Whenever people ask me what I did in Japan, I would always tell them “I went biking”. Even though I could always enumerate them the places in Tokyo or Kyoto where I’ve been to, or even if they would answer “you could do that here in the Philippines”, the highlight of my trip will still beat everything. Telling them “I went biking in Shimanami Kaido” is an understatement. Why?
Aside from being one of the most picturesque view in Japan, there’s so much more to biking in Shimanami Kaido, Onomichi. Yes, the view is really amazing. It energizes you to continue cycling, because you know somewhere there, beauty awaits you. But the very experience is what gets me. The area so quiet, clean and consoling. It feels like I’m a part of the island and I’m just touring my own little town.
Aside from the picturesque route the islands would bring me, the cycling itself is more of a personal goal, an achievement. I love biking, but biking 25 km or more? – That’s what I doubt. You see, the farthest place a bike has taken me is the neighboring subdivision. So biking multiple islands in a stretch of about 25 km is an exciting and thrilling challenge for me.
Starting Shimanami Kaido from Onomichi
I started my trip by taking the train from Hiroshima to Onomichi. I then walked to the bike rental besides the Green Hill Hotel. As I passed by the dock in front of the hotel, I doubted myself if I should push through. I asked myself a couple of times if I really want to do this. Knowing I would regret letting go of this chance if I backed out, I went on and rent myself a bicycle.
I didn’t get the mamachari. Though I can’t differentiate the multi-speed from City Bikes, I was lucky enough to get a bike with a couple of speed (can’t even describe it). The switch itself is very easy to use, it suits the noob like me perfectly!
Even though I slightly got intimidated by a group of cyclist, I did not put so much pressure to myself. I set on earlier that day that I will finish what I can finish and I shouldn’t put myself on a cyclist’s level, I’m there for fun. So without the fancy gear and appropriate wardrobe, I set foot on the ferry with my rented bike.
You may visit their site for more details – https://shimanami-cycle.or.jp/cycling/en-02.html
The map above shows the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route that I took. It’s half of the original route since I can’t finish it within a day, so the plan was to pass by Mukaishima and Innoshima only. Upon reaching Ikuchi Island, I headed over to Setoda port and boarded the shuttle back to Onomichi.
The First Leg – Mukaishima
The first leg consists of mainly residential streets. It was so quiet and empty most of the time. You would even doubt if the island is inhabited.
A few cars with sane drivers occupy the road. The blue line was my guideline and I was just focused on following it. There’s not much to expect on the first island except that the roads are well made and mostly flat. I came upon a few cyclist that day.
The excitement peaks when you finally see the sea. It’s taking a peek every now and then to give you some encouragement. There’s one crossing that confused me before I even reach the second island. It has four roads which all have the blue line. I decided to follow the two cyclists that took the inclined road ahead but the road must have not liked me as I went rolling down after a few strikes. It’s too inclined for me so I went back and turned right, which as I figured, was the longer route.
My multi-speed bike came in handy when I confronted the bridges. For each additional elevation, the pedal turned softer and quicker with just a switch. I still chose to walk though when my skills can’t overcome the road. That’s mainly the reason why it took me a day to finish half of the route.
Another reason why it took me a day was when I assumed that the first bridge that I’ll saw is the one I had to take. I got excited before I can even think and I completely forgotten about the blue line. Thankfully, I asked this man (whose strangely standing at the end of the bridge, like manning something) if I’m on the right track. I just said “IMABARI?” and pointed on the road on his back. I thought I had it easy already.
When I’m finally near the first bridge, I took a minute to celebrate by taking pictures.
The Bridge to Innoshima
The first bridge, Innoshima Bridge, is located under the main vehicle traffic. It was covered and secured. The straight line though gives you an illusion that it is short, but heck, it took a couple of push to get to the other end.
Cycling past the first bridge gave me confidence. I thought “I can finish this route!” I felt accomplished already even though I’m still kilometers away from my end goal. Who wouldn’t with this view?
Cycling on the second island, Innoshima Island, the residential view soon became industrial, and I have no reason to stop unless there’s the sea. The cold wind is also too crisp to breathe, and my jacket seems defenseless with the cold breeze as I increase my speed. I figured how perfect it is to cycle during summer.
Approaching the second bridge is a one heck of a climb. The steepness and curves of the ascend made me walk my bike most of the time. The other cyclists cheered me on while I was in this pitiful state. During this hardship, I kept repeating the lines “Why did I even decided to do Shimanami Kaido?” in my head and even doubted my definition of “fun”. If you find yourself in the same situation, just wait until you get at the top. It’s a wonderful sight up there. All my questions gone with wind and I just thank God for giving me the patience and energy to get to this spot. Well, at least the energy.
Bright and breezy. Passing through the Ikuchi Bridge in the afternoon may either blind you or tire you. That long white bridge looks like it will lead you to heaven. Joking aside, this bridge is my last so I have to savor the moment.
As the cycling path is just beside the main traffic, you have two options when your bike decides to crash you. You either fall on the sea or get hit by a car. I almost fell in either one when I tried to position my camera in the basket properly while pedaling. I know,.. just don’t.
Third Island – Ikuchijima Island
The moment I set wheels on the third island, I went the opposite path of the original route and went straight to the port. This is the most beautiful path of the day as I was cycling beside an unblocked view of the sea. The sun is on its way to set and though that bright afternoon does not give a romantic view of the surroundings, I still enjoyed how gentle this island is to me.
I found Setoda Port in Google Maps by typing in its Japanese term.
I also came upon this beautiful shrine on my way. I decided to check it out as I have enough time, but then I was shocked of how expensive the entrance fee is – 1600 yen. Nah-ah. Maybe next time. That money became useful when I learned that the boat ride back to Onomichi is also expensive.
I reached the port 2 hours before the next schedule. There’s a couple of people inside the waiting area so I just parked my bike and grabbed some dessert in the nearby restaurant. When I came back, I was surprised to see that the human figures I thought there was in the waiting area, were just big dolls. I laughed at my stupidity. I thought it’s crowded, but then I’m all by myself.
The waiting area has toilets. You’ll also hear the announcements through a speaker. While waiting, there were posters of the attractions, activities and festivals in this island. I thought, this is the first time I saw this lot of people in the island because honestly, I haven’t seen much, plus there’s children in the poster!
My shuttle came and I was about to end this day. People started coming out of nowhere. There’s an additional fee for bicycles, and I left it at the back of the shuttle. The whole ride was around 45 minutes passing by the islands that I cycled (sans the first one).
Fee: 1800 Yen
The sunset was beautiful and warm, it’s like bidding goodbye to me. It may be proud of me for braving to cycle alone for one day in a land that is unfamiliar and possibly unsafe. I was thankful that I finished in one whole and everything went smoothly.
As I left the shuttle, I saw some familiar faces, the cyclists that were on the same shuttle when I started this day. I felt my knees wobbling as I walk to the train station. But it’s pain that is worth it. This pain contributed to something, something big, and that is this milestone. I finally have something to talk about my Japan trip. Charot. It is a big part yes. It is something I thought I cannot do alone in a foreign country, lest it’s not a common activity for tourists. It is an achievement. What more can I say? Cycling Shimanami Kaido, one of the most scenic places in Japan is just something a traveler must do. And for sure, it is a marking experience that you will definitely look back in your life.
Until my next update!
Check out my other posts for this travel on this link!