Amazing Places

Shimanami Kaido Is Japan's Scenic, Island-Hopping Bike Path

As far as sightseeing goes, bicycling is kind of underrated. You can cover a lot of ground while taking in the fresh air, and you don't even have your perfect view spoiled by the roar of your engines. If that sounds like heaven to you, then now's the time to start planning your trip to Japan's Shimanami Kaido Bikeway.

Pedal to the Meadow

With its famous pilgrimage to 88 temples and its abundant fields of flowers, the island of Shikoku is one of Japan's favorite tourist spots. Shikoku is the smallest of the country's four main islands, and it's a one-of-a-kind wonderland of stunning mountain ranges, medieval architecture, and rustic natural settings. But to get the most out of your trip to Shikoku, the best way to come in from the central island Honshu is on a bicycle. Yes, even though you have to cross six islands to do it. Yes, even though it's a journey of 43 miles (69 kilometers). Shimanami Kaido bikeway is the way you'll want to do it.

Shimanami Kaido is a part of the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Project, a network of bridges connecting Japan's most and least populous main islands. It's the only one of the bridges that you can actually walk or bike, though. If you've got the stuff, it offers unparalleled views of the six small islands between Hiroshima on the Honshu side and Shikoku's tiny port city of Imabari. Don't be too daunted — if you're really going for it, an intermediate biker can easily finish this journey in a day. But there's so much to see on your trip, you could be better off taking your time instead.

Planning Your Trip

Chances are, you'll start this journey from the Honshu side and bike your way to Shikoku instead of the other way around. If that's the case, then Onomichi (just outside of Hiroshima) has got the perfect place to launch your trek: Hotel Cycle. This bike-themed hotel has even got a giant pro-shop to make sure your ride is in perfect working order before you set out. You can also rent a bike here, if you like. Once you set out, your first destination will be the island of Mukaishima, followed by Innoshima. Your first few hours on the Shimanami Kaido will be defined by the natural splendor of the Seto Inland Sea, but once you get to the third island, your sightseeing opportunities really open up.

Ikuchijima is home to some of the pathway's most famous sights, including the Hirayama Ikuo museum, devoted to one of Japan's most influential painters of the 20th century, and Kosanji Temple, a staggering homage to several centuries' worth of temple architecture, built in 1936. Now that you've made it to the third of six islands, it might be time to consider if you want to power through or take some time, spend the night, and really enjoy the view. If you opt for the latter, then keep your eyes open for traditional ryokan inns along the path. Whether you're after amazing photos or just your best time yet, Shimanami Kaido is guaranteed to be a trip you'll never forget.

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Written by Reuben Westmaas May 11, 2018