Has any of our contributors ridden the Shimanmi Kaido bike route in southern Japan . Do you have any information about bike hire, accommodation in minshuku or hotels along the route and general tips please.

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I rode it last year around the 1st of April. It is an excellent ride, especially around then during the cherry blossom season. 

My itinerary was:

  1. Stay in Onomichi.
  2. Ride the length of the Shimanami Kaido via the most direct route (about 80km) to Imabari on Shikoku for two nights.
  3. Day ride around Imabari. Route 154 through Oji Shrine and along the river to Nibukawa Onsen is very nice.
  4. Ride back to Onomichi, exploring the coast around Oshima (southernmost island) and some alternative options further north (about 90km)

The routes are well-marked, including distance markers. Recommended routes have a blue line painted on the side of the road. One thing I didn't realise when I started was there are multiple recommended routes---it would be worth tracking down a route map beforehand for planning.

I hired a bike from the Giant store in Onomichi. They have a broad range of bikes for hire including flat bar road/city bikes, basic road bikes, and high-end road bikes. The Onomichi shop is about 100m from the small ferry to Mukojima Island where the route starts. There is also a Giant store in Imabari that has bikes for hire and one way hires between Onomich and Imabari are possible.

There are also a number of "bike stations" on the various islands. The bikes available there range from Mamachari to basic flat bar/city bikes. They are much cheaper than Giant. Having seen them I would say they are excellent for a short casual ride if island hopping on a ferry. However availability, sizing, and maintenance are not guaranteed so I would recommend hiring a Giant for a longer ride.

Accommodation-wise I was boring. In Onomichi I stayed at the Cycle Hotel in the same building as the Giant shop. Full rate is quite expensive but I got a good deal booking in advance through their website on a week night. In Imabari I just picked a hotel through one of the big internet booking sites. I saw some minshuku online on on the islands. The largest island (Omishima) looked like it would be worth exploring some more and might be a good place to stay.

Tips:

  •  Food options can be limited/hard to find if don't speak Japanese. Have an idea where the Seicomart/7-elevens/Lawsons are (you can see them on Google maps if you zoom in).
  • If you make use of ferries be aware that small passenger ferries may require to put your bike in a bag. Car ferries don't require this. I was going to catch a ferry to the Tobishima Kaido (http://www.cyclonoie.com/tobishimakaido-e.php) for my day ride from Imabari but got caught out by this.

PS. Here are the details for Giant Hire bikes: https://giant-store.jp/giant-store-rentcycle/en/index.html.

Since I thought a phone call might turn into a disaster I emailed them at onomichi@giant-store.jp including the information they ask in English and translated using Google Translate. 

  • Pick-up date
  •  
  • Return date
  •  
  • Type of bikes
  •  
  • Height
  • Your name / Representative name (Group Reservation)
  •  
  • Contact details
  • Store of return bikes (Onomichi & Imabari only)

Thanks Doug, I hope to go next April  with my son who can speak Japanese, have seen some vlogs on youtube but they are light on details so thanks very much for your input.

I would love to hear of your experience and tips after your trip.

I have not ridden down there but have done three tours in other parts of Japan. In each case I took my own bike, assembled it at the airport and rode out. At the end of each ride I returned by bike to the same airport and packed and left.

There is a Jetstar service to Takamatsu on Shikoku Island. You can depart from Australia on Jetstar and arrive right there on the island with your own bike. First night I'd stay at the Toyoko Inn in Takamatsu. I just checked and a room there costs $63 a night including breakfast.

Big chains like Toyoko-Inn and Route-Inn are the mainstays for me in Japan but the small local and traditional places come up from time to time and are always memorable.

 

If you look on NHK World TV online in English.  There is a show called Cycle around Japan.  Although not the route you want, their is a show called From Sea to Mountains, Spring in Ehime.  From your destination at Imabari it is a bit further on.   Regardless of your trip it is a great travel show on a bicycle.  I've put the link to the particular show.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/cycle/201704280600/

Map in English.

http://www.go-shimanami.jp/download/cycling/cycling_map_en.pdf

Have just returned from Japan and with some advice from Doug hired bikes and rode from Imabari on Shikoku the smaller of Japans islands across the Shiminami Kaido Cycleway to Omishima on Honshu a distance of about 80km. Some insight for Peter T who asked for tips.

We started from near Kyoto having stayed at my sons old school friend house for the night, We caught the Shinkansen from Osaka station to Okayama station where we left our suitcases in coin lockers and just took backpacks. As a side trip we went by local train to Imbe in the Bizen area, a very old pottery making region and had a look at the museum and local galleries. Back to Okayama we caught the train to Imabari which crossed the Inland sea to Shikoku. At Imabari we called in at the GIANT shop to do the paper work and leave my pedals to be fitted.We stayed at Koksai Hotel about 10 min walk from the station or Y680 taxi. Rooms were small but evening meal and breakfast food was great cost $192.48 Next morning we picked up bikes at GIANT and started to follow the blue line toward the first of the bridges about 6km, warm calm day 24C ideal for riding. Crossing some of the islands we stopped for lunch at Hakodate and had ramen for lunch, there are plenty of shops and small eateries on the islands you cross and rest rooms also. We continued to Ikuchi Island and had afternoon coffee and ice cream at Sunset Beach and then to our Ryokan Suminoe at Setoda about 4km away. Old building with typical tatame rooms and a large bathroom in the garden where we had a good hot soak before tea, food again was fantastic both for tea and breakfast. Covered 46.9 km which was a good ride for my son age 13 who handled it well, you can ride in a day quite easily but we enjoyed the scenery and stopped along the way. Next day was rainy so we had brought raincoats and covered our packs for the last 32km, rained most of the way but interesting scenery and quite a lot of ship building and repairing on these islands.To reach Honshu the last island has a ferry across to Omishima and a short ride to GIANT to return our bikes, There is a shower block on the street outside 100yen for 5minutes so we showered and changed into dry clothes and took a taxi to Shin Omishima for the Shinkansen to Okayama to pick up our cases then on to Yokohama and to Kamakura our next stop.  Both of us enjoyed the ride and would recommend it if you visit the Hiroshima area of southern Honshu we rode from Imabari because the Giant shop there closes on Tuesdays so cannot return bike as we rode Monday and Tuesday., there is good accomodation in small hotels and Air BNB and even though my son speaks good Japanese I found it quite easy to communicate even with my basic Japanese. You can extend the tour by taking the island explorer routes which are again marked with a blue line or just stick to the Omishima directions on the blue lines which are clearly marked with distances.So have a go Peter T if you want more information just ask.

Wow. Thanks very much. Some mates are heading there in October, apparently there's a date they close the bridges completely for bikes and a ballot is held.
Your pictures are great and makes it sound all very civil and relatively easy. I'll research in greater detail... Thanks!

They have a kind of Gran Fondo over the bridges as you suggest, there is a Youtube clip I saw last year. Riding in Japan is very stress free car drivers are very respectful towards cyclists and peds and give you a wide berth and slow down to give you right of way. Footpaths are wide enough for a ped lane and cycle lane in most towns so safe for young and old to ride no MHL as most people ride mamachari at fairly low speeds.Wish it were the same here.

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