Shimanami Kaido: One Of The Most Scenic Cycling Routes In Japan | CoolJapan

Japan’s main islands of Honshu and Shikoku are separated by the Seto Inland Sea or Setonaikai, and while the crossings are served by an extensive ferry network and some impressive highways and bridges, another scenic way to make the crossing is on bicycle via the Shimanami Kaido, one of the best cycling routes in Japan.

Shimanami Kaido

Cycle the scenic Shimanami Kaido.

The Nishiseto Highway is more popularly known as the Shimanami Kaido and connects Onomichi City in Hiroshima prefecture to Imabari city in Ehime prefecture. The Shimanami Kaido route covers 70 kilometres and passes through six smaller islands joined by various bridges that span the Seto Inland Sea. You’ll get to enjoy the serenity of nature and picturesque sea views as you complete the feat of crossing a sea on two wheels.

Here’s the thing: you really don’t need to be a professional or hardcore cyclist to complete this route. I don’t own a bike and strictly cycle for pleasure, and I managed to complete the entire route over two days. Here are some tips if you’re planning to add the Shimanami Kaido to your next Japan itinerary.

Shimanami Kaido

The Shimanami Kaido is great for those who love cycling, the outdoors and exploring islands and small towns.

Choose your adventure

Unless you want bragging rights, cycling isn’t the only way to complete the Shimanami Kaido. Cars can drive this route as well, or if you want to cycle a small portion, there are ferries that serve the various islands that can save you time and effort, just make sure to check the schedules beforehand.

There are bike rental stations at both Onomichi and Imabari, as well as on the islands in between. There, you'll have a wide range of choice among traditional bikes with baskets, powerful mountain bikes and even electric and electric-assisted bikes for those who need a little bit of help — especially when it comes to the slopes that lead up to the bridges.

Shimanami KaidoThere are dedicated cycling routes with gentle sloping ramps designed for cyclists.

If you are a real cycling enthusiast, you can spend even more time cycling, or attempt the harder trails listed on the map. The official route takes you through the six islands but doesn’t thoroughly explore them. So if you have time to spare, I’d suggest giving yourself more time. You can complete the entire Shimanami Kaido route in a single day if you start early enough and don’t dally too long at attractions in between, but I’d recommend for average cyclists like myself to break up the journey over two days or more so you have an easier time.

Shimanami Kaido highlights

Tatara Bridge

The Tatara Bridge is the fourth-longest cable-stayed bridge connecting Ikuchijima island to Omishima island.

Senkoji Park: Located in Onomichi on the slopes of Mount Senkoji, this park is the perfect place to start or end your Shimanami Kaido journey. It offers splendid views of the Seto Inland Sea and is a favourite for Sakura lovers during the cherry blossom season.

Kurushima Bridge: Each of the bridges connecting the islands is quite unique, but the Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge connecting the island of Oshima island to Imabari is the longest suspension bridge structure in the world spanning over four kilometres long.

Kousanji Temple: Located on Ikuchijima island, this temple complex has a rather eccentric mix of features — from an underground tunnel highlighting the tortures of hell to a blindingly white marble walking area called the Miraishin no Oka.

Miraishin no Oka

Miraishin no Oka is made entirely of imported white marble.

Museums: There are several interesting museums along the route, though some require a bit of a detour to get to. Some noteworthy ones are the Hirayama Ikuo Museum of Art on Ikuchijima island dedicated to the famous Japanese painter and the Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture for the renowned conceptual architect on Omishima island.

All things lemon: The Seto Inland area’s mild climate is perfect for growing citrus fruits and is one of Japan’s top areas for lemon production. Spot lemon plantations as you cycle through the Setoda area on Ikuchijima, pick up various citrus products from the stores, and along the way make sure to stop at Dolce, a gelato shop where you can enjoy yummy ice cream made from the local citrus fruit.

Setouchi lemon tree

A Setouchi lemon tree.

  1. 1.Senkoji Park
  2. 2.Kurushima Bridge
  3. 3.Kousanji Temple
  4. 4.Hirayama Ikuo Museum of Art
  5. 5.Toyo Ito Museum of Architecthre
  6. 6.Dolce
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