if you’re in japan, have two days and love the coastline, put this 60k cycleway stretching over 6 islands on your itinerary now.
august is peak temperature so if you’re going to jump on the shimanami kaidō, you’re going to sweat bucket loads. all the evidence that remains now is my stubborn watch tan. better to go in spring or autumn.
take the train to onomichi, around (2 hours from kyoto). if you’ve got luggage, on the righthand side of the station is 50 lockers, you can pop it in there for 700 yen. it can be left there for 3 days but you’ll need to top up to open up.
you find the giant park car (5 min walk from station) with the bike rentals near the ferry port. standard road bikes available and you can grab them for around 2,000 yen (inc. deposit). take the ferry across to mukaishima. it’s generally agreed you shouldn’t ride the first bridge because it’s not bike friendly even if you’re lycra.
there is one very simple rule: follow the blue line on the road.
innoshima and ikuchijima are the first two islands. if you’re travelling the japanese city’s, this will be a refreshing rural change. saying that, beware local islander gangsters.
the bridges are modern and you ride right over the ocean. the villages and towns you pass have farms and large gardens. mountains of lush green. bonsai trees and exotic red flowers. farm animals and beetles the size of soccer balls.
the way the inclines work is every time you hit a bridge, you’ll need to do a 500m-ish gradual climb. in the summer, we found it hot and hard. then you get the prize coming down from the bridge, flying down windy steep roads – very fun.
we stayed at sedota private hostel for $44 a night inc. a yummy homemade dinner. the room is run down, you’ve got traditional tatami mats, aircon, and a smelly toilet with lots of buttons. the thing that makes this place is the new timber and stone onsen bath the owner has built overlooking the ocean. note, you have to share and go in nude (worth it).
sedota is a popular overnight stop if doing it over 2 days (recommended) . your accommodation by sun set beach is limited, there’s more civilisation near the port. twilight sun set beach is utterly abandoned, like a once-popular-tourist destination, now the beautiful start of a horror film where everyone is indoors by 5pm. anyway, check it out.
early morning sun is more forgiving than midday sun, we left at 7am. beware wild hogs and also the local gangsters again. when riding down, you’ll come up close to a local helicopter and a lovely view of the village coastline.
my favourite bridge was riding over to omishima. it’s bright red and it’s got the best 360 views of islands, mountains and fishing boats that are half shy behind the fog. we rode along the coastline and there were some dolphins following us for a while.
hakatajima’s got famous hakata salted vanilla ice cream. nom nom. take a break here, you can see the bridge to oshima which is the longest one. the last island is forest-y and not by the coastline. this is the last leg to shikoku in imabari city. leave your bike at the terminal and they’ll ask for your sign up form so don’t lose it.
buses back were confusing. before you leave onomichi, make sure you grab the bus timetables as they are approx. once an hour and you have to take a highway bus, followed by one regional bus ( schedule 2hs back to station, 2500 yen).
another option is ferry but it takes longer, same with trains because the prefecture changes between the different islands. bus wins.
this is a super useful english brochure of the entire ride with attractions you can check out on route, and more importantly, where you can find the hakata ice cream. you can get this brochure at the info desk at onomichi station too.
arigato shimanami kaidō!
x red bike