Shimanami Kaido—An Island Hopping Journey
Total distance: 161.7 km.
Best Season: March to Novembe
It feels like flying in the sky when you cross the bridge towering high above the channel. You’ll be awe-struck by the stark contrast between the view from the soaring bridge and that of the dormant fishing village below.
The Nishi-Seto Expressway (AKA the Shimanami Kaido) is a motorway that features a number of bridges connecting a chain of islands between Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, in western Honshu and Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, in Shikoku. These bridges, except one between Onomichi and Mukaishima Island, have separate bike lanes, so you can enjoy hopping from island to island as you bike across the Seto Inland Sea.
The Shimanami Kaido is only about 80 kilometers long, but instead of zipping across to the other side, make stopovers on some of the islands, take small local ferries for locals and enjoy to the beauty and charm of the route to the fullest. We start our ride from Fukuyama City to the east of Onomichi. After stopping to have a look at Fukuyama Castle near the station, take K22 to the historic port town of Tomonōra which still boasts sites and buildings reminiscent of its heyday. In the pre-modern times, ships waited here for rapid currents of the straits to turn directions.
From there, continue on K47 and K365 to Tozaki, from where you can take a small ferry to Mukaishima, enjoying the short ride with locals. The route generally follows the motorway from the Inoshima Bridge to the Kurushima-Kaikyo bridges, but you have the luxury of stopping at interesting places and taking side trips on the way.
The slopes of Ikuchishima are covered with citrus trees, while Ōyamazumi Jinja in the western part of Ōmishima is famous for its collections of armor and swords from ancient times. The view from Mt. Kirōsan on Ōshima is worth the climb to the peak.
Three Kurushima-Kaikyo bridges make up the climax of the route. This airborne section stretches some four kilometers to the shore of Imabari on Shikoku Island. From here, JR Imabari Station is just another four kilometers away.