Dig into the beauty from Hiroshima to Ehime while cycling through these Japanese islands.
Widely considered one of the best cycling routes in the world, the easily accessible Shimanami Kaido offers stunning natural views, local delicacies and, of course, great exercise.
What to expect
The 70-km Shimanami Kaido connects the quaint city of Onomichi, in Hiroshima Prefecture, with Imabari, Ehime Prefecture. The route crosses six islands in the Seto Inland Sea on its journey from Japan’s main island to the smaller island region of Shikoku. For those who don’t want to cycle, the route is also open to walkers, and a 60-km toll road (about 5,000 yen one way) that diverges from the cycling route also makes the islands accessible by car.
The cycling route is easy to follow thanks to a blue line painted on the ground for the entirety of the main route. Ramps leading up to the many bridges were built at a reasonable incline to accommodate bikes, but amateur cyclists will probably still find themselves huffing and puffing — so make sure to find a bike with proper gears when picking out a rental.
Renting a bike
Renting a bike does not require an advance reservation but making a reservation does improve your odds of getting a nicer bike, as this GaijinPot writer discovered. Although reservations can max out, especially on weekends, the rental system typically holds back a number of bikes for day-of renters.
Reservations for the main rental system can be made online here, and the website also has a number of helpful tips about the route. In addition to stations at the two terminals, the main rental system also has a dozen drop-off points along the route, after which travelers can take a bus (or sometimes a ferry) back to either terminal. Bike manufacturer Giant also offers a rental system for higher-end road bikes, but they only operate rental stations at Onomichi and Imabari.
Sightseeing and accommodation
The whole 70-km Kaido can, in theory, be done in a day, but it is recommended to split the trip over two days in order to have enough time to rest and enjoy sightseeing along the way.
A number of guesthouses, campsites, and ryokan (Japanese-style inns) dot the islands.
The ryokan, in particular, are a great place to stay, as they serve guests fresh and delicious seafood taken from the surrounding Seto Inland Sea. There are also around 140 “Cycle Oases” at various spots along the way, where cyclists can get a snack, use the restroom and take a break. Basically, you can go at your own pace!
The route’s numerous sightseeing spots include:
- Hirayama Ikuo Museum of Art and Kosan-ji Temple on Ikuchijima Island
- The remnants a castle from Murakami Suigun Pirates on Innoshima Island and as well as the castle museum where you see the armor and swords they used
- Oyamazumi Shrine on Omishima Island
- Whirlpools and rapids created by fast-moving currents in Kurushima Strait
- and multiple observatories from which to take in the stunning Inland Sea views.
The difference between Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures’ citrus branding is even visible as Hiroshima’s lemon orchards suddenly turn to Ehime’s orange and mikan (mandarin orange) when you cross between Ikuchijima and Omishima islands.
Google offers a very comprehensive map of rental stations, places to stay, restaurants, and sightseeing spots.