Shimanami Kaido Cycling Trails is the famous cycling trail that connects Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture and Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture. It passes through many interesting and different sized islands in the Seto Inland Sea. The outstanding scenic views while cycling through the various islands have made this cycling route famous. It was chosen as one of the best 7 cycling routes in the world by CNN in 2015.
Cycling the scenic route of Shimanami Kaido Trail is also part of our 7-days-itinerary travelling in the Shikoku region. This route starts in Osaka and passes some of the best places to visit in Shikoku and finishes in Hiroshima. The ready-to-use itinerary can also be done the other way around.
Distance and time
The total distance of the main route is about 70 km (43 mile). If you want to complete the whole ride, you will need two days. But you can also enjoy a partial day ride, come back with an evening ferry. Assuming you pause for photos, take lunch in a local restaurant, and visit some sites and museums, you should plan on about 10 km per hour. You can go faster or slower, it’s up to you. Some bikers like to ride to the other side of the islands to expand the trip too!
Renting a bike
There are 13 official cycling terminals throughout the route where customers can rent and drop off their bikes. If you are cycling only part of the route, this option is very convenient. You can rent a helmet as well.
Price (per a day)
Regular bikes ¥1,100, Tandem ¥1,300, Electric bikes ¥1,600, + plus ¥1,100 for the drop off guarantee fee (if you bring back same terminal, you will get this fee back)
There are many more options to rent bikes all around the route. The Giant Store shop is one of them and there have offices in both Imabari and Onomichi
A Giant bike can be rented starting at ¥4,000~ per day
Things to do along the way
There are three main bridges connecting Honshu and Shikoku, but only Shimanami Kaido has a special bicycle and pedestrian path. This adventurous journey across the Seto Inland Sea takes you through 6 islands and over 6 bridges, there are also options of the way on small ferries. The most enjoyable aspect of this cycling route is cycling above the sea. With fresh air blowing against your face, you will feel as if you’re like flying over the water. The toll road bridges provide separate lanes for bikers, clearly marked with blue lines. Once you arrive at an island, you’ll ride on the local roads, also clearly marked with blue lines. The whole route is easy to navigate, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost. The mild weather of Seto Inland sea allows visitors to enjoy a bicycle trip all year around.
Imabari is the second largest city in Ehime Prefecture. The Imabari castle is one of the three great water castles and is best viewed at night when artfully arranged spotlights highlight the dramatic details of the castle’s exterior. In Imabari, towels are the local industry, and their design, texture and technology has become an art form. At the Imabari Towel Museum, you can see how these towels are created, and ask to embroider your name on the purchased towel.
After the longest bridge from Imabari, you’ll have reached the first island (the last one from Onomichi side). Oshima has 88 small temples around its coastline. There is also a stone museum in Miyakubo that celebrates Oshima’s granite production. This granite was used in the construction of the famous Dogo hot spring in Ehime prefecture. You can also try a rose flavored ice cream in Yoshiumi Rose park, which is a great resting spot for the bikers.
The island is historically known for salt production and as a center for maritime trade. From the higher ground, you can see huge ships being assembled at the shipyards below. There are also some beautiful beaches and several unique dining options such as Shio-ramen and Shio ice cream (salt flavored ramen and ice cream respectively). Hirakiyama Park on the hilltop offers a panoramic view of the sea, islands and bridges. Don’t miss the cherry blossom here in spring too!
The Oyamazumi Shrine has stood in the middle of Omishima island as one of Japan’s most important shrines for centuries. The shrine has a treasure house which stores around 80% of the ancient armor and weapons in Japan. There, you will also find two very impressive and sacred trees; these are the gnarled, twisted and revered camphor trees, one said to be 3000 years old and the other 2600 years old. You can also visit the nearby Omishima Museum of Art which is just across the road.
It is easy road for cycling compared with other islands, since there are not so many ups and downs on the way.There are museums you can drop by and you can spot many arts around this island. Kosanji Museum is located in the site of the temple which houses a collection of Buddhist arts, modern arts and Buddhist statues etc. Also, Ikuchi Island is said to be the first place to start growing lemons in Japan. You can see many yellow spots on the mountain while cycling.
This is the island which is the home to the largest pirate group of Japan. Murakami Kaizoku (pirate group) were in charge of the Seto Inland Sea between 14th century to 17th century. They were not like other pirates who work for robbery but they were “people living with the sea”, they worked to keep the safety of the island and sometimes they took care of trades. You can see the castle remains and treasure at the museum.
When you cycle here, there are some busy roads with traffic in this island, so you will need to be careful!
This is the last island of the trails, the end is almost there. You can find some cute little shops and historical sites on the island. Go to Goto Kosenjo where they sell the soft drinks in the glass bottles like the old times. Ramune, Japanese summer drink is a must-try when you go there! Take the ferry to Onomichi which takes only for a couple minutes, it is said to be the shortest boat ride in Japan.
Onomichi is characterized by its dramatic slopes. Many of the town’s attractions are located along these slopes, and visitors need to walk up the narrow lanes in the residential areas to reach them.
Onomichi has been featured in popular films and literature, including the magnificent classic film Tokyo Story by Yasujiro Ozu. Onomichi is well known for its temple walk that connects 25 historic temples. You can visit one of them, Senko-ji, near the top of a small mountain that overlooks the town. It’s fun ride on a ropeway which runs every 15 minutes. While wandering around the maze of narrow alleys, you may come across Cat Alley or Neko no Hosomichi, where you’ll see scores of cats looked after by the locals. There is as well, the peculiar Manekineko Museum, famous “lucky cat” goods.
At Oshima, you can enjoy a dynamic and impressive cruise that let you watch the swirling currents. The boat leaves from the pier in front of the Yoshiumi Iki-ikikan Road Station on the southwestern end of the island. At this road station facility, you can select your own live seafood, and then grill it yourself on a traditional style portable grill at your outside table.
Resting spots: you will find the logo mark all along the route where the locals offer hospitality and help to the bikers. They provide free use of toilets, tools and air pumps.
Avoiding the pain: if you don’t have cycling pants, you can buy saddle covers with various forms of cushion. You can also apply skin cream inside your pants to ease friction. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen for the sunny days of summer!
Where to stay
Each island has numerous and often unique choices of hotels and inns. You can easily google them and select those that interest you. However, we have below some recommendations for special unique inns and those in traditional Japanese style.
Guest House & Cafe Ohana, Imabari city ―The homey inn is located in Imabari, in the center of Shimanami Kaido. Downstairs is an organic cafe and shop. The place is clean and cozy, laundry and dryer available, especially handy after a long day of cycling.
Anago no Nedoko, Onomichi city ―One of the most famous guesthouses on Onomichi shopping street is this historical building designed in a classical manner. The facility comes with a cafe/bar, a lounge, a Japanese garden, and a book and music store.
Suminoe Ryokan, Ikuchi island ―This tastefully decorated inn, with an atmosphere of traditional hospitality, offers spacious, clean and comfortable private Japanese style rooms, either with a view out of the beautifully landscaped grounds or to the sea. You can also enjoy a hot spring experience in a spacious communal bathroom, and of course the wonderful local cuisine.
If you want an English-speaking tour, here is one from Imabari city. This one-day bike tour includes a sightseeing boat for an up-close view of one of Japan’s three great tidal currents, then enjoy a delicious seafood BBQ.
When you come to Hiroshima, it will be a good idea to take a guided tour! Explore the important sites including Peace Memorial Park and Miyajima Island. If you want to walk around Hiroshima efficiently, check out our tours.
Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Trail and get some exercise along the way. You’ll have a great time and experience the warm and welcoming hospitality prevalent in the small islands!
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