From today we would be taking a 2-day bicycle journey on the excellent cycle route Shimanami Kaido (しまなみ海道). Shimanamikaido itself is a toll highway connecting the Japan main island of Honshu (本州) to Shikoku (四国), going through several small islands on the Seto Island Sea (瀬戸内海), with some magnificent bridges in between. But there is also a designated cycle route that partly runs along it – in particular on the bridges – so you can safely enjoy travelling through the islands on bicycle.
What’s more, you can get a rental cycle on one end of the route, and drop it off at any other rental spots. This is great for doing a one-way trip, or if you’re not confident in completing it – though the total distance is just a reasonable 70 km. Nevertheless, that doesn’t include any side tours you wish to take, and it is definitely encouraged! It’s much better to take your time to explore a bit. And for that, we decided to give it 2 days, staying overnight at a guesthouse half way.
The starting point of the route is in Onomichi (尾道), where we had been since yesterday, finishing at Imabari (今治) in Shikoku. It can certainly be taken the other way round as well; but if starting from Imabari, you’d first have to get through a fairly long section running along a busy highway, followed by an abrupt change going over the longest bridge on the route, and then the longest hill climb on the route. For me, the gentler start from Onomichi seemed more appealing.
We had fairly large rucksacks, so for this 2-day journey we only brought a small pack and sent our rucksacks by delivery – the hotels on both ends of the routes were pretty used to doing this for cyclists so would not be surprised by the request.
There are several good attractions on this island. Some might be a bit out of the way from the route, so allocate enough time. For me, the most important place to visit was the Honinbo Shuusaku Igo Memorial Museum (本因坊秀策囲碁記念館). Shuusaku is known as the “Saint” of Go, born in the 18th century and was the undefeated player at that time. Innoshima was his birthplace and thus the museum about him there. The place was featured in one of my favourite animes “Hikaru’s Go” (ヒカルの朞), visiting the location was a must!
The northern area is Setoda, famous for lemon production. There’s also Sunset Beach on the west side, I planned our progress so we could catch the sunset there.
It took another 20 minutes or so from the bridge to reach the guesthouse where we’d be staying for the night. Although we rode on the main road, this was a fairly rural area and it was quite dark. The rental cycles did come with lights but quite weak. My headlamp came to rescue.
Being an island in the Seto Inland Sea, seafood was plentiful. After a day of cycling we were rewarded with a magnificent seafood feast, the best we have had in our travels.