Although I’m a kind of person who loves old school stuff, in terms of travel, I often prefer to try new things.
In this year’s Shimanami trip, my friend and I chose a different route (which is pretty tough) compared with last year’s. Of course, choosing a different way means you will experience something you would never imagine before. Before we departure, I talked with my friend, saying that I was really not sure what would happen this year. And considering the bad weather, maybe we would even run into some troubles, like storm. But my friend said: “Well, the meaning of travel is the surprise. No surprise, no life.”
The so-called Shimanami Kaido starts from Onomichi (in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan) to Imabari (in Ehime Prefecture, Japan), 80 kilometers long, passing 6 islands (Mukaishima, Innoshima, Ikuchijima, Omishima, Hakatashima, and Oshima) and 6 huge bridges. I would say it is absolutely the best cycling route in Japan, and Asia at large.
This year’s Shimanami cycling trip has a very tight itinerary.
Saturday (July 8): 70 kilometers
7:00-8:40 Flight: from Tokyo Narita Airport to Hiroshima Airport
9:00-10:00 Took a bus from Hiroshima Airport to Onomichi Station
11:00-11:30 Onomichi station-Mukaishima-Innoshima
Sunday (July 9): 30 kilometers
10:00-12:30 Oshima-Imabari Station
Along the whole Shimanami Kaido, there are many spots to rent bikes and you can find many types of bikes as well. The most popular bike-rental is the official Shimanami one, which provides bikes with good quality and nice price. Or if you want to try more professional and comfortable bikes, you can go to Giant store, of course, is also more expensive. My friend and I chose the hybrid bikes in Onomichi bike-rental place (the official one), the speed of this bike can be changed from Leve 1 to Level 8, light & bell & locker included. 3000 yen each person (2 days; borrow from Onomichi station and return back to Imabari Station). Last year my another friend and I borrowed one yellow bike and one blue bike; this year my friend and I borrowed one black bike and one white bike. I’m wondering what color I will get next year. Maybe one red one green?
For other things to prepare, I would say quick-dry clothes, sun-proof clothing, trainers, sunglasses, cycling gloves are necessary; helmet is important for beginners, but I think it too heavy to wear, and the most important requisite is absolutely the cycling pants (which contains sponge mat inside to protect your ass), and if you don’t wear such pants, your ass will get hurt seriously. Another thing is suncream that can protect you from sunburn. Mosquito repellent is also needed, as there would be many insects in the mountain. You don’t need to bring too much water because you can find many beverage machines along the route. Apart from all the stuff mentioned above, we also carried two sports cameras and one Canon single-lens reflex camera. However, the pictures we got were not very satisfying due to the bad weather.
After we picked up our bikes, we officially started our Shimanami cycling trip. We took a ferry near Onomichi Station which was bound for the first island–Mukaishima. But if you want, you can also ride your bike for 20 minutes and you will find a bridge (Shin-Onomichi Bridge) which can send you to the first island as well. But I’m sure you will be tired if you do so.
(BTW, I took a picture of one manhole cover in Onomichi city)
The first island: Mukaishima
Not so many tourist spots and sites, and it is the easiest island to go in the whole Shimanami route. people here are warm-hearted and nice.
The first bridge： Innoshima Bridge
This bridge connects Mukaishima and Innoshima. 750 meters long. Cars go on the upper floor, while pedestrians and cyclers go on the lower floor. However, there’s no lift for you to directly go on to the bridge. You have to ride up the mountain for a while, which is tough, and then arrive at the entrance of the bridge. The mountain way was never easy, and if you really can’t keep riding up, just walk.
The second island: Innoshima
The most famous tourist attractions are Mt. Shiratakisan and Murakami Kaizoku Heritage. In Mt. Shiratakisan, you are able to see the Seto Inland Sea in an all-round way. And there are over 700 Buddha sculptures in the mountain. Unfortunately, this time my friend and I didn’t have time to climb this mountain. Will go there next year. Murakami Kaizoku Heritage is located in the north part of Innoshima and is famous a long history of the biggest pirate community in Japan–Murakami Kaizoku.
After we visited the Murakami Kaizoku Heritage, we found a Soba noodles restaurant nearby. The name is “蕎麦はな”. We were really amazed by the authentic taste–soft noodle with nice smell; fresh but not greasy noodle soup. “It’s the best soba I’ve tried so far!” Said my friend.
The owners of this soba restaurant, a lovely couple, talked a lot to us and even gave us grapefruit pancake as a gift. This lunch reminds of some words that I heard a long time ago in an animation:“It is delicious food that brings people happiness.”
After we had lunch at 蕎麦はな, we restarted our cycling trip. However, the mountain road was really tough, far beyond our imagination! We rode up, up, and up and saw a tunnel, and then rode, rode, and rode, and finally saw the next bridge. One weird thing was that we smelled something every terrible, like something on fire, or something perishing.
The second bridge: Ikuchi Bridge
This bridge connects Innoshima and Ikuchijima. 790 meters long. It looks like the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam, where I used to live for 5 months.
The third island: Ikuchijima
Personally, I think Ikuchijima is the busiest one among all the 6 big islands, and “Dolce Ice Cream Shop”, “Setoda Sunset Beach” and “Hirayama Ikuo Museum of Art” can be seen as the most memorable places to go. The hit product of Dolce Ice Cream Shop is salty milk ice cream and lemon ice cream because Shimanami is a popular producer of salt and citrus fruits. Last year I ordered salty milk ice cream and chocolate ice cream, and this year I chose salty milk plus vanilla.
Setoda Sunset Beach, one of the best beaches in Seto Inland Sea National Park, is my favorite place in Ikuchijima. But I kinda felt pity that this year due to bad weather, the scene of this beach is more like frosty and with cold colors. Also, there were just a few people swimming in the sea. No laughter, no noise. However, when we saw a bit sunshine coming from the thick clouds, we were already happy. At least not that sad as we were earlier.
The third bridge: Tatara Bridge
This bridge connects Ikuchijima and Omishima. 890 meters long. I think the name sounds interesting and it looks quite similar to Ikuchi Bridge. And on the mountain nearby, my friend and I even found some red crabs! They crawled so quickly!
The fourth island: Omishima
We found something fragrant in this island It was the smell of a certain flower, very gentle and sweet. Omishima is famous for Tatara Onsen but my memory about this island was still about last year’s Shimanami trip. Last year, my friend Bonny and I wanted to take a ferry from Omishima to Ōkunoshima (the rabbit island) but the ferry spot was too far from where we were and we didn’t have any vehicle. So I tried to ask help from the Omishima bus stop, and one kind man used his own car and sent us to the ferry spot! We chatted with him with poor Japanese proficiency but he understood us and was willing to answer our questions.
The fourth bridge: Omishima Bridge
This bridge connects Omishima and Hakatashima. 328 meters long. It looks very cute and tiny, which reminded me of the small bridges in Okutama-ko, Tokyo.
The fifth island: Hakatashima
The tatami hotel we booked is located in Hakatashima and we didn’t notice that we need to ride a long way to get there. When we arrived at the island, the sky was already dark. Nobody walked on the street and just a few shops were still open. We were super tired and hungry and even a bit disappointed. Suddenly, my mobile phone ringed, and I quickly picked up this call and said “hello”. The guy on the other side can speak English! Confirming where we were and how much time we would still need to spend, my friend and I felt an elusive hope. So we tried out all our efforts to ride and ride and finally, we arrived at the hotel! Since we didn’t reserve a dinner and all the restaurants nearby were already closed, the hotel owner brought us to a Japanese restaurant, using his own car. We really appreciated that! You know, for a person who already suffered from hunger and tiredness for a while, any food would be fine. And a traditional Japanese cuisine was an incredible plus!! And the hotel is also very nice and clean, I would definitely recommend my friends to stay there: サラサヤ, which has more than 100 years history, and you can book this hotel here.
After one-night rest, my friend and I departure again, heading to our final destination Imabari Station. On the way back to Omishima Bridge, we saw some nice views at ふなおりせと(船折瀬戸)，a place to observe tidal bore. That time it was rainy, not heavy but mild, making the whole world wispy and poetic. Ripples bloomed once and once again in the sea, and white cloud slowly moved in the mountain.
The fifth bridge: Hakata-Oshima Bridge
This bridge connects Hakatshima and Oshima. 840 meters long. The bridge floor was still wet but looked neat.
The sixth island: Oshima
Oshima, just as its name implies, it’s quite big. How big is it? Usually when you think you already complete half of your journey on this island, you actually only complete 10% of it!! I was already worn out when we rode on Oshima so I have to ride a while and walk a while so that we spent almost two hours on Oshima! My friend had no choice but to wait for me and walk with me because we were a team, he just didn’t want to leave me there. And after we rode over so many upslopes, we finally reached the final bridge–the longest one.
The sixth bridge: Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge
This bridge connects Oshima and Imabari city. 4015 meters long, consists of 3 parts. The strongest feeling I had is how long it is???
After rode over the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge, and continued about 11 more kilometers, we finally reached the Imabari cycling terminal!
The meaning of travel is the surprise.
No surprise, no life.
My friend was correct.
And the meaning of cycling is challenging yourself and moving forward together with your teammates.
In 2018, I will go to Shimanami again!