The Setouchi Shimanami Kaido is a highway that connects a number of islands between Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture and Imabari in Ehime Prefecture. However, it can also be crossed by bicycle, making the Shimanami Kaido a mecca for cyclists.
As once the home to many of Japan’s literary figures and the setting for numerous Japanese films, Onomichi, the starting point, is a city steeped in nostalgia. Moseying about Onomichi either on foot or by bike will forge an unforgettable memory of your trip.
Arrive in Onomichi in the afternoon to prepare for the next day's departure by bicycle.
Onomichi is a quaint seaside city facing the Seto Inland Sea. Its nostalgic ambience has attracted numerous literary figures and filmmakers.
Take the Senkoji Mountain Ropeway to visit Senkoji Park. Here, enjoy the breathtaking views of Onomichi and the Onomichi Strait.
Return on foot, taking in the scenery during this far-from-arduous descent.
Time allowing, head to the city’s old-world shopping district for some Onomichi ramen and locally produced desserts.
Spend the night at the hip Hotel Cycle. More than just accommodation for cyclists, the hotel blends rustic charm with city chic to create a fashionable yet cozy space for cyclists to mingle and share stories over a few drinks and pizza fire-baked on the premises.
After an early breakfast, board the little ferry that leaves from the adjacent Onomichi Port and cross over to Ikuchi, the third of six islands between the start and end points. These islands were once the haunts of the notorious 14th-century Murakami Suigun pirates.
Comment: In order to save time, we suggest skipping Mukojima and Innoshima.
The first stop on Ikuchi is Miraishin no Oka, a sprawling garden landscaped with sculptures made entirely from white Italian marble. The masterpiece of world-renowned artist Kazuto Kuetani, the garden forms much of the Kosanji Museum and is as Instagramable as it gets.
Outdoor sculptures can be found throughout Ikuchi and have been installed with the intention of turning the entire island into an open-air art museum.
From Miraishin no Oka, the route to the 800-meter-long white-sand seafront of Setoda Sunset Beach is a cyclist’s dream. No visit to the beach is complete without trying a lemon ice cream made from locally grown fruit.
Head up onto the elegant Tatara Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge that connects Ikuchi with Omishima, the next island. This remarkable feat of architecture is one of the highlights of the Shimanami Kaido.
Cycle high up over the ocean to Omishima while enjoying the truly stunning panorama of islands large and tiny. In Omishima, make a beeline for Tatarashimanami Park for a memorable photo of the cyclist’s monument and novelty human-shaped bicycle stands. However, you may find your attention diverted by the magnificent view of Tatara Bridge.
After a well-deserved rest, it’s time to set your course for Imabari, which lies beyond Hakata and Oshima on the large island of Shikoku.
Oshima is famous for its stone quarries and the cycle route is lined with stone dealers offering a staggering array of designs and sizes. This part of the course, which is long and steep, is the most difficult section of the route.
A relaxing pedal across Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge, is your reward for the climb. The bridge is also a wonderful place from which to view the sunset. The bright red ball sinking into the Seto Inland Sea and casting long shadows where it catches the islands is mesmerizing.
At the end of the bridge is Imabari, a small city famous for its towel manufacturing and your final destination. From the hop-off point, travel by private vehicle to your hotel (bicycles are loaded into a van).
Your accommodation for the night is Imabari Kokusai Hotel, yet another cyclist-friendly hotel.
From Imabari Kokusai Hotel, there are views of Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge and Imabari Castle. After checkout, head to your next destinations in Shikoku, such as Matsuyama and Iya.