Fukuyama Station to Onomichi Station > JR Sanyo Line for ITOZAKI
This was probably the most CHALLENGING task we set ourselves this year. Firstly because Sue is not the best at cycling (I nearly gave up on her, but more on that later). It is an official 70km cycling route that spans across 7 islands from Omomichi in Honshu, to Imabari in Shikoku. The route travels along both cycling-only allocated paths, as well as along the sides of main roads, so decent skills are definitely required.
It is thoroughly advised that you stop midway rather than to complete the entire course in one day, because there are a lot of things to see mid-way.
Before Starting Your Journey
Rent Your Bike Online: http://shimanami-cycle.or.jp/rental/english-reservation
In order to start your journey, it is advisable to plan your route beforehand. We also rented our bikes while still in Singapore, to ensure that we would definitely have bikes to ride. For us, we rented our bikes by sending an email, but there is now an online form that allows you the rent your bike online from Onomichi! (I have never used this before, just sharing this information – not sure how easy is this website to use!!)
Each bike costs a different price, and at cheapest, each bike costs Y1000 a day. Do note that these bikes typically do not provide ropes to tie your belongings to, so it may be better to prepare beforehand just in case! We got some extra string from the bike shop, but they did not have much to spare either.
Returning your bike is fairly easy – there are many shops along the way that you could drop off your bike should you give up, or feel that your butt is too sore LOL
First, we boarded a ferry to Mukaishima – there is no other way to cross other than the ferries. Each ferry costs Y110, and is collected when you dock your bikes on the boat. We had picked up our bikes early in the morning, and soon were on our way!
Once you reached, you would notice a blue line that marked the side of the road – this is the beginner’s course to cycling the Shimanami Kaido. It was a brilliant way to tell where to cycle without constantly checking the map or our GPS. Sue had a bumpy start, because Japanese bikes were not the same (lighter than the ones back home), and she could not get a flat enough surface and kept wobbling. We were wasting a lot of time and I felt we had a decision to make – either she would have to turn back if she felt she was not going to figure it out soon, or we would risk missing the ferry to where our hotel was (the last ferry left around 4pm)! After much desperation, Sue finally managed to get a running start and she was off! She trooped along in front of me and we tried our best not to stop too often to reduce any effort that she would need to re-start.
Mukaishima was a really peaceful island where there were hardly any cars once we left the first town. We cycled along comfortably, occasionally interrupted by working factories nearby. It was really a well laid back town.
We reached the first bridge, and the cycling UPHILL nearly killed us. Crossing the bridge next to the highway (there is a separate lane for cyclists) gave us a great view of the island from above. The downhill slope was also VERY EXHILIRATING. I enjoyed it immensely, but Sue was not so happy about it LOL.
After descending the bridge at the other end, immediately the smell of citrus hit us – this was the fame of Innoshima, known for its citrus fruits! We took a detour to a little hasaku daifuku shop called HASSAKUYA that was recommended (but not along the travel route).
Location: 246-1 Innoshima Ohamacho Onomichi Hiroshima (広島県 尾道市 因島大浜町 246-1)
We couldn’t decide what was the best to try, so we tried one of everything to share! The various types of daifukus were amazingly fresh, and I really wished I could have taken some home. There were many local tourists that stopped by solely to bring some daifuku back home. The different types of tanginess of the Hassaku complemented the sweet Daifuku paste really well. Sue and I completely enjoyed ourselves.
We continued our cycling route through Innoshima. The island was one of my favorites. It had clear blue skies and half of the time we were riding alongside the sea. It was a pity that we didn’t have time to stop and really walk around more.
At some point, Sue followed the wrong blue lines (yes that can happen), and because I was taking photos while she continuously cycled, I had to chase her a long way before she realized I was calling her from behind. Fortunately there weren’t many cyclists around, but there were a few houses along the route that gave us curious looks as I spammed my bell trying to get Sue’s attention.
We turned up and cycled as far up as we could go. It finally reached a point where we couldn’t cycle any further, and we ended up pushing our bikes up to the 2nd bridge.
The 2nd bridge was also more beautiful – the fact that there were less cars and less bikes as we cycled further down made it even more perfect for both of us.
The view from above the 2nd bridge was also breathtaking – I couldn’t resist stopping to take a few pictures (while Sue continued cycling ahead LOL).
Our next stop was Ikuchijima – an island known for its many attractions. The ride here was even better because we could cycling on the sideroad rather than next to the cars – by this time our butts were starting to ache, so it was lucky that we reached our next destination – Setoda Dolce.
Upon reading through a lot of blogs regarding Shimanami Kaido, one of the recommended spots in the area was Setoda Dolce – a Gelato and icecream shop. It was a little shop on the side of the road, but by the time we arrived (around noon), there were also a lot of other cyclists in the area. The air was chilly and cooling, perfect for cycling. I went in to purchase some gelato to try 😀 EXCITED!
I came out with 2 flavors – 1 was a salt flavored icecream (because it sounded interesting), and the other was a type of hassaku. We both shared this portion. The flavors were plentiful and tasty, and we both enjoyed the freshness of the flavors melding together.
Ikuchijima was almost like a beach resort – with clean beaches and fresh air as we cycled alongside the road. By this time we were both quite exhausted, but we pressed on.
The sea views were amazing, and from a distance we could see the last bridge for the day – it was a bittersweet feeling, knowing that it was so close, yet so far.
My trusty bike, parked alongside the road, as we took a quick break (onigiri time!) and did some quick stretching, before continuing on our way again.
Here, we crossed the bridge towards Omishima, crossing the boarder between the two islands. The Omishima bridge was definitely one of my favourite amongst all. It was definitely one of the largest bridges we had crossed, but the views from the bridge was definitely the most amazing. Even Sue could not help but to stop and take pictures when we were there.
Omishima Island was the last of our islands for the day. With only about 1 hour before the ferry came, we forced our muscles and rode like the wind. Omishima was more of a farmer style island, with more forest greens. The smell of hassaku was gone, a smell we were already starting to miss.
Upon reaching the port, we bought our tickets to board the ferry that would bring both us and our bikes to Okunoshima, our last stop for the day, where our hotel was.
Tadanoumi Port to Okunoshima Port > Sanyo Shosen
Ship Schedule: http://sanyo-shosen.jp/omishima/time.html
Cost: Y620 for Adult Round Trip, Y120 per bike 1 way
You can also ferry vehicles across, price differs, you can check out the same website above for more information.
Sun had started to set by the time we reached Okunoshima. Okunoshima was one of the more famous islands – more commonly known as Rabbit Island.
While walking towards our hotel, we encountered many different types of rabbits freely exploring the area. The whole island does not have rabbit food, and if you would like to feed them, you would have to bring the food yourself.
We tried to bribe them with leaves that had fallen on the ground, which turned out that some of the rabbits were curious enough to entertain us. It was definitely a good place for families and children.
Okunoshima was also known to be an island where chemical tests were held many years ago. It was suggested that the rabbits there were a result of abandoned rabbits that were used as test subjects, left to flourish when the chemical plants were closed.
The views were definitely nonetheless amazing, and despite the somewhat sad history, we enjoyed ourselves in the moment, randomly parking our bikes at a corner and exploring the island on foot – a good relief for our butts! By this time, we had already cycled more than 30KM, and even sitting down was a pain in the ass – literally.
Check In & Out: 6th November 2016 to 7th November 2016
We chose to stay at Kyukamura Okunoshima, the only hotel on the island. It was a beautiful hotel, and from the outside we could see many rabbit holes.
Our rooms were really large and comfortable, and we definitely enjoyed ourselves taking a break. In fact, I fell asleep promptly on the sleeping cushions.
Dinner was served at the dining hall, where we had upgraded ourselves to have grilled beef as well as the buffet course that was available.
We happily enjoyed ourselves and our hot meal, ate our heart’s content – remember that we did not really have much for lunch, and we had cycled so far to get here!
The buffet spread was also equally good, and we enjoyd the various fruits available – we had not had fruits in awhile by then! Finally, with our stomachs full and satisfied, we headed back to our room, before heading to the onsen for a quick soak.
The onsen was really comfortable and lovely, and it was super nice to sit there in the hot water and have a chance to relax our sore and painful muscles. We soaked for a really long time, before heading back to sleep.