Experience the charm of Japan’s Inland Sea by bicycle The Inland Sea’s Shimanami Kaido or ,”Shimanami Sea Road”, is a route that links Onomichi city in Hiroshima prefecture, Honshu and Imabari city in Ehime prefecture, Shikoku,through approximately 60 Kilometres of bridges. Thereb are 3 ways to enjoy the beauty of this link between Honshu and Shikoku – by bicycle, via a pedestrian walkway and by motorbike (providing the engine is under 125cc).

The route, which features 7 bridges connecting 6 islands of the Inland Sea, has won fame for hosting cycling tournaments and is now considered one of the best cycling courses in the world. However it’s not just aimed at competitive cyclists – tourists can also enjoy the bicycle route as part of a trip through Japan.

In order to make the route more enjoyable for cyclists, there are cycling rental shops set up where you can hire a variety of types of bikes. For example, if starting from the Shikoku side at Imabari, inside Imabari station the Taiwanese international bike maker, Giant, operates their “Giant Imbari” store. Here you can rent genuine road bikes,hybrid bikes, children’s bikes and electric bikes. To further assist beginners who may just be starting out, along the length of the cycling course is a blue line which lists the distance to the next destination, as well as the direction, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost.

The Shimanami Kaido is not only about the picturesque scenery of interweaving islands and bridges; the area also offers incredible gourmet cuisine featuring local ingredients which should definitely be sampled. So why not take your time exploring the islands by bicycle to truly enjoy the beauty of the Inland Sea?

Seto Inland Sea -Shimanami Kaido- on a Bicycle


Above:Tatara Bridge passes over numerous islands that dot the beautiful ocean

Shimanami Kaido is a scenic road weaving its way between the Shikoku and Honshu islands of Japan. In recent times it has become popular amongst Japanese and foreign visitors who attempt to cycle along its 70km route. Part of the reason for its popularity is that most people of reasonable fitness can complete this route, which is lined with beautiful trees that change color each season. When riding over the many bridges, you can become one with the wind and the sea.

Text: Azusa Mori

The Seto Inland Sea in Japan is surrounded by the three large islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. The Shimanami Kaido scenic road crosses over six islands on its way from Honshu to Shikoku, namely Mukaishima, Innoshima, Ikuchijima, Omishima, Hakatajima and Oshima.

Onomichi at the northern end of the route is in Hiroshima Prefecture, famous for its “Atomic Bomb Dome”. The southern end is in Ehime Prefecture, which is famous for “Dogo Onsen”, one of the best hot springs in Japan.

While the course is about 70 km, even beginners can enjoy it by tackling parts of the route for a few hours each day. There are 15 locations on the route where you can hire and return bicycles, starting from just 500 yen per day. Whether you prefer Road Bikes, battery assisted bicycles, mountain or tandem bikes, they have
them available for hire.

One of the highlights is the scenic view of the bridge. These spots are easy to find due to the many cyclists who park their bikes and admire the views. The beautiful blue sky offsets the lush mountains, which are in red and yellow hues depending on the season.

There are also roads that run through mountains and pass by many a country house, providing a glimpse into what village life is like. I have met many kindly folk who have encouraged me with a friendly wave, a smile, and by urging me to take care and do my best.

For beginners who wish to complete the whole route, it is best to divide the trip
into two days. On the way, take the time to try the gelato made with local ingredients or pick some mandarin oranges.

If you wish to make the most of the majestic scenery, I recommend that you go from north to south. I’m amazed by the sense of accomplishment as I ascend the hill leading to the bridge and then finally cross it, enjoying the breathtaking and magnificent views of the sea and mountains.

Then, as I descended, I felt the sea breezes all around me.

When people think about travelling in Japan, many immediately think of the major landmarks in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. Next time, why not stretch your legs a little and try the Shimanami Kaido by bike? Everyone can enjoy it, including families and couples.



1. The Cities of Onomichi and Imabari mark the starting point of your trip. They are easily accessed by train with Japan Railways serving both cities. The tourist information centre is also nearby.

2. If you plan to cross all the bridges, remember to carry 500 yen for the tolls. For a limited time, the “Cycling Shimanami” coupon is available for 250 yen.  In addition to the tolls, it comes with the discount vouchers for local products and facilities. This coupon is sold at the bicycle terminals in Onomichi and Imabari, the Onomichi station tourist office, and selected convenience stores and hotels.
Besides only paying half price for the tolls, there are other benefits.

3. If you are going on a one day trip, leave your luggage at your accommodation, take a train or bus to the furthest point that you can return to in one day, and hire a bike from that point back to your accommodation. Alternatively, just ride as far as you can, but make sure that you can return in one day. If you are visiting Onomichi over two days, send your luggage to the accommodation place at your final destination, and just carry with you a change of clothes in a small

4. There are inns along the Shimanami route, so it would be good to stay somewhere on the first day. If you are not sure where to book, ask the travel information centre for advice.

5. If you aren’t used to cycling long distances, you are likely to get a sore bottom at the end of the day. To prepare for this eventuality, get some special cycling pants with extra padding or get a padded saddle cover. You can get either from a bike shop.


1. Small Buddhist statues at Jikouji temple. 2. Paths for bicycles and motorcycles. 3. The famous gelato store called “Dolce”. Mandarin and salt flavours are recommended. 4. Kousanji temple. 5. Mandarins can be gathered at farms along the sea route. 6. The romantic sunset beach. 7. Clap your hands in the vicinity of the main shaft of Tatara Ohashi and the sound echoes 8. Offerings of sake barrels at Oyamazumi Shrine.

9. Mikan candy which was bought at a rest facility along the sea route called “roadside station”. 10. Taking a rest at Hakata-Oshima Bridge. 11. A beautiful rose garden. 12. Fresh seafood roasted over a charcoal fire can be eaten at the Yoshiumi-Ikikikan rest facility. 13. The swirling ocean tide. 14. The longest bridge within the sea route is the Kurushima channel bridge. 15. Imabari Castle in Imabari City.

After cycling from Hiroshima, why not travel around Shikoku?


Dogo Onsen, one of the most famous onsens in Japan.©Ehime Prefecture / ©JNTO

The shape of this island somewhat resembles Australia, and the word ‘Shikoku’ translates to 4 (shi) provinces (koku). Shikoku thrives with beautiful nature and culture that has been protected over generations, giving visitors a feeling of comfort and well being. If you’re travelling to Tokyo or Kyoto to sightsee from Hiroshima, how about visiting the four provinces, Ehime, Kochi, Tokushima and Kagawa, as you travel across the Shimanami sea road into Shikoku?


Abundant with historic sentiment


Fresh Bream is used abundantly in Taimeshi ©Ehime Prefecture

Ehime, the birthplace of wellknown poet Shiki Masaoka, is filled with places that will bring out your sensitive side. Here you can see traditional houses lined up along the streets, experience the culture of atmospheric towns such as Uchiko, or visit Dogo Onsen, one of Japan’s landmark hot springs. Dogo Onsen, which was first mentioned in an eighth century poetry anthology, is one of the oldest onsen in Japan.

Relax your mind and body as you feel the nostalgia of traditional Japan. Seafood is a big part of the cuisine in Ehime. You should try ‘Taimeshi’, the local cuisine made up of sea bream sashimi placed over sea bream infused rice. Mikan mandarins are also well known in Ehime, and there are even places where you can enjoy mikan picking.


Hidden beauties surrounded by nature


Awa Odori Festival is held every year around August ©TokushimaPrefecture


Going down an exciting river is definitely worth trying ©TokushimaPrefecture

The magic of nature can be seen and enjoyed all throughout Tokushima, from the Naruto Whirlpool in the Seto Inland Sea to the secluded Oboke and Iya valleys, located deep within the mountains. If you have time to go sightseeing, staying a few nights in Oboke to soak up the forest atmosphere is highly recommended.

You can also experience river-rafting down the Yoshino River in the Oboke valley while admiring the surrounding mountains. During the summer month of August, you can also see the traditional Awa Odori Dance Festival that is held in the city.

Dancing together with the children will definitely become an everlasting memory. In the simple town of Iya, located deep within the mountain, you can learn how to make Iya Soba from the locals and taste the traditional flavour in the process.


Where nature and humans come together


It is enjoyable to walk around Kochi Castle  ©JNTO


The clearest stream in Japan, Shimantogawa  ©JNTO

Kochi, which faces the Pacific Ocean, is where many leaders of Japan such as the Shishi political group and Ryoma Sakamoto (who was very influential from the end of
Edo period to the Meiji Restoration) were active in the development of Japan. Their lasting effects can still be sensed through the nature and people. Why not visit the Shimanto River, known as ‘the last clean river in Japan’. The reflection of the surrounding mountains and clear blue sky will take your breath away. For sightseeing, Kochi Castle and the Sunday Markets are highly recommended.

In summer, you can see many dancers partake in the Yosakoi festival. Sawachi cuisine, consisting of fresh sashimi and sushi, and lightly roasted bonito cooked in bundles of straw, is just one of the exquisite foods you can sample.


Experience the art of this ancient province


The Kaede Gishi area of Kuribayashi Park  ©JNTO

Kagawa, located in the northeast of Shikoku, is known not only for being a prime location for filming domestic movies, but also for its artistic and romantic feeling. On the island of Naoshima, which can be accessed by ferry from the major city by Takamatsu, many art works by leading current artists, such as Yayoi Kusama,
can be seen around the island. Right now, the ‘Setouchi Triennale’ international
art festival is under way. It will run from spring through to autumn (4 November) across the Setouchi islands, starting with Naoshima. On Shodo Island, there is a sand island (Angel Road) that can only be seen twice a day in low tide, making it
popular among couples who see it as a sacred spot. In Kagawa, you can try the famous sanuki udon for just a few hundred yen. One taste and you will be hooked.


Sanuki Udon  ©JNTO