Shimanami Kaido is Japan’s best bikeway and starts in Onomichi on the main island of Honshu and takes you all the way to Imabari on Shikoku Island. The entire cycle route is about 70km and connects six islands in the Seto Inland Sea.
Also known as Nishiseto Expressway, the dedicated bike route includes five bridges and the route around the perimeter of the islands for more of a leisure and scenic view. Along the well-marked trail are resting spots, toilets and other facilities.
Initially, I felt intimidated by the idea of biking the Shimanami Kaido cycling route on my own because I had never done a solo bike trip before. I was nervous about finding my way or not being able to navigate the route. But my nervousness quickly disappeared. All I had to do was follow the blue line on the ground. Plus, there are English signs everywhere. It is almost impossible to lose the path!
Ideally, you will need two days to bike from Onomichi to Imabari and back. But if you can only spare one day from your itinerary, I would still recommend cycling the Shimanami Kaido bike route with my one-day itinerary. Keep reading, and I’ll show you all the details on how to cycle the best bikeway in Japan and see the best highlights along the way.
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What you need to know before you start the Shimanami Kaido bike route
Before you start your cycling journey, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of travel information, including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Here are a few additional tips for cycling the Shimanami Kaido route:
- The entire trail from Onomichi to Imabari is about 70km which takes about eight to ten hours to complete if you are a beginner bike rider.
- Check out the Shimanami Kaido cycling route map and learn about the route before your trip.
- Very important: ride on the left side of the road.
- Bicycles are considered vehicles, so please observe all traffic rules.
- The ramps leading up to a bridge are on an incline but not super difficult.
- For a day trip, start as early as you can. Preferably before 8:00 am.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes for a full day of cycling
- Bring sunscreen and a hat for sun protection.
How to see the Shimanami Kaido cycling route
Ideally, you need two days to complete the entire bikeway, i.e. cycle from Onomichi to Imabari and back to Onomichi. But if you only have one day, you can combine bicycle and bus or cycle only half of the bikeway.
Here are several ways for any independent or solo travellers to see the Shimanami cycle route:
- Two-day trip from Onomichi to Imabari with a bicycle – rent a bicycle in Onomichi, cycle the entire length of the Shimanami Kaido cycle route to Imabari, stay overnight and bike back to Onomichi the following day.
- Day trip from Onomichi to Imabari by bicycle and back by bus – rent a bicycle in Onomichi, cycle to Imabari, return the bicycle there and take a highway bus and local bus back to Onomichi.
- Day trip from Onomichi to Ikuchi Island and back with a bicycle – rent a bicycle in Onomichi, cycle half of the bikeway to the third island, Ikuchi Island and bike back to Onomichi the same day.
Shimanami Kaido Route: one day itinerary
If you only have one day to see Shimanami Kaido, I highly recommend choosing the third option from above, which is renting a bicycle and bike from Onomichi City to Ikuchi Island (the third island along the bikeway).
Along the way, see the colourful Kosanji Temple, Instagram-worthy spot, Miraishin no Oka and Hirayama Ikuo Museum of Art before cycling back to Onomichi.
The day trip consists of a 3-hour cycle (30km) and another 3-hour cycle back. I pinned all the important landmarks in my Shimanami Kaido cycling route map (see below). Essentially, my bike route follows the dark blue line around the islands on this map.
I like this option because cycling is the best way to see Shimanami Kaido and the most economical way to see the best attractions along the bikeway.
I pinned all the important places along the Shimanami cycle path for your reference. You can click the individual pin on Google Maps for more information.
1. Start your journey in Onomichi Japan
Onomichi City is a small port town 40km east of Hiroshima in Hiroshima Prefecture. It is known for its temples, cats and cycling Shimanami Kaido bikeway. And if you are travelling during the cherry blossom season, visit Senko-ji Park as it is one of the best places to see Sakura (cherry blossom) in Japan.
Taking the train to Onomichi is easy, whether coming from Hiroshima from the west or Osaka from the east. Check Hyperdia for train schedules and fares. Or you can refer to detailed directions in my Onomichi Japan Guide.
Ideally, stay overnight in Onomichi and start your Shimanami Kaido one-day tour bright and early the following morning. I would recommend staying at Onomichi U2 Hotel in Onomichi. It is a modern hotel in a refurbished warehouse near the bike rental. The hotel has a restaurant, cafe, bakery and Giant bike rental (if you prefer a road bike). It is Japan’s first hotel designed for cyclists. Check Agoda for current prices and reviews.
2 & 3. Rent a bicycle and take a ferry to Mukaishima Island
There are two Shimanami Kaido bike rentals in Onomichi City.
One is the bike rental at Ekimae-kowan Car Park at the harbour. You can rent a city bike for ¥1,100 a day (and ¥1,100 deposit which you will get back when you return to the same terminal). You can reserve a city bike here or rent it when you get there. This is the most economical option for independent solo travellers.
The second bike rental option is the Giant bike rental at Onomichi U2 Hotel. You can rent a premium road bike for a lot more. Click here for more information.
Before renting your bike, pick up any snacks and drinks at Lawson, a convenience store located north of the bike rental. You will need energy for your 60km bike ride!
Once you have your bicycle, lock and helmet, bike one minute over to Onomichi Port and take the ferry to Mukaishima Island. It costs ¥110 for you to take the ferry on your bicycle.
Once you are on Mukaishima Island, find the blue line on the ground. Always follow the blue line to know you are on the right path. It tells you which direction you are going and the distance you travelled.
4. Innoshima Bridge: between Mukaishima Island and Innoshima Island
Once you are on Mukaishima Island (the first island along Shimanami Kaido), the blue line will take you around the perimeter of the island until you reach the first bridge, Innoshima Bridge. The bridge has two levels: the top is for vehicles, and the bottom is for bicycles and pedestrians.
At the beginning of the bridge, there is a toll booth. It has written instructions and automated audio instructions (but it is in Japanese) about paying. I was told that if you are travelling on a bicycle or walking across, you don’t have to pay. I believe they waived the fee until 2022.
5. Ikuchi Bridge: between Innoshima Island and Ikuchi Island
The bike path will continue to bring you around the perimeter of Innoshima Island until you reach the second bridge, Ikuchi Bridge. The bridge has several lanes, where a few are for cars, and the lane on the outside is for bicycles and pedestrians.
Again, there is a toll booth at the beginning of the bridge. You don’t have to pay if you are riding a bicycle.
After you pass the bridge, the bike path will take you around the north side of Ikuchi Island. Continue cycling on the marked path and follow the signs for Kosanji Temple.
6. Kosanji Temple
After about 30km of cycling, you will reach Kosanji Temple. You can park your bike just outside of the temple entrance.
For an entrance fee of ¥1,400, you can see many colourful temples, pagodas and statues in various Buddhist architecture from different periods. Many of these structures are modelled after other well-known structures in Japan.
Besides admiring the architecture, Kosanji Museum is also on the premise displaying handicrafts, paintings and sculptures.
And if you are visiting during spring or autumn, you might even see cherry blossoms or fall foliage.
7. Miraishin no Oka (The Hill of Hope)
At the back of Kosanji Temple, look for Miraishin no Oka, also known as The Hill of Hope, where you will find 3,000 tons of Italian Carrara marble covering 5,000 square meters.
Miraishin no Oka was designed by an Italian sculptor where white marble is stacked in different ways to create a giant platform on top of a hill. And in the middle of all the abstract statues is a main structure called the Tower of Light. The composition is based on a familial theme representing peace on earth and hopes for the future.
Make sure to visit this quirky spot for fun Instagram photos and an aerial view of the surrounding area.
8 & 9. Hirayama Ikuo Museum of Art & Shiomachi Shopping Alleys
After visiting Kosanji Temple and Miraishin no Oka, walk one minute to Hirayama Ikuo Museum of Art and see paintings by one of Japan’s most famous painters, Ikuo Hirayama.
Painted in the traditional Japanese Nihonga style, the contemporary painter is known for his work on the Silk Road, exploring cultural concepts within the Orient.
The modern art museum has three spacious exhibit halls, a tea lounge and a museum shop. It costs ¥920 to see all the exhibits.
Before leaving the area, cycle around the area just west of Kosanji Temple and see what rural Japan looks like. There are little shops and cafes along Setodacho Setoda (street) and all the way to Shiomachi Shopping Alleys.
10. Dolce Ice Cream
After seeing the best cultural highlights along Shimanami Kaido, get a citrus flavour gelato at Dolce Ice Cream before cycling back to Onomichi. They have many different flavours, but you should try something citrusy as the area is famous for Setouchi lemons.
The ice cream parlour has an outdoor and indoor seating area. Park your bicycle at the bike rack and enjoy a well-deserving break before returning to Onomichi.
11 & 12. Cross Ikuchi Bridge and Innoshima Bridge again
The route going back to Onomichi is the exact same path you cycled. You will bike across Ikuchi Bridge and Innoshima Bridge again. Remember, you don’t have to pay a toll.
Feel free to stop for breaks or take photos at any point of your journey. And when you are ready to get back on the trail, look for the blue line on the road, as it will lead you back to Onomichi City.
13. Take a ferry from Mukaishima Island to Onomichi Port
Cycle all the way back to Mukaishima Island and take the ferry back to Onomichi Port. The ferry costs ¥110 when you bring your bike with you.
Make sure to return your bicycle before the bike rental closes so you can get your ¥1,100 deposit back. The bike rental closes either at 6:00 pm (December to February) or 7:00 pm (March to November).
After a long and exhilarating day, enjoy the evening in Onomichi or continue your journey.
Are you ready to experience the Shimanami Kaido trail?
I did a lot of research on different ways of seeing Shimanami Kaido. And even though I only had one day on the Shimanami Kaido cycle path, I had fun biking and seeing the best highlights along the way.
I love exploring off the beaten path and hope you find this post informative so you can plan your itinerary and bike the Shimanami Kaido bikeway. Let me know how you will see Japan’s best bikeway in the comments.
Thank you for reading my Shimanami Kaido itinerary post
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