The first part for our ride along the Shimanami Kaido we had planned for the next day, and it would lead us by ferry to the island of Mukoujima.
There is also a rental station inside the Ekimae-Kowan Car Park just next to the Onomichi U2 cycle hotel if you need to rent a bicycle. Fees for a day’s rental start from 1000Yen for a standard adult bike and 300Yen for a child’s bicycle. You also will be charged a deposit of a 1000Yen,which will be returned if the bicycle is returned to the same terminal.
I wouldn’t recommend cycling the whole of the Shimanami Kaido, 70km in total in one day, as it is a strenuous ride for most people, especially little ones and definitely not in the heat of the summer. We had planned to cycle the individual islands of the Shimanami Kaido in four or five one day round trips, but we had to change our plans in the end, but I’ll write about that later.
We crossed the narrow, river like canal to Mukaishima. This was to be one of the many ferry rides to come this holiday. It only took 4 minutes and cost as little as 10Yen, equivalent to 1p! Bikes were charged extra but we could take them onto the ferry, in fact Onomichi seems to be well adapted to the many cyclists visiting the area. If you were hoping to pedal across the first bridge of the Shimanami Kaido, connecting Onomichi to Mukaishima I have to disappoint you, this is not possible and shouldn’t be attempted otherwise you might get into trouble with the local police as it is very dangerous and has no cycle ways. Also for all those who imagine the cycle path going along the expressway I can assure you, apart from the bridges connecting the islands we mostly cycled on designated cycle path or on quiet side roads. If you are worried about the safety of your child cycling on these roads, you should consider choosing one of the quieter islands, which are more off the beaten track. However, we saw many local youngsters from as young as five six on parts of the trail, even on small bikes, cycling with their families.
You can get informative maps most of them in English of the Shimanami Kaido in the tourist information in Onomichi, located right next to the ferry stop, or ask in your hotel. Some islands provide their own maps, with additional information like sights and accommodation.
Once we had crossed to Mukoujima on the ferry we cycled through the town of Mukaishima, where we stocked up on some food and drinks for our ride in one of the supermarkets. Later on, as expected, there was little opportunity apart from the odd vending machine located along the way to get more. Taking fluids is essential especially in the summer heat and whilst in much of Japan vending machines are on every few streets the ride can be rural so it can be a long stretch to the next one.
Once out of town the recommended route followed the coastline next besides the road. It was a pleasant ride, past residential houses and other cyclists greeting us with a friendly “Konichiwa”.
Soon enough we spotted the Innoshima-hashi bridge, towering high above the Seto Inland Sea. To get onto Innoshima-hashi bridge and cycle across to Innoshima-jima we had to cycle underneath the bridge first, past a beach and then for another kilometre to the next houses where a winding path and a long slow slope up led us to the entrance of the bridge.
Innoshima-hashi bridge is constructed over two levels, the top one for the expressway and underneath for pedestrians, cyclists and small motorbikes. The lanes are divided into two, left for bikes, right for motorbikes. We could hear the cars and trucks going over our heads while we pedalled across to Innoshima, the bridge moved gently in the wind and vibrated by the moving cars and trucks but the views were fantastic of the sea and islands.
When we arrived on the other side of Innoshima-hashi, we saw that motorbikes are charged a small fee to cross the bridge but that it is free for bicycles to ride across. We cycled back and the warm air barely cooled us on our fast run back down, on the wiggly cycling path to Mukoujima.
I had spotted a restaurant 立花食堂 on our way past earlier, just next to the turn off for Innoshima-hashi bridge. We got a table outside on the wooden terrace overlooking the lush green garden and were just in time for last orders before the restaurant was closing. It is worth thinking about meal times as the smaller restaurants are often closed between 2 and 5.
After lunch we browsed in the Tachibana store next door, watched some children splash in the footbath in front of the shop.
We then headed for the little beach next to Innoshima-hashi bridge. Please note this beach is not marked or signposted as a beach and has none of the usual lifeguards of a Japanese resort but it can be seen both from the bridge and the road.
The beach was busy with local families and the water warm and clear. After a swim and laze on the beach we went back on route trying to finish our circle of the first island.
Our map suggested a stop at Onomichi Marine Youth Center but apart from a playground we couldn’t see anything worth stopping for.
Here we turned left up the hill for a few kilometres before arriving back at the outskirts of Mukaishima and the ferry back across to Onomichi.
Back at Onomichi U2 Cycle Hotel we rested our legs sitting on the veranda overlooking the canal with a well-deserved ice cream and a cool Setoda lemon drink while playing cards and watching the people go by.
We had spotted a restaurant on our walk home from dinner the day before, which we chose for tonight’s dinner. Restaurant Yamaneko Mill, is located on the second floor, we were seated on wooden benches with windows overlooking the ferry port, Chris and I had the set menu, which was more than enough food for the three of us.
After dinner we decided to walk off the overload of delicious courses by strolling around the covered arcade and back along the sea front, stretching our tired legs from the cycling.