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Shimanami Kaido Guide: How To Island Hop & Cycle Your Way Through The Seto Inland Sea

Shimanami Kaido guide

It’s easy to rely on buses and trains when travelling in Japan, given the country’s impeccable public transportation system that brings you virtually anywhere. But to truly explore the nooks and crannies, you’ll want to cycle around certain areas or go on particular routes in the country

Crossing 6 islands and comprising stunning scenery along the way, the Shimanami Kaido is an excellent cycling path for seasoned and beginner riders alike. Our guide will show you why this seaside bicycle route should be next on your bucket list. 

Start & end points

Shimanami Kaido - road
Image credit: @miiipika

Starting from Onomichi City in Hiroshima, the official cycling route of the Shimanami Kaido begins on Honshū, Japan’s largest island. The quaint hillside city offers several historic temples and shrines, as well as sightseeing spots that can be explored on foot

Cyclists can dedicate a day exploring these spots, before boarding the ferry that’s headed for Mukaishima, the first of many islands on the cycling path. 

Shimanami Kaido - ferry
Image credit: Travel Info and Photograph of Onomichi Hiroshima

Known as Japan’s shortest ferry route, the Ekimae Ferry (駅前渡船) takes about 5 minutes to reach Mukaishima, and can be boarded at the Ekimae Port that’s situated next to JR Onomichi Station. Passengers boarding with their bicycles will have to pay a fee of ¥110 (~USD0.78). There are no ticket booths, and a staff member will collect the payment once you’re onboard. 

Note that there is no fixed schedule, though ferries come and go regularly at 10-minute intervals. The first ride starts at 6am, with the last ride departing at 10.10pm daily.

Ekimae Ferry Port
Address: 9-1 Onomichi Waterfront Building, Higashigoshocho, Onomichi, 722-0036 Hiroshima

Onomichi Port (Ekimae Kowan Car Park) (Bicycle rental and returns)
Address: 9 Higashigoshocho, Onomichi, 722-0036 Hiroshima
Opening hours: 7am-7pm, Daily (Mar-Nov) | 8am-6pm, Daily (Dec-Feb)
Contact: 0848-22-5332

Shimanami Kaido - shimanami sign
Image credit: Shimanami Japan

Spanning several bridges and toll roads, and clocking in at about 75km, the path is well maintained and signposted. A distinct blue line outlines the official route throughout, making it accessible even for beginners. 

For seasoned cyclists, it is possible to complete the route in a day, though exploring the islands will warrant a few pit stops and more time. To fully take in the stunning scenery along the way while island hopping, dedicate at least 2 to 3 days to this trip and stay at lodgings overnight.    

Shimanami Kaido - kurushima kaikyo bridge
Kurushima Kaikyō Bridge.
Image credit: Shimanami Japan 

The route ends officially in Imabari City of Ehime Prefecture, a city famed for its towels. Here, you can spend a day exploring, before heading to its capital city Matsuyama, and other smaller but equally attractive towns.

It is also in Imabari where the majestic Kurushima Kaikyō Bridge is located, the world’s first triple suspension bridge which stretches across the Kurushima Strait. If you’ve rented a bicycle, be sure to return them to the cycling terminal Sunrise Itoyama, which is located conveniently at the foot of the bridge. 

Rental Cycle Terminal Sunrise Itoyama (Bicycle rental and returns)
Address: 2 Chome-8-1 Sunabacho, Imabari, 794-0001 Ehime
Opening hours: 8am-8pm, Daily
Contact: 0848-22-3911 | Sunrise Itoyama Website

Islands in between

1. Mukaishima

Shimanami Kaido - ushio chocolat
A box of goat milk chocolate from Ushio Chocolat.
Image credit: @ushiochocolatl 

Mukaishima (向島) is the first island and your gateway to the start of Shimanami Kaido. The small island offers a few notable spots that are worth stopping by, including Ushio Chocolat, an artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate factory that’s located in the mountains overlooking the Tachibana Coast.

Here, you can get your hands on handmade chocolate bars that are made using high-quality cacao beans, as well as quirky products such as goat milk chocolate, which costs ¥1,300 (~USD9.27) for a box of 4.

Shimanami Kaido - Iwashijima Itsukushima Shrine
Image credit: 

Those willing to venture a bit further can cross the Mukaishimao Bridge and pay Iwashijima Itsukushima Shrine a visit, a prominent torii gate that is erected on the island’s beach. Though smaller than the famous namesake on Miyajima, the vermillion red gate is still splendid and stands in vivid contrast against the sea.  

Ushio Chocolat
Address: 2200 Tachibana, Mukaishima-cho, Onomichi, 722-0071 Hiroshima
Opening hours: Thu-Mon 9am-5pm (Closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays)
Contact: 0848-36-6408 | Ushio Chocolat Website

Iwashijima Itsukushima Shrine
Address: 1967 Mukaishimacho Iwashijima, Onomichi, 722-0072 Hiroshima

Onomichi Community Centre Mukaishima (Bicycle rental and returns)
Address: 5531-1 Mukaishimacho, Onomichi, 722-0073 Hiroshima
Opening hours: 8.30am-7pm, Daily (Mar-Nov) | 8.30am-6pm, Daily (Dec-Feb)

2. Innoshima

Shimanami Kaido - innoshima
Image credit: @sara1210_ 

Crossing the Innoshima Bridge will bring you to Innoshima (因島), the second island on this leg of the journey. The official cycling stretch on the island measures around 8km, but off the main path and around the island are several spots that should not be missed.

Shimanami Kaido - mount shirataki
Image credit: @misu_mom2018 

In particular, the 226m-tall Mount Shirataki (白滝山) has over 700 gohyaku rakan (五百羅漢), or stone Buddha statues, that are lined narrowly from the foot of the mountain to the summit. Though the climb up is considerably steep, you’d be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea and the nearby islands.  

Shimanami Kaido - dinosaur
Image credit: @doratomo 

One of the most prominent landmarks on the island, Zaur-kun is a gigantic dinosaur statue that’s located in Innoshima Amenity Park. The white dinosaur was part of an exhibition held in 1989, but it was relocated here and has been gazing into the sea ever since.

Mount Shirataki
Address: Innoshimashigeicho, Onomichi, 722-2102 Hiroshima

Innoshima Amenity Park
Address: 57 Innoshimaohamacho, Onomichi, 722-2101 Hiroshima

Habu Port (Municipal Chuo Parking) (Bicycle rental and returns)
Address: 1899-31 Innoshimahabucho, Onomichi, 722-2323 Hiroshima
Opening hours: 8.30am-7pm, Daily (Mar-Nov) | 8.30am-6pm, Daily (Dec-Feb)
Contact: 0845-22-3362

3. Ikuchijima

Shimanami Kaido - the hill of hopeImage credit: @kousanjimuseum 

Ikuchijima (生口島), one of the more frequently visited islands on the Shimanami Kaido, is an excellent place to stop for rest and relaxation. Following the official cycling route will bring you past Setoda Port, a major ferry terminal on the island that’s in the vicinity of several sightseeing spots. 

Kōsanji, a prominent temple in the area, is built by a wealthy businessman from Osaka in dedication to his mother. 

Interestingly, the layout of the temple ground is perfectly symmetrical, and many of the buildings are replicas of famous temples in Japan, such as Byodoin’s Phoenix Hall. The temple’s museum also holds a large collection of important cultural artifacts and art.

Shimanami Kaido - the hill of hopeImage credit: @kousanjimuseum 

Just atop a hill above Kōsanji Temple lies a 5,000sqm-wide white marble garden called The Hill Of Hope (未来心の丘), an artistic venture of the temple. All the marble used here is imported from Italy, and several abstract structures are dotted around the large walking area, making it a fascinating place to peruse after the temple visit.

Admission: ¥1,400 (~USD9.98) for adults, ¥1,000 (~USD7.13) for university and high school students, free for middle and elementary school students
Address: 553-2 Setodacho Setoda, Onomichi, 722-2411 Hiroshima
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily (Last admission at 4.30pm)
Contact: 0845-27-0800 | Kōsanji Website

The Hill Of Hope
Address: 553-2 Setodacho Setoda, Onomichi, 722-2411 Hiroshima
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily (Last admission at 4.30pm)
Contact: 0845-27-0800 

Setoda-cho Tourist Information Centre (Bicycle rental and returns)
Address: 200-5 Setodachosawa, Onomichi, 722-2413 Hiroshima
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily (Closed from 29th-31st December)
Contact: 0845-27-0051

Onomichi City Setoda-cho Sunset Beach (Bicycle rental and returns)
Address: 1506-15 Setodacho Tarumi, Onomichi, 722-2404 Hiroshima
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily (Closed from 29th-31st December)
Contact: 0845-27-1100 | Setoda Sunset Beach Website

4. Ōmishima

Shimanami Kaido - cyclist sanctuaryCyclist Sanctuary, a popular spot at Tatara Shimanami Park for commemorative photo-taking.
Image credit: @shi___road 

After crossing the Tatara Bridge, cyclists will cross the prefectural border and arrive in Ōmishima (大三島) of Imabari, the largest island on this journey. To take a brief break, stop by the roadside station at Tatara Shimanami Park, where you can recharge and take in the stunning view of the cobalt blue Seto Inland Sea. 

Expect to cycle through rolling hills and work out a sweat on this island. The spectacular view offers some consolation as you pedal and pant up the gently sloped low hills. If you have time to spare, there’s a 45km-long route along the perimeter of the island, which allows you to explore the island in more depth.

Shimanami Kaido - oyamazumi shrineImage credit: @purimaro.n 

As the oldest shrine in Ehime Prefecture, Ōyamazumi Shrine is said to be approximately 2,600 years old and is the head shrine of over 10,000 branches in the country. Known for protecting sailors and soldiers, the shrine has been visited and revered by feudal lords and warriors who have come to seek success for their battles. 

Within the shrine stands the Treasure House and Maritime Museum, which houses an impressive collection of samuraifighting equipment, of which the majority are regarded as important national treasures. 

Tatara Shimanami Park (Roadside Station)
Address: 180-2 Kamiuracho Inokuchi, Imabari, 794-1402 Ehime
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily
Contact: 0897-87-3866

Ōyamazumi Shrine
Address: 3327 Omishimacho Miyaura, Imabari, 794-1393 Ehime
Opening hours: Sunrise-5pm, Daily (Last admission at 4.30pm)
Contact: 0897-82-0032 | Ōyamazumi Shrine

Treasure House and Maritime Museum
Admission: ¥1,000 (~USD7.13) for adults, ¥800 (~USD5.71) for university and high school students, ¥400 (~USD2.85) for middle and elementary school students
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily (Last admission at 4.30pm)

Kamiura Rental Cycle Terminal (Tatara Shimanami Park) (Bicycle rental and returns)
Address: 9180-2 Kamiuracho Inokuchi, Imabari, 794-1402 Ehime
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily
Contact: 0897-87-3855

5. Hakatajima

Shimanami Kaido - hirakiyama parkImage credit: @doratomo 

Though the cycling route only briefly skirts the west of Hakatajima (伯方島), there’s no reason for you not to deviate from the official path and explore what the small island—about a hundredth of the size of Tokyo—has to offer.

At the peak of the 149m-tall Mount Hirakiyama is Hirakiyama Park, a lovely spot that commands a sweeping view of the Tatara Bridge, Hakata-Ōshima Bridge, as well as the neighbouring Ōmishima. In spring, thousands of cherry blossom trees bloom and blanket the mountain in a sea of pale pink hues.

Shimanami Kaido - salt ice cream
Image credit: @momo_kodama 

Having prospered in the past for its thriving salt industry, Hakatajima offers local specialities that utilises the pantry staple. While you’re stopping for a break at roadside station Marine Oasis Hakata, be sure to grab a salted vanilla soft serve for a mid-route pick-me-up. Conveniently, the bicycle rental station is also located there.

Hirakiyama Park
Address: 962-2 Hakatacho Ikata, Imabari, Ehime

Marine Oasis Hakata (Bicycle rental and returns)
Address: 1668-1 Hakatacho Kanoura, Imabari, 794-2302 Ehime
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily
Contact: 0897-72-3300

6. Ōshima

Shimanami Kaido - kirosan observatory park
Image credit: @moo81516 

Upon crossing the Hakata-Ōshima Bridge, you’ll reach Ōshima (大島), the last island on the Shimanami Kaido stretch. At the southern end of Ōshima is Kiro-san Observatory Park, a viewing point on the top of Mount Kiro that boasts a panoramic and arguably the best view of the Kurushima Kaikyō Bridge and Seto Inland Sea.

Equally breathtaking is the steep 3.5km climb to the top – cyclists are advised to recuperate well before attempting to ascend the mountain.

Shimanami Kaido - view from kirosan observatory parkView from the observatory deck.
Image credit: @kohei0417abe 

Shimanami Kaido - murakami kaizoku museumImage credit: @chroskay 

For a slice of culture, the Murakami Kaizoku Museum offers an in-depth look into the history of the Murakami Clan, prominent pirates who controlled the Seto Inland Sea from the mid-14th to 16th centuries. 

Despite the label, the Murakami Clan is nothing like the rowdy sea hooligans that come to mind when pirates are brought up. The sea tribe helped maintain order in the region by protecting trade and ensuring the safe passage of ships.

Kiro-san Observatory Park
Address: 487-4 Yoshiumicho Minamiura, Imabari, 794-2115 Ehime
Opening hours: 24 hours, Daily
Contact: 0897-84-2111

Murakami Kaizoku Museum
Admission: ¥310 (~USD2.21) for adults, ¥160 (~USD1.14) for students
Address: 1285 Miyakubocho Miyakubo, Imabari, 794-2203 Ehime
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 9am-5pm (Closed on Mondays & 29th December-3rd January)
Contact: 0897-74-1065 | Murakami Kaizoku Museum Website

Yoshiumi Rental Cycle Terminal (Bicycle rental and returns)
Address: 4520-2 Yoshiumichomyo, Imabari, 794-2114 Ehime
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily
Contact: 0897-84-3233

Bicycle rental

Shimanami Kaido - bicyclesImage credit: @kayoook_

Unless you’re an experienced cyclist who owns a bike, you’ll need to get your hand on a bicycle to traverse the Shimanami Kaido. Thankfully, they can be easily rented with Shimanami Rental Cycle, a rental system with return terminals dotted across the islands. 

This means that you can drop off your bike at the end of the route at Imabari, or at any of the designated terminals located on the respective islands. Addresses are listed above.

That said, if you return your bike at a terminal on a different island, you’ll have to forgo the ¥1,100 (~USD7.85) deposit that’s paid at the start, as it’s only refundable if you return the bikes to the terminal you borrowed it from, or to another one on the same island. 

Besides the deposit, regular bicycles cost ¥2,000 (~USD14.26) per day. Fancier options such as electric-assisted ones and tandem bicycles are also available (¥2,500-¥7,000, ~USD17.83-USD49.92). Reservations can be made here


Shimanami Kaido - soil setoda
Soil Setoda, a newly opened boutique hotel in
Image credit: @soil.setoda

Thanks to the popularity of the Shimanami Kaido, cyclist-friendly accommodations can easily be found across the islands. Besides providing a place to crash for the night, many of the lodgings – which range from boutique hotels to family-run bed and breakfasts – offer useful services such as bicycle storage and delivery.  

Shimanami Kaido - onomichi u2Onomichi U2 which is located 5 minutes away from Onomichi Station.
Image credit: Onomichi U2

Depending on your itinerary, you’ll need to spend your nights on different islands. Shimanami Jitensha Tabi no Yado offers a comprehensive list of lodgings that can be found along the route. The list for Imabari side can be found here, and Onomichi here.

Other expected expenses

Shimanami Kaido - road
Image credit: @mista4787

Besides accommodations and rental fees, other necessary expenses include forking out toll fees for crossing the numerous bridges between Onomichi and Imabari. For cyclists, the total toll is ¥500 (~USD3.57), but the fees are currently waived until 31st March 2024.

Those travelling with baggage will also need to engage luggageforwarding services. For ¥2,200 (~USD15.69), Sagawa Express offers sameday delivery for luggages under 30kg and total linear dimensions (sum of your bag’s length, width, and depth) of not more than 160cm.

Cycle your way through the Shimanami Kaido

Long-distance cycling may sound challenging for many, but the scenery will make for a memorable travel experience that’s different from usual sightseeing activities. Bookmark the Shimanami Kaido cycling route for when Japan fully opens up for travel

For more, check out: 

Cover image adapted from (clockwise from top left): @sara1210_, @kayoook_ and @kohei0417abe