Every now and then, Samurai Sports staff and friends write about their experience around Japan. From long rides to trail runs and mountainous hikes, you'll learn the endless possibilities when it comes to exploring Japan actively.
An Introduction to the Shimanami Kaido
The Shimanami Kaido, also known as the Nishiseto Expressway, is a 70km route with a mixture of both roads and 6 bridges that connect the islands between Hiroshima Prefecture and Ehime Prefecture. Beginning at Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture, the route takes you through Mukaishima, Innoshima, Ikuchijima, Omishima, Hakatajima, Oshima, and ending at Imabari in Ehime Prefecture. Anyone can easily rent a bicycle and navigate the roads that are marked in blue, even first timers! It takes about a day to reach the other side, this includes time to sightsee and enjoy the local food from the Seto Inland Sea and its surrounding islands. We decided to start our bicycle journey early from Hiroshima Airport, making it a total of 120km of fun and adventure!
The Start – From Hiroshima Airport to Shimanami Kaido
We flew into Hiroshima Airport and used their super convenient BICYCLE HUB to put together our bikes. The BICYCLE HUB is located on the 1st floor in the international terminal and has a designated space to assemble your bike along with lockers, changing rooms, and tire pumps. The racks are also equipped with all the tools you need and more! Unfortunately, the airport does not have any rental bicycles so you’ll have to take the bus to Onomichi if you didn’t transport your own. Just a heads up, there aren’t that many buses that go to Onomichi, so double check here before planning your trip!
At this point, all you’ll want to do is hop on your bike and ride off into your new cycling adventure, but don’t forget to double (or even triple) check your tires and brakes. You can thank me later. Although it’s only roughly 33km from the airport to Onomichi, there’s a 350m elevation change in the beginning so be ready! About halfway through the ride, you’ll see the Seto Inland Sea to your right overlooking the lush green islands that you’ll soon be island hopping through…!
Welcome to Onomichi, the Front Door to the Shimanami Kaido
For all you bike lovers like myself, visiting Onomichi U2 once you arrive is a MUST! It’s everything and anything a cyclist can dream of. The check-in process at Hotel Cycle is unique and can be done while still on your bike! You’ll be also amazed that most rooms come with bicycle racks installed. At Yard Café, you can order sandwiches using their “cycle-thru-counter” while riding your bicycle. Again, it’s convenient and made just for cyclists! And finally, there’s Giant, your go-to shop to tune your bicycle. They also have a wide selection of rental bicycles to choose from that are individually selected and measured. Separate from the Giant store, there are also a total of 14 rent-a-cycle terminals throughout the Shimanami Kaido, which makes it easy to drop them off anywhere along the course.
And now, let our Shimanami Kaido adventure begin!
A Breezy and Delicious Ride
Your cycling journey will begin after a ferry takes you to Mukaishima. You don’t have to buy a ticket in advance, just pay 110 yen when you hop on! You’ll notice that the trails are relatively flat, except for each of the bridge onramps. Also, there are separate roads for the cars and cyclists so it’s safe and easy to navigate. Just be careful and share the road with pedestrians!
You can never go wrong with food in Japan. The Seto Inland Sea and its surrounding islands are known for their fresh and abundant seafood, as well as lemons and oranges. I first explored Tachibana Shokudo (立花食堂) in Mukaishima. I personally recommend the seafood ramen. The broth has a lighter body, but is still rich in flavor. There’s also a foot bath to relax your tired feet.
After burning off calories, stop by Dolce in Ikuchijima for some refreshing gelato. Dolce uses locally grown lemons and oranges from Setoda, which you can taste the sweetness in their gelato. If you have room for more, try their original salt flavored gelato that’s also very popular!
Towards the end of your journey, catch the sunset over the green islands floating peacefully in the Seto Inland Sea. It’ll be one of the best and memorable sunsets in Japan, I promise!
After crossing the last bridge, you’ll end up at Imabari. This is where you will return your bikes, but your trip doesn’t end here. Reward yourself and indulge in some fresh sushi and sashimi at Kappo You in Imabari. This hole in the wall restaurant is easily missed because it almost looks like someone’s house. Despite its appearance, Kappo You has the most delicious and freshest seafood in town!
What are you waiting for? Plan your visit to the promised land for cyclists in Japan!