Taking a Break from Cycling
For our next day on Innoshima we decided at breakfast that we would take a break from cycling the Shimanami Kaido, do some sight seeing, followed by a swim on one of the beaches or back in the outdoor swimming pool.
As a first objective for our tour we drove up some steep winding slopes to the parking lot near the top of Shirataki-san 白滝山 五百羅漢 and to climb to the mystic mountain temple at its top. When I consider that some people cycle this road it makes me break out in a sweat just thinking about it as it is a long twisty route up.
Climbing Mount Shirataki-San
We went on to climb to climb for about 20 minutes to the top of Mount Shirataki-san in the excruciating heat, humidity and with the sun glaring down on us. There was barely a tree that could have provided us with shade. Ascending higher we started to get glimpses of the view, which kept us moving on. At last we turned a corner and saw the entrance to the shrine.
The Glistening Seto Inland Sea
There was no one else around and we rested for a short while taking pictures of the villages and the islands in the glistening Seto Inland Sea against the perfect blue sky. If we hadn’t known before we might have thought that the shrine was everything to see but we saw some Buddha statues and ventured further on, awed by the sheer vastness of the area leading to the mountaintop.
Hundreds of Stone Buddhas
There were hundreds of stone-carved Buddhas lined next to each other along the path. In total we could see about 700 Buddha (if you believe the signs) statues, all carved in 1830 by one man over the lost love of his life and hauled on his back to the top. No mean feat!
Finally we reached the topmost part of Shiratakisan with the 360-degree viewing platform at 227 meters high. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, no words can describe such beauty and I think I can say that I had never seen anything else like this before.
Outdoor Swimming Pool
It was time to leave this mystical place and move on if we wanted to go for a swim and make our way over to Setoda where we would stay the next two nights. Jerome wanted to go back to the swimming pool at Shiranamai Beach with curly slides. We didn’t mind as we had a lot of fun too going down the waterslides. Again the pool was busy with local families and there were lots of children queuing to go down the two slides. In japan everybody seems to be wearing a long sleeve top or UV vest over their swimsuits and trunks, more to protect themselves from the sun than any other reasons. It is strange to still consider this fashion, as I would have thought that the younger generations like to show off a tan too, like us westerners. Better safe than sorry and we always used high factory suntan cream instead throughout our trip.
Kakigori as a Treat
After about an hour going down the slides we bought some hot udon from the kiosk in the pool, followed by kakigori, shaved ice, with sticky sweet mango syrup as a treat.
Before we went back to the car, I wanted to take pictures of the weird looking dinosaur and the imaginative playground rides.
Next up Setoda Island
The day exploring the mystic temple at Shirataki-san followed by a swim in the local outdoor pool was the ideal interruption to cycling the Shimanami Kaido. The following day we would discover Ikuchi-jima, another island en route to Shikoku.
Where to Stay on Your Tour of the Shimanami Kaido:
Onomichi: The uber cool U2 Hotel Cycle, even Paul Smith stayed there…
Innoshima: Hotel Innoshima somewhat dated but a truly authentic experience and very helpful staff offering amazing views
Ikujijima: Tsutsui, a lovely, modern ryokan in the heart of Setoda
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