Cycling the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido

When I was doing research for my Japan trip in March, I came across this article on cycling the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido. It is a 60km long toll road that connects the main island of Honshu (Chugoku region (中国)) to the island of Shikoku (四国), passing over 6 islands in the Seto Inland Sea. Alongside the highway is a dedicated cycling path.

The Shimanami Kaido begins on Honshu in Onomichi city (尾道). It then leads across the six islands of Mukaishima (向岛), Innoshima (因岛), Ikuchijima (生口岛), Omishima (大三岛), Hakatajima (伯方岛), and Oshima (大岛), before terminating on Shikoku (四国) in Imabari City (今治市). Total distance is 70km.

Now, I’ve not been cycling ever since my maiden triathlon in the year 2013, so tackling this 70km cycling course seems daunting. The initial plan was to take a ferry from Omnomichi port to Ikuchijima Island and start cycling from there. This plan will cut short the whole route by about 24km. Sounds great ya!

We stayed at Green Hill Hotel Onomichi which is just next to the port and the bicycle rental terminal. The day before the cycling, we had our bags arranged to be delivered to our next hotel in Matsuyama. Yamato delivery service is just located on the ground level of the hotel, so we will just carry a small backpack with 1 change of clothing during the cycling trip.

We went to the bike rental terminal at Onomichi at about 8am. We selected a cross bike which is supposedly better for climbing slopes, helmet and paid the rental and deposit fee of 2,000 yen. Do note that the deposit fee of 1,000 yen will only be refunded if the bicycle is returned to the same terminal or the same island terminal you rented the bicycle.

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Bicycle rental terminal at the Onomichi port

It was still early. The next ferry to Ikuchijima will be at 915am. The next ferry to the next island, Mukaishima will be coming in 5 mins. Not wanting to waste time waiting, we decided to take the ferry and start our cycling from Mukaishima which means doing the full course of 70km! Oh no ~~~

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Starting our 70km ride!

Mukaishima (向岛) is more of an industrial area, following the recommended route, you will mainly cycle on the road alongside other vehicles and crossing traffic lights. Nothing much to see here. The distance from the ferry terminal to the first bridge crossing is about 9.2km.

The first bridge is a suspension bridge — Innoshima Bridge. Distance is 3.5 km. My first slope up, steep, damn steep. I’ve changed my gear to the lowest, I still find it difficult to climb up the slope. I foresee trouble for the rest of the journey.

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The first bridge in a distance — Innoshima Bridge spanning 1,270m.

There is a toll charge ranging from 50 yen to 200 yen for every bridge, but it is waived for cyclist till 31 March 2019 to promote tourism. The cycling/pedestrian crossing on the Innoshima Bridge is underneath the car crossing. For the other bridges, the cycling/pedestrian crossing is alongside the car crossing.

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The bicycle/pedestrian crossing on Innoshima Bridge

After the bridge is a downward slope down. Enjoy the adrenaline rush here!

We’ve reached the next island – Innoshima (因岛). The main attraction here is Shiratakiyama which is 230m high. It offers amazing views at Observatory Deck. There is a temple on top of the mountain which you will find the 500 statues of Buddha’s disciples. On the map, it is a detour from the recommended route to an advanced route with a very steep hill. We were at the foot of the trail, Kenn swiftly rode up while I was struggling. I raised my hand to surrender, no I can’t, not with this bike, it will take me hours to reach I think. Not knowing how far this route will lead, we decided to abort this detour and continued our ride towards the Ikuchi Bridge.

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Ikuchi Bridge (790m)

After cycling 3.2 km to cross Ikuchi Bridge to Ikuchijima Island, we cycled another 6.1 km to reach Kosanji Temple (耕三寺). If there’s only 1 temple to see during this cycling trip, make it Kosanji Temple. The compound is quite big, so allocate more time to explore.

It was many hours since our last meal. Hungry and tired, we took a break at Setoda Sunset Beach. It was a nice break under the shades of the trees with the sea breeze blowing at me. We had a can of coffee and ate the bread we bought yesterday. Arrgh, how I wish I can stop now but we were only half-way into the journey.

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Bright and sunny at Setoda Beach
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Some random art feature?
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Citrus groves along the way.
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A shot with the lemon before we cross the Tatara Bridge (1,480m) to Omishima Island

The crossing from Ikuchijima Island to Omishima Island also means entering into the Ehime Prefecture (爱媛县).

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Leaving Hiroshima Prefecture and entering Ehime Prefecture
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Amazing view from the bridge.

Omishima Island (大三岛) is a big island. From the map, there are many museums. The whole island is about 40km. Well, no intention to explore the area, so we continue on the recommended route which is 7.2km to the next bridge to Hakatajima (伯方岛).

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Omishima Bridge connecting Omishima Island and Hakatajima Island at 328m, the shortest crossing.

The ride to the next bridge crossing is short at only 1.9km.

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Taking a short water break before another climb up to the next bridge.

I must be too tired, I could not find any photo on the next suspension bridge – Hakata-Oshima Bridge linking Hakatajima Island and Oshima Island. This bridge is 1,165m long.

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Rapid tidal current at the Funaori Seto Strait
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Hmm.. I think I do have a photo of the Hakata-Oshima bridge! At the back!

Oshima (大岛) is the last island on the Shimanami Kaido before we enter into Imabari City. We had planned to have our tea break of barbeque seafood at the Yoshiumi Iki-Iki Kan rest stop. It was almost 3pm when we reached Oshima. After another slow and tiring (for me) 11km ride up and down gentle slopes, we reached the rest stop. Yoshiumi Iki-Iki Kan is a large rest stop with many shops and eateries. Have a light meal over here before the final attempt! We reached here at close to 4pm. Alas, the sale of barbeque seafood ends at 4pm!

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Settled for beef don with mikan drink, a local specialty produce.

Felt slightly refreshed after the light meal and I am ready to go! The finale! The next bridge is also the world longest suspension bridge — Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge at 4,105m long.

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Nice plum blossoms at the ramp up the bridge

The view from the ramp up to Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge was breathtaking. I can’t help but stop many times to take a photo at each possible angle.

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The final stretch! Let’s go!

After this bridge crossing, a long downward sloping loop ramp awaits you. Whoohoo.. going down is always the happiest part. The ramp will lead you to the Itoyama park where you can return the bike and it is also the end of the 70km long Shimanami Kaido cycling.

We continued cycling another 6km to Imabari city. Boring ride. As it was already reaching 6pm, the bike rental terminal at JR Imabari station had already closed. So we had to ride further down to the Imabari City Hall Main Building which closes at 10pm to return our bike.

Total 9hrs of riding with sightseeing and rest. 76km. Damn tired, it was my first, riding for such long hours. I am amazed that I completed the whole route. Thou tired, it was still fun. We were rewarded with awesome views and great weather. If there’s a chance, I would like to do it again but maybe over 2 days so I can explore more places on the islands.

Cheers!

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