku region. In front of this beach, there is a store where you can enjoy lemon ice cream.
Iguchijima Island To Omishima Island (大三島)
Iguchijima Island and Omishima Island are connected by the 1480m Tatara-Ohashi Bridge, one of the most beautiful bridges on the Shimanami Kaido road. On the bridge, we can see the border between Hiroshima Prefecture and Ehime Prefecture. It is the longest cable-suspended bridge in Japan.
To See on Omishima Island
★Oyamazumi sanctuary jinja (大山祇神社): In this shrine, Shinto deity Oyamazumi, the founding deity of Japan, is worshiped. This deity is considered to be the protective deity of sailors and soldiers. For this reason, many military leaders made offerings such as swords, armor, and other military objects, some of which belonged to the great military family such as the Genji or Taira.
Approximately 40% of the armor here is classified as a national treasure or important cultural asset. On the shrine grounds, there is a camphor tree that is more than 2600 years old.
★Tatara-Ohashi bridge and the sacred monument for cyclists (多々羅大橋): At the foot of Tatara-Ohashi Bridge there is a monument called ‘Sacred Monument for Cyclists’. From the spot where the monument is located, you can see a beautiful view of the bridge and the inland sea scenery. Cyclists can take a break in the building next door, which offers the specialties of the region.
Omishima Island to Hakatajima Island (伯方島)
Omishima Island and Hakata Island are connected by the Omishima-bashi Bridge, 328m long and the oldest bridge on the Shimanami Kaido road. Hakatajima is known for its salt production, with the brand Hakata no Shio (伯方の塩) being produced there. From traces found on the island, we know that salt production started on this island in the 3rd century.
Hakatajima Island to Oshima Island (大島)
Hakatajima Island and Oshima Island are connected by the Hakata Oshima Ohashi Bridge which is 1165 m long. Oshima Island was the base of the Murakami family, a family of pirates who controlled the passage of sailors on the inland sea. Between Hakatajima and Oshima, there is a small island called Noshima (能島), which had the base of the Murakami family: this base was naturally protected by the very violent sea currents. Nowadays, only the foundation of the castle is left.
To See on Oshima Island
★Pirate museum Murakami (村上海賊ミュージアム): This is the only museum in Japan dedicated to the Murakami pirates. You can learn more about the history of the pirate family and go on a small boat to see the wild movement of sea currents which are very fast and sometimes violent.
★The observatory of Kirosan (亀老山展望公園): On the southern point of Oshima Island, there is a 308 m mountain from which there is a magnificent view of the Strait of Kurushima (来島) and the Kurushima Kaikyo Ohashi Bridge (来島海峡大橋). The observatory building was designed by Japanese architect Kuma Kengo, is a very modern building.
Oshima Island to Imabari (今治) on Shikoku
Oshima Island is connected to the island of Shikoku, more precisely to Imabari City by the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge Ohashi (来島海峡大橋): it is almost 4km long and it is the first triple suspension bridge in the world. You can observe the rapidity of sea currents in Kurushima Strait from here. It is a very beautiful bridge to see from the observatory and to cross as well.
Our Experience on the Shimanami Kaido : Day 1
Between December 4 and 7, 2020, I rode the entire bike path of the Shimanami Kaido road between Onomichi and Imabari, which is around 100km.
I took the Shinkansen from Shin-Yokohama around 8.30 am and arrived in Onomichi around noon (with one train switch in Fukuyama). Before starting a tour of Onomichi city, I tasted the local ramen from Onomichi (尾道ラーメン) which broth is made with small fish with an added taste of soy sauce. It has a mild flavor and it was really delicious.
Since the Middle Ages, the city of Onomichi has prospered as a port and because of its wealth, many temples have been built in the city. Today, Onomichi City is known as a temple city. So I visited the major temples: Senkoji (千光寺), Taisanji (大山寺), Jodoji (浄土時), and Saikokuji (西國寺). Each temple is not very large but they are all well maintained. The views from each temple of the inland sea are magnificent.
In the evening, we tried oysters: Hiroshima Prefecture is known for its oyster farming. It was delicious.
Shimanami Kaido : Day 2
Let the cycling begin! We took the ferry to Mukaishima Island around 10 am. You can of course get on the ferry with your bike. We crossed Mukaishima and passed by beaches. We were very surprised by the clarity of the seawater in this area. Arriving at Innoshima Island, we climbed Shiratakiyama Mountain and enjoyed the 360-degree panorama from the top.
As the weather was nice, the sea reflected the blue color of the sky and it was really pleasant. It was quite tiring to climb more than 200 meters, but it was worth it to go up to see this beautiful landscape. After a lunch break at a local restaurant on Innoshima Island, we went on our way to the final destination of the day, Omishima Island! In Iguchijima, we passed in front of the Kosanji temple (unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit it) and laid down for a bit on Setoda Sun Set Beach.
Arriving at Omishima Island, before sunset, we went to visit the Oyamazumi shrine. It is a sober sanctuary and the 2600 years old camphor tree is imposing. We arrived at the hotel around 4 pm. We spent the night in a hotel for cyclists called WAKKA. In this hotel, you can bring your bicycle into the room and hang it on the wall. It is located at the edge of the sea and there is a great view of Tatara -Ohashi Bridge and the place is pleasant and beautiful.
Shimanami Kaido : Day 3
We woke up at sunrise. After breakfast, we left around 9 am to the direction of Tatara-Ohashi bridge because as an exception we could climb to the top of the bridge pier (normally it is closed to the public). We really had an amazing view from the top. While passing by the island of Hakata, we arrived at the last island before Imabari.
As I wanted to see the Kurushima Strait from the observatory, we made the effort to go up the 308m high mountain by bike. It was tiring but the splendid view of the observatory made us forget the tiredness. Before crossing the Kurushima Kaikyo Ohashi bridge, we took a short break at the foot of the bridge. The Tatara Kaikyo Ohashi Bridge is about 4km long. This day there was no wind and we could cross it within about 20 minutes.
We arrived at Imari station around 3 pm, and we returned the bikes. To relieve our tiredness, we decided to go to the spa Dogo Onsen, about 40 min by train. After 2 days of travel by bike, it felt like paradise to take a bath in the onsen hot springs.
Shimanami Kaido Access
Over the course of 2 days, we cycled a little bit more than 100 km and it was a bit hard for me as a cycling novice. But the landscapes I saw were really exceptional and I think I couldn’t have the same feeling if I did the whole trip by car. If you like cycling and you have a little bit of time during your trip in Japan, I definitely recommend you to cycle at least a part of the road of the Shimanami Kaido.
**For an extra charge, you can use a luggage transfer service from the hotel to the train station when you rent a bike. Renting a bike costs 1000 yen/hour on average.
Access from Tokyo to Onomichi :
First, take the Shinkansen towards Hakata, and get off at Fukuyama station (about 3 hours).
Then take a JR train for about 20 minutes and get off at Onomichi Station.
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