Shimanami Kaido which is located in Japan is known as one of the world best cycling routes. I first stumbled upon this cycling route while searching for things to do in Hiroshima. It is a regular expressway but with a proper cycling trail well designed for cyclists. Here’s what makes the route different and interesting.
Unlike other cycling routes, Shimanami Kaido cycling route stretches across six small islands totalling up to approximately 70 to 80km in length. What better way to explore the place by cycling through the islands. This allows you to make regular stops to witness and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. There is designated cycling marking along the entire route so you will not get lost cycling on your own.
My journey through Shimanami Kaido
There are many ways to get to Shimanami Kaido. As I was in Hiroshima, I travelled from Hiroshima to Onomichi. There is a direct shinkansen from Hiroshima all the way to Shinonomichi Station which takes approximately 33 minutes. From the Shinonomichi station, I took a local bus to Onomichi Guesthouse Fuji Hostel where I will be staying.
Onomichi is a small local town as compared to big cities like Osaka and Tokyo. As such, shops generally close much earlier. By 6 pm, approximately 95% of the shops are closed. There are a few shrines and a ropeway located nearby where you can get a good glimpse of Onomichi. You can choose to explore the place or you can be like me, go to bed early.
Depending on the month you are heading to Shimanami Kaido, you might want to bring proper attire. To be honest, I did not bring proper attire for cycling. I mean a normal sportswear would be sufficient but to cycle when the temperature is 14 degrees and with strong cold wind blowing on your face, that is another thing I did not consider beforehand. But I survived!
I started the journey as early as 7 am. That is the earliest you can start if you are planning to rent a bicycle there as that is the opening hours of the rental shop. Right after you have chosen your bike which cost 1,000 yen per day and another 1,000 yen for deposit, you will go on board a short 5 minutes ferry ride to the first island.
I was worried I would get lost as I will be doing the route alone. But there are very clear marking in blue all along the way. Furthermore, you will bump into many other cyclists along the way. What I like about the trail is really the scenery.
Throughout the ride, you will cycle past the local town on each island and past the bridges. You will cycle through the hills with proper pavement as well as cycling along the expressway with a scenic view of the sea. You can make regular stops at cafes and other attractions like Sunset Beach, shrine, shopping street and etc.
While many people would do the entire route from Onomichi all the way down to Imabari which is highly encouraged. I cycled half of it and cycled back to Onomichi as I do not have much time to spare. But overall, you still get to enjoy the experience of Shimanami Kaido. If you have the time, really do the entire route! Words can’t describe how beautiful the place is.
Shimamani Kaido Cycling Guide
The beauty of the following trail is that it is not very touristy as not many people know about it. Most of the cyclist I met are local travellers which makes it an even more interesting place to explore. While I was researching on Shimanami Kaido, I literally messaged tons of people on Instagram, googled and look at various resources. Now that I have done it, here is a full guide for those who are looking to cycle through Shimanami Kaido. I hope it helps.
1. Where is Shimanami Kaido located
Shimanami Kaido connects from Onomichi to Imabari through 6 islands. You can start from either one of this location and you will still cycle past the 6 islands. If you begin from Onomichi, you will first cruise by Mukaishima, Inoshima, Ikuchjima, Omishima, Hakatajima, and Oshima before reaching Imabari. This is the same if you start from Imabari but on the opposite island sequence. Whichever point you choose to begin with, there will be proper route marking along the way.
2. How to get there
I will share on both how you can get to both Onomichi and Imabari. You may follow accordingly depending on where you are planning to begin with.
Getting to Onomichi
If you own a JR pass, the fastest way regardless of whether you are coming from Hiroshima, Osaka or even Tokyo is to take the shinkansen to JR Onomichi station. If you do not own a JR Pass, travelling via shinkansen will cost you a lot. Alternatively, you can look take the bus which will be a lot cheaper. There are lots of bus provider you can look at but here is one you can consider.
Getting to Imabari
Imabari is located in the northeastern part of Ehime Prefecture. If you own a JR pass, you can take the Shinkansen all the way to Okayama Station. From Okayama Station, get on the JR Limited Express Imabari Station. There are also buses which are available from Hiroshima and other prefecture.
3. Where should you start
Where you choose to start really much depends on where you are heading next. If you are travelling around Ehime Prefecture and will be heading over to the Kansai region, it makes more sense to go from Imabari to Onomichi. Starting from Onomichi will seem like a good idea if you are heading over to Ehime Prefecture later on.
If you are coming from the Kansai region and will continue on with the journey in the Kansai area, you may start from Onomichi and later on take the bus back once you reach Imabari. Alternatively, you can take the JR from Imabari back to Okayama and back to Onomichi.
I have met some cyclist who finds it tiring to reach the other end and need to travel back to Onomichi. What they did was travel to Imabari one day earlier and start their journey from Imabari to Onomichi with the help of luggage transfer service which can easily be arranged via the hostel you stayed in.
Regardless of where you start, here is a softcopy of the map of Shimanami Kaido which will come in handy. You can easily get this from the hostel you stayed in. Also, there is no need for a guided tour as there is designated cycling marking along the entire route so you will not get lost cycling on your own.
4. Bicycle Rental
Unless you have been travelling by bicycle throughout Japan, you probably would not have a bicycle with you for the Shimanami Kaido cycling route. Do not worry as there is bicycle rental available. There are different rental shops available depending on the type of bike you are looking for. The rental rate starts from 1000 yen per day along with a refundable deposit of 1000 yen
There is multiple bike rentals shop available along the Shimanami Kaido route so you can drop the bike off in the event where you choose not to continue on but you will lose the deposit. The deposit is only refundable if you return the bike back to the terminal in which you rented.
5. How long will it take
The entire route is approximately 70 – 80km long with a more uphill slope around Imabari region. The rest of the route is fairly flat with some occasional uphill and downhill slope. Even if you are inexperienced, it is definitely possible to complete it within a day. But many travellers would take occasional stops in each island to explore.
If you are intending to do so, you can spread the journey across two days where you cycle 35km for the first day and another half on the second day. This will give you plenty of time to explore the islands.
I think there are many ways in which you can experience Shimanami Kaido depending on your budget. Here’s a quick breakdown on how much you might incur depending on your budget on the assumption that you start from Onomichi.
Bicycle Rental: 1,000 yen per day & 1,000 yen refundable deposit (provided you return the bike to the same terminal)
Hostel: Approximately 2,500 yen per night
The ferry ride from Onomichi to Mukaishima: 190 yen
Bus back to Onomichi from Imabari: Approximately 2,550 yen
In the event where you stayed for 2 nights and on the assumption that you drop your bike off over at Imabari and lose the deposit, it would cost you approximately 9,740 yen in total.
If you are like me who are just looking to explore Shimanami Kaido and not incurring a lot. I cycled halfway to the 35km mark and cycled back. Sounds ridiculous but I do not intend to spend too much time transiting and cost. From that, I only incurred a total of 6,380 yen (2 nights, 2-way ferry ride and bike rental cost)
It really much depends on your budget and what you intend to see.
7. Place to stay
There is plenty of places to stay. There are also accommodation located along Shimanami Kaido if you are planning to cycle through 2 days.
Overall, Shimanami Kaido is known as one of the best cycling routes for a reason. I truly enjoy the cycling experience as it allows me to explore the scenic view extensively while getting in touch with nature. If you are heading towards the region and have time to spare, do drop by.