Posted by: patriciamar | April 4, 2019

Shimanamikaido with Christina! #biketrip

Why am I biking in the freezing rain?  This is not a vacation.


Biking has become a new joy in my life over the last five years.  Sun, exercise, and destination sandwiches, hotdogs and breweries have improved my life an immeasurable amount.

In fact, I keep having this particular bike experience:   

I am biking on a safe and separated path while staring at a beautiful view.  It’s smooth and quiet, and I find myself thinking, “This is the  most beautiful bike route in the world.”

I’ve had this experience at least three times now– while biking around Lake Tahoe (twice), biking around Crater Lake (twice) and just two weeks ago biking the Shimanamikaido (しまなみ海道) in southern Japan (Hiroshima prefecture).  

All three of these trips were amazing, amazing experiences and each had its joys and its hardships.  In Onomichi, the first biking day was cold, rainy, and gloomy.

We got a late start, and we struggled to find my biking buddy an appropriate bike rental.  There was a biking event going on, two rental places were out of her size, and another was closed for the weekend. She was on a bike that was too tall for her because that’s all they had left. Because there was no way we weren’t going to bike, we started out for the path despite the unfavorable conditions.  

We took the ferry to the first island (Mukoujima/Mukaishima), biked across it to the second island (Innoshima) and then there, turned around after a short loop before heading back to the ferry.

It was really cold. The view was so beautiful that it mostly made up for it, but I admit that the conditions were really rough.  I hardly remember dinner and going to sleep; I was so cold and tired.  At least we saw a rainbow on the way home.  That was nice.

The second day of biking ranks in the top days of my life.  It was beautiful and peaceful and it was so easy to bike 50 miles that it was a joke.  I wanted to bike and bike forever. It was 60s and pretty sunny, and we stopped for coffee and cake and had pastries on the beachside.  We biked from Mukoujima to Innoshima to Ikuchi.  Our turnaround point came on the fourth island (Omishima) after a tiny tasting of local limoncello.

This is real life. Our day was truly that close to a magical bike ride with Care Bears.  I will go back for sure, hopefully sooner rather than later.  There are certain rides that you just have to do twice.


If you’re interested, here are a few more details on how and when to bike the Shimanamikaido.

We stayed in Onomichi at a rented house near Cat Alley (worth a visit as well).  

You can rent bicycles at various locations, but our experience with Giant was really good.  They were super nice, spoke great English, shared our love of biking, and provided us with super smooth bikes (Christina’s bike the second day was the correct size). The prices were not bad.  For me, I rented a hybrid for about $50 for 2 days. They stored it overnight for me as well (Although doing this hurt our start time. We couldn’t get going the next day until 9 a.m. when they opened.  I would still recommend it). The price included a helmet and they gave you one spare tube as well. If you used it, you had to pay for it, but otherwise you just returned it. They also provided lights and a lock.

Many people spend the day biking one way, and then stay in Imabari and bike the route back the next day.  This would work and I might try it in the future.  However, I enjoyed spending two nights in a row at the same place.  We could leave all of our belongings and travel really light while biking.

From Onomich, you have to take a bike ferry (¥110 total for a person and a bike), and that in itself is a treat because you are on a crowded (not too crowded) ferry with so many other bikers.  You can feel the anticipation for the ride whipping around in the air. You also get to stare at a lot of nice bikes and bike gear.

There is no best part of the ride.  It is all great.  You follow the blue line on the road and bike along beaches, up hills surrounded by lemon orchards, across high bridges overlooking the ocean and fly down winding paths with Japanese cycling teams.  There aren’t a ton of eating options, but there are restrooms along the way. Finding one was never a problem. If you are returning to Onomichi, you need to be aware of the time. There is a last ferry and it isn’t very late. I think it varies between summer and winter, so make sure to ask (Giant gave us a copy of the schedule).

Back in Onomichi, if you have the energy, there’s a great craft beer bar on the one main shopping street for the evening after your ride.  They have five taps that are all Japanese craft beer and the owner/bartender was friendly and interested in sharing his love of beer.  The decor is also awesomely weird.

It’s simple to get to and from Onomichi, you can take the Shinkansen to Shin-Onomichi or you can take the JR from Onomichi station to Fukuyama and switch to the Shinkansen there.  The latter is my preference because Onomichi station is well situated in the center of town while Shin-Onomichi is a couple of kilometers away. You may want to take a bus from there to the central part of town.  


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  1. I so look forward to your posts (and wish there were more!) and this one didn’t disappoint. I’d love to do the easy portions of the inter-island one on a no-weather day similar to your day 2! When will you and Sonja be able to meet up and will you see Jill when she’s in town?


    • Thanks, Gina! It feels so nice to have time and energy to write again. 🙂
      I hope to see Sonja in June and do something fun in Kyoto or Nara together! Jill has big travel plans, but I want to meet her for coffee and hear how her pottery tour was!


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