Setoda, Ikuchijima,  Japan – Colourful Temple And A Dream House

Colourful Kosanji temple and the beautiful Chouseikaku villa

 

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Having accomplished the Shimanami Kaido the day before, we decided to give ourselves a break from cycling and spend the day sightseeing on Ikuchi-shima.

shimanami kaido ikuchijima palm tree

ikuchijima setoda high street shop

ikuchijima japan setoda shop octopus

setoda ikuchijima cycling

First on our list was 耕三寺 Kosanji, a temple in the centre of Setoda. I thought that our visit would be short, but we were in for a big surprise.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine gate

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine entrance gate doors

We should have known that this isn’t your average Japanese temple from the intricate, colourful gate surrounded by lotus flowers, which we had noticed a few days before when sampling the octopus.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine rakando corridor

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine rakando kozo nurse

Walking up the steps through the entrance gate we gazed in amazement to the vastness of the temple grounds. The vermilion coloured beams seemed an even brighter red in the sunshine in contrast to the other colours present. The detail surrounding us was so intense we had no way of focusing on a single point. We could not believe we were in Setoda anymore. This looked more like a temple you would expect in China! It was built by Kanemoto Kozo, a wealthy businessman from Osaka, as a dedication to his mother.

After his mother’s death he abandoned his career in steel and became a Buddhist monk. He used up a large portion of his wealth from 1935 onwards in this thirty-year project to recreate important temples and shrines beside his mother’s summer residence. He added his own improvements classic buildings found elsewhere in Japan and he created his vision of a holy place of gratitude to his mother. It is, without a doubt, a breathtakingly beautiful example of what we would call kitsch.

The entrance fee of 1400Yen for adults and 800Yen for children over 14 seemed a bit steep at first but after our visit felt fully justified. Jerome also received a free Goshuincho, a stamp booklet. This is a tradition in Japan, when visiting temples. Jerome collected his stamps at different stations throughout the temple complex. Goshuincho make a great past time for children and adults alike and make a memorable souvenir. You find them at many tourist sites.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine goshuincho

The lotus blooms around the entrance were amazing and distracted us for a while from the man made sights.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine lotus flower

Straight ahead, up some steps we could see a five-storied pagoda (Kanemoto’s mother was laid to rest here), in the middle of two pavilions with religious artefacts and paintings on show. Kanemoto Kozo collected more than 2000 pieces as part of an art collection in his lifetime. Most of them can be seen in the museum across the road from Kosanji temple but many are in and on the buildings in the complex.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine chapel

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine pagoda

We walked on, up the hill, through another beautiful wooden carved gate, the design a copy of Nikko’s Yomeimon gate, with the same incredible artistry and design.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine yomeimon gate

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine yomeimon gate detail

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine yomeimon gate

Then we found ourselves in the main part of the temple grounds. We could not stop gazing at every thing it was unlike anything we had ever seen before in Japan.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine main hall

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine dragon fly

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine main hall detail

We took the narrow winding path through a jizo-statue studded hill, which ended in a grey concrete building housing a lift and a flight of stairs. We opted for the air conditioned lift, to take in a few seconds of cool air before stepping back out onto a white marble desert, 未来心の丘 Miraishin No Oka, Hill Of Hope. How could this be part of a Japanese temple? So alien to it’s surrounding, Miraishin No Oka was designed and created over a period of 16 years by sculptor Itto Kuetani and opened to the public in 2000. Over 5000 square meter of Italian Carrera marble was shipped to Setoda to cover the mountaintop.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine hill of hope marble hill temple complex

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine hill of hope marble hill

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ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine hill of hope marble hill

I was totally amazed by the whiteness against the deep blue sky and the vibrant colours of the flowers planted along the path leading up to the “Tower Of Light”.

By now our eyes started to ache from the light reflecting off the marble and we descended back around some paths to reach the left side of the main hall, where we walked into the cool and dark 千仏洞地獄峡 Senbutsudou, Cave of a Thousand Buddhas. It took nine years to build this artificial concrete cave underneath the Kosanji’s temple complex, with a depth of 15 meters and a total length of 350 meters. The stone lining the cave is originally from Mount Fuji and Mount Asama. We could feel the temperatures drop immediately and the dampness of the cave, which unfortunately is slowly destroying the painted reliefs of hell, which line the walls. These images might be disturbing for smaller children, as they are rather gruesome and would not recommend showing to little one as they might cause nightmares. We walked a few more turns ahead and then tunnel opened out into a cave. We could see hundreds of buddhas along the walls, standing all the way up to the ceiling. The cave spiralled up and the down again into two more grottos, one even with it’s own waterfall. It was almost unbelievable to walk through. Back up some steps and we found ourselves in the bright daylight under the bodhisattva of mercy.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine hill of hope marble hill buddha statue

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine japanese garden

We found we had enough of the brightly coloured temples and religious symbols, but before we left the temple ground I wanted to visit Kanemoto’s mothers house, the Chosaikaku Villa.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine chouseikaku villa

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine chouseikaku villa

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine chousaikaku villa altar room ceiling

In contrast to the temple we found a traditional and, in contrast, plain looking wooden structure overlooking a Japanese garden at one end. We were the only visitors to the house and therefore could enjoy its beauty and design. Once again we were in for a surprise. The villa fuses both western with traditional Japanese shoin-zukari architecture. We entered the mansion though the kitchen, with its earthen floor, where we had to leave our shoes behind. We then walked first into the two-storied western-style part of the house and thought we were transported back to Europe at around the beginning of the 20th century. The rooms show an elaborate attention to detail, such as stained glass windows from Germany and a marble bathtub. It was very popular at the time to build houses with a western influence. Walking back along the corridor past the housekeeping room back into the Japanese style part of the villa we were amazed by the luxurious rooms we found here. I especially felt like I was inside a piece of artwork rather than a house built for everyday life. The villa truly stands apart from anything I have ever visited in terms of grandeur and attention to detail.

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine chousaikaku villa garden

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine chousaikaku villa engawa

ikuchijima setoda kosanji temple shrine chousaikaku villa garden

My favourite spot was to sit on the engawa, or veranda, just inside the foyer, overlooking the pond in the garden, listening to the cicadas hum and watching the dragonflies. I could have stayed here forever – in fact I would have loved to move in straight away. Maybe I had found my dream home? The boys pulled me back into reality, we had totally forgotten to keep an eye on time and with our tummies grumbling went off to have lunch before the best cafes stopped serving for the afternoon.

Our stomachs filled we cycled over the bridge to Takaneshima the next small island trying to find a beach away from the more popular Sunset beach. From the bridge we could spot some local children on a platform jumping into the clear water, a great spot to spend a few hours.

Setoda ikuchijima beach

ikuchijima setoda swimming beach

The beach was backed by a high concrete wall; providing us with shade. The beach appeared to be popular with local children due to the platform. Jerome had a lot of fun jumping off, as did Chris. I took to reading my book instead with a dip now and again to cool down.

Shimanami Kaido, Japan – Cycling The Final Three Islands And One Of The Longest Bridges In The World

Cycling the final part of the Shimanami Kaido

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Chris and I woke up early this morning as we had to be downstairs for breakfast at 7:30am. It is a danger of staying in Japanese Inns as the Japenese people do seem to like an early start! I had not slept very well as I could hear some drunk people making a racket until 2am in the morning, not something common in Japan. A hot coffee and some delicious breakfast soon woke us up. Jerome could not wake up that morning so we left him to sleep for a little while longer.

setoda ikuchijima shimanami kaido cycling

shimanami kaido cycling signs

shimanami kaido ikuchijima cycling wild boar

Once Jerome was up and ready we cycled into our what would be the longest cycle ride for Jerome in a day. We had decided to get as far along the route as we could.

shimanami kaido tatara hashi bridge

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea

We started back past Setoda sunset beach, which seemed still empty at this time of day, towards our first bridge on The Shimanami Kaido for the day.

shimanami kaido cycling path seto inland sea

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea bridge

We had already passed a few cyclist doing he same route, some of them appear to have been on their bikes for longer than us. We pedalled up the winding path, broke out into a sweat and kept on looking for the next vending machine.

shimanami kaido ikuchijima cycling japan

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea plants

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea barrier

The next two islands on route, Omishima and Hakata-jima, we barely cycled on, the main route cuts the corners off although you can go right round any of the islands if you want to extend the rides.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea hakata jima shipyard

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea shipyard

The three bridges and short hops quickly got us to the longest part of our route, Oshima.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima bamboo forrest

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea hill climb

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima bus stop

Oshima has the most climbs and elevations on the entire route and therefore we decided to cycle along the coast road, which we thought would have less cars and also perhaps be less hilly. We soon found out how wrong we were, it was a pretty and interesting ride around the coast but there were two hills, the first was easy, however, the second was steep and too long to manage in the heat. Jerome was getting exasperated by the stifling heat, and combined with pushing his bike up the “mountain” he was getting tired and angry. We stopped a lot, worried that the sun and physical work out might be too much for him. Thankfully there were plenty of vending machines on route, even in the oddest places; we must have spent a fortune on drinks that day.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima cat

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima wildness

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea bamboo

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea bend

The great thing about a hill is that once you climbed up, there’s always a way down. It was a long bendy road, which we cycled down in the warm wind barely cooling us down.  Jerome loved the decent and the bad mood lifted.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima hair dresser barber

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima advertising

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea abandoned house

We had Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima style for lunch at a little restaurant 一休 in Yoshiumicho. The mama-san prepared the tamago pancakes on her tappan and we then ate them directly off the hot plate in front of us. It was worth making the detour.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima okonomiyaki

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima noren

We pedalled past quiet villages, through stunning countryside, a dockyard where 2 massive container ships were being built. In the end we turned a corner and finally got an amazing view of the last bridge on The Shimanami Kaido, the Kurushima-Kaikyo-hashi bridge.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima boat

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea shipyard

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea oshima fisher

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea beach

At 4015m Kurushima-Kaikyo-hashi is the longest suspension bridge structure in the world. Constructed with six soaring towers and suspending the bridges on their thick steel cables it made it exhilarating to cycle across and definitely the absolute highlight of The Shimanami Kaido.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea Kurushima Kaikyo hashi

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea Kurushima Kaikyo hashi

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea Kurushima Kaikyo hashi beach

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea Kurushima Kaikyo hashi

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea Kurushima Kaikyo hashi

There was a gentle breeze and we stopped several times to take in the views of the Seto Islands and the sparkling sea beneath us. Jerome and Chris wondered at the engineering on the magnificent structure, even the route up took us round and round a twisting path that gave fantastic views.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea Kurushima Kaikyo hashi

At the other end we went to the Sunrise Itoyma Center to find out about buses back to Setoda. The friendly gentleman at reception told us that it was possible to take the bus but only if we had Rinku bags for the bikes, he even could have found us last minute places, even though you should really book the bus the day before you cycle. Unfortunately we did not think to bring them and therefore had to look at other options. If you do plan to cycle and get the bus back make sure you check this in advance.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea Kurushima Kaikyo hashi visitor center

After some help from the man at the cycle centre it became clear out best option was to take the ferry back to Innoshima-jima, leaving from Imabari port seemed the easiest option.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea imabari port

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea imabari ferry

The downside? Well, this meant an extra un-planned few hours of extra riding would be needed on already tired legs. We would have to cycle into Imabari port for the ferry, and would then have to continue back from Habu on Innoshima-jima, via the Innoshima-hashi bridge all the way back into Setoda and on to our minshuku.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea imabari ferry

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea Kurushima Kaikyo hashi view

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea imabari habu port ferry

In total this added another 15km to our already long cycle ride, the only good part was a lazy ride on the ferry for about an hour and a chance to pick up some refreshments as the sun went down in Habu.

shimanami kaido cycling seto inland sea innoshima hashi

After eating we had to complete the last part in the dark we had not brought our bike lights with us either, so I propped up the iphone in my basket and used its torch as a light to guide us through the darkness on the winding trail up to our last bridge of the day. Thankfully the cycle route back was almost all on a dedicated cycle path the whole way and after the food Jerome treated it like an adventure. So in the end we got to cycle all bridges, including Innoshima-hashi bridge, completed a ride as long as the whole route in one day, and it truly made a lasting impression on us, one we will never forget. In every holiday there is always one special day – perhaps this was the one for us on this visit.

Ikuchijima, Japan – Setoda Sunset Beach

Lazy afternoon on Setoda sunset beach

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Ikuchi-jima was our next stop, a short drive in the car on the express way, over the next bridge on the Shimanami Kaido, which we hadn’t cycled yet and probably would have give a miss…but more on that in a later post if you are curious.

Ikuchijima setoda juicy fruit minshuku hotel

In Setoda I had booked a stay in a Minshuku, basically a Japanese bed and breakfast. I had found the Minshuku Juicy Fruit online and had liked the look of the blue wooden building, next to the Inland Sea. When we got there I was a bit disappointed, as the building seemed to have weathered not quite as well as shown on the pictures. Nevertheless, we got a spacious, tatami room with our own small bathroom. We had to set up our futons ourselves, but having done it many times before that wasn’t an issue.

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach glitering sea

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach pontoons children

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach atmosphere

After check in we still two hours until sunset and so we decided to cycle to the nearby Sunset Beach for a swim. Setoda is famous for this Sunset Beach. All the brochures and websites mentioned Sunset beach as a must visit destination on the islands on the Shimanami Kaido. When we got to the beach we thought, that’s it? We definitely had been to nicer beaches on this holiday before. I could understand that children would love the slides and the pontoons, also it was enclosed with nets to protect from jellies (not that we have ever seen one on our many swims here in Japan) and the water was very shallow, so ideal for small children.

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach swimming

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach restaurant

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach swim rings

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach art sculpture

There are some restaurants, toilets and showers available, which probably makes it popular with locals and tourists alike. However, we found the sand very rough; more like gravel in places and the water didn’t seem to be as clear as on other beaches. Even allowing for this it was still a good spot to stop for a swim, Jerome quickly made friends with some of the local kids on the pontoons and slides.

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach architecture

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach port

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach architecture residential houses

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach architecture stadium

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach party bus

After about an hour we decided to cycle a bit further along, we looked at the art sculptures that were dotted around along the promenade before turning around and cycling back into town to find a restaurant and have dinner. We found the kids that Jerome had played with on the beach cycling into town and joined their ride following them back to the next town along the coast.

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach local children

Octopus is considered a local delicacy. We found a restaurant opposite the Kousan-ji temple; you can spot it on the giant octopus outside. Chris and I enjoyed a dish of cold noodles with octopus sashimi; Jerome went for hot udon instead – he is still not quite totally food adventurous.

Along the way back to our minshuku I saw a lot of woman sitting in small groups on the harbour walls having a chat with each other. Now that the sun was setting and the heat was over they all seemed to come out of their homes and enjoy this beautiful time of day. They all smiled and greeted us with a happy “Konban-wa”.

ikuchijima setoda local woman

Seto island sea setoda ikuchijima sunset waves

Ikuchijima setoda sunset beach after dark

Innoshima, Japan – Mystic Mountain Temple

Our visit to mystic Shirataki-san

 

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For our next day we decided at breakfast that we would take a break from cycling, 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. 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.

innoshima shiarataki road sign steep hill

innoshima shiarataki temple buddha

innoshima shiarataki shrine path fern

innoshima shiarataki shrine office

innoshima shiarataki shrine bell

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.

innoshima shiarataki shrine seto inland sea view

innoshima shiarataki shrine rock view

innoshima shiarataki shrine view express way

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.

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddha statues

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddhas close up

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddha statue

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!

innoshima shiarataki shrine bell mountain top

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddhas mukoujima

innoshima shiarataki shrine buddhas galore

innoshima shiarataki shrine row of buddhas

innoshima shiarataki shrine scenery

Finally we reached the topmost part of Shiratakizan 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.

innoshima shiarataki shrine mysyic place

innoshima shiarataki shrine close up buddha

innoshima shiarataki shrine vanessa

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 with the 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.

Innoshima outdoor pool guests

innoshima outdoor pool bench

innoshima outdoor pool slide

innoshima outdoor pool kakigori shaved ice

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.

innoshima outdoor swimmingpool changing room

innoshima outdoor pool curtain

Before we went back to the car, I wanted to take pictures of the weird looking dinosaur and the imaginative playground rides.

innoshima park brontosaurus

innoshima park dinosaur

innoshima park whale slide

innoshima park playground birds

innoshima park penguin playground

innoshima park playground ride

Yugejima, Japan – Cycling On An Island Lost In Time 

A day of cycling through rural Yugejima

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innoshima hotel futon

Innoshima Shimanami Kaido ship building dock crane

Innoshima shiamanami kaido village bus stop

Innoshima shiamanami kaido village shop

Innoshima shiamanami kaido village rooad mirror

According to the pre-planned cycle route that I had worked out before the trip we should have headed to Ikuchijima today, but instead we decided to take the ferry across to Yuge-jima, the island that let off the fireworks the previous night. We had seen it looked interesting on the map and could not resist exploring off the beaten tourist trail again!

Innoshima shiamanami kaido karoto port

Innoshima shiamanami kaido karoto bollard

Innoshima shiamanami kaido karoto ferry yugejima

Innoshima shiamanami kaido ferry car

The ferry to Yuge-jima went from Karoto not Habu and runs a few times every day. It was a short ride to the ferry stop past some shipyards with huge cranes, which Jerome found really interesting. Once we arrived at Kamuyuge on the island we noticed that time seemed to have stopped years ago. Life seemed to be at a different pace and the houses all looked more quaint and older than we had seen so far on our trip.

Innoshima shiamanami kaido yugejima flowers

Innoshima shiamanami kaido yugejima

Innoshima shiamanami kaido yugejima architecture

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima flower powerWe pedalled along the sea front, next to Yugeseto straight towards the northern end of the island. Yuge-jima is famous for it’s seawater onsen, which we cycled past after coming off the ferry. The hot seawater is said to have beneficial effects on the skin. As it was a hot day we decided to go for fresh colder seawater instead, and went to a beach in the next village along the coast.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima cycle path

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima roadside

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima shed

After lazing on the beach and a swim we cycled back towards Yuge town and went to a small café. A mother and daughter run the café. They offer small set menus for lunch and breakfast. Jerome went for the breakfast burger, ordering a second one as he was still hungry and it was so good! Chris and I had a rice bowl with pork. The daughter of the cafe spoke very good English and told us that she had studied abroad and that came back because she missed the island and to help her mum with the café. Before we left, they asked us if they could take a picture of the three of us which I guess would go up on the wall with the others from guests. We didn’t mind at all as they were so friendly to us.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima cafe

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima

We continued our cycle ride onwards towards the first bridge of the day’s ride and spotted a small beach on Kamijima which we went to cool off before heading onto the second bridge connecting to our third island of the day, Ikina-jima.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima bridge

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima beach

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima sea defence

Here we could see the big dockyards on Innoshima that we had cycled past in the morning on our way down to Karoto. Completing a pretty cycle route through islands less often frequented by tourists.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima bridge crash barrier

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima shipyard

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima ferry habu

innoshima shimanami kaido cycling done

We took the ferry across to Habu port and went for a little shopping spree in the Daiso store. Daiso stores can be found all over Japan. Daiso’s nearest equivalent is an English Pound or German Euro shop almost everything costs only 100Yen. Except that the range and quality in Daiso far surpasses any European pound or Euro shops. We bought swimming goggles, playing cards, Japanese sweets and much more. It’s a great place to pick up some toys for kids. When Jerome was younger we bought him a Shinkansen train set which he would play with in our hotel room for hours on end, and every time we came back to japan we used to extend it with more track, trains and coaches.

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima daiso

innoshima shimanami kaido yugejima

innoshima shimanami kaido habu port architecture

innoshima shimanami kaido no parking

That evening we went through the same routine as the last two nights, first a hot bath, looking out the big windows to the islands where we had cycled, followed with a delicious Kaiseki dinner.

innoshima hotel shimanami kaido sunset

innoshima hotel shimanami kaido kaiseki dinner eel

innoshima hotel shimanami kaido dinner kaiseki cuisine

Innoshima, Japan – Island of the Murakami Pirates

Riding our bikes on Innoshima

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Breakfast was almost as elaborate as the dinner we had last night at Hotel Innoshima. We tried to eat as much food as we could. There was plenty of rice and miso soup we could have filled up on.

Innoshima hotel traditional japanese breakfast

Hotel Innoshima restaurant We then went and drove to the other end of Habu town where we parked our car in a pachinko parlour car park, it seemed like the easiest option for free parking.

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path

In a few minutes were were ready with our bikes for the second stage of our island cycling. We started from Ikuchi-hashi bridge and our goal for today’s ride was to get back to Innoshima bridge, around the second island in the chain of the Shimanami Kaido.

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path cyclist

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path seto inland seaThe first part of the path was along the busy road next to the shoreline but once we had passed the town hall traffic got less busy. We saw a giant radish outside a pickle plant, perfect spot to stop and take a photo.

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path giant radish

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path fruit crates

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path bus stop

The road curved around, up a small hill and down into an area with a large ship building factory. We could see a gigantic car carrier ship being built in the dock.

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path ship building dock

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path car carrier

Further down the road we reached busy しまなみビーチ – Shimanami beach, with an 因島アメニティプール outdoor swimming pool.

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path beach

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path beach

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path beach shade

The pool has two curly slides and Jerome wanted to go on them. We paid the entrance fee and changed into our swimming costumes. The next hour we spent going down the slides. We were the only gaijins (foreigners) and to the amusement of the Japanese, I was probably the only girl in a bikini as the locals mostly cover up to avoid the sun and stay white skinned for beauty.

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path outdoor swimming pool

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path outdoor swimming pool slides

Next to the beach were some food stalls, selling standard Japanese takeaway fare of yakisoba, chicken katsu…etc.

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path beach restaurants

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path food stall menu

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path beach shop

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path food stalls tables

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path beach goers

Here we had a basic cheap lunch with a view of Shimanami beach and the Seto Inland Sea.

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path brontosaurus

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path playground slide

Right behind there is a small playground with a slide and see saw in the shape of animals and a huge Brontosaurus!

We pedaled on up the hill, turning left before getting to the Innoshimahashi bridge, where we had turned round the day before. Over the rise we free wheeled down to the sea where we found a much quieter beach with clear blue water and golden sand. There were two other families on this beach and Jerome made friends with their kids, playing Frisbee and with a bouncy water ball from Waboba.

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innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path fun beach

It always amazes me how easy it is for children to ignore language barriers.

innoshima shimanami kaido cycle path fisherman

The sun was already hiding behind the trees on the hill and it was time for us to ride back on our bicycles to the car.

For our return we cycled past the 因島フラワーセンター Innoshima Flower Center, up over a steep hill and down to the town hall, which was shorter but somewhat more strenuous than the way out, especially for Jerome who was getting tired by now.

Innoshima shimanami Kaido hay ball garden fields

We got back to Hotel Innoshima in time to have a hot bath before dinner. Like the previous night we were served seven courses of Kaiseki cuisine, each dish was delicious. It is amazing how they can take one fish and serve it in six or seven different ways to make a whole multi-course meal.

innoshima hotel hanabi firework yugejima

innoshima yuge jima fireworks hanabi

innoshima hotel yugejima fireworks hanabi

Our concierge at Innoshima hotel had told us that tonight there were going to be fireworks – fire flowers in Japanese or – hanabi on the island across the bay, Yugejima. He invited us to watch it together with guests from the hotel on the top terrace. We gathered on our plastic chairs, together with the other guests, including many children and stared into the dark of the night waiting for the fireworks to start. We could see the colourful explosions of the rockets and of course we could only hear the bang a few seconds later because of the distance between the island and us. The fireworks were elaborate and went on for sometime maybe over 20 minutes. How can such a small island deliver such an elaborate firework show? I will never know, but it was amazing to see even from the distance.

Onomichi, Japan – The Famous Temple Walk

Our last day in Onomichi

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The following day, after having checked out of Onomichi Hotel U2 Cycle we stored our luggage in the car and walked past the station, we crossed the train tracks to the start of the Onomichi Temple Walk for which the town is rightly famous.

Onomichi japan temple walk umbrella

Onomichi japan train station

Onomichi temple walk shop

The walk is one of Onomichi’s sights that shouldn’t be missed. It consists of 25 temples that suffered little from the bombing in Word War II and is linked today by a well sign posted trail.

Onomichi japan temple walk painting

Onomichi temple walk shrine architecture

Onomichi temple walk flowers

The walk led us up the steep hills, over seemingly endless stairs in the morning heat past small shrines, big temples complexes including pagodas and cemeteries. The route was marked by a coloured path and with clear signposts. A map for the Onomichi Temple Walk can be collected from the Tourist Information Office by the station, in your hotel or downloaded online.

onomichi japan temple walk graveyard

onomichi temple walk grave

We climbed higher up towards the mountaintop and stopped to take a drink from our water bottles every so often, and took in the view over the city and the Seto inland sea in the distance.

Onomichi temple walk steps

onomichi temple walk post box

onomichi temple walk pothole cover

Jerome seemed to like stroking the many cats along the path, lazing in the shades of trees and houses. Some people also call it the cat walk because of all the cats that can be seen along the path.

onomichi temple walk cat walk

onomichi temple walk shrine bell

onomichi temple walk steps

At one of our many stops to rest we were in awe of a woman pulling a rope with big wooden beads making a clicking sound instead of the traditional bell to bring the deity at one of the temples. Having been to many shrines and temples this seemed to be quite a rare feature.

onomichi temple walk senkoji temple

onomichi temple walk senkoji view ema

onomichi temple walk senkoji ema wooden wishing plaques

onomichi temple walk senkoji temple visitor

Shortly afterwards we reached Senko-ji temple, a bright red structure built among huge rocks that overlooks Onomichi. Senko-ji temple dates back to 806 and according to legend the stone ball on top of the 15 metres high rock Tama no Iwa used to glow at night illuminating the surrounding area.

onomichi temple walk ropeway tama no iwaMany people visit this temple by taking the ropeway that passes the temple literally overhead, but the stairs are perhaps more fun and better exercise!

onomichi temple walk signpost senkoji temple

Here we decided to finish our temple walk, as the heat was getting more oppressive and we had seen enough of the temples.We climbed the last few metres to the observation deck, next to the ropeway station. Using the ropeway might be the best way to enjoy the Temple Walk if you are travelling with small children besides which child wouldn’t love to go on a ropeway? I would advise you to get a one-way ticket and then stroll the route downhill and detour as far as little legs will allow you, but be aware the Temple walk is not accessible with a pushchair!

onomichi temple walk catwalk lovers

onomichi temple walk viewing tower

onomichi temple walk collecting Goshuincho

onomichi temple walk school festival

We took in the full view from the roof of the observation tower on Senko mountain and wanted nothing else more than to cool off. Thanks to the shop just below the peak we bought a Seto orange ice cream and enjoyed it before it melted in the summer heat. Having spotted a local outdoor pool on the map we thought there would not be anything better than to jump into the refreshing water of an outdoor pool. However, we were disappointed when one of the staff told us that it was closing in 15 minutes for their lunch break!  We then made the decision to go back to our car onto the ferry.

onomichi japan ferry guard mukoujima

On the way we bought some fresh sushi in one of the supermarkets on Mukoujima and drove to the beach we had been to the day before for the swim instead. We ate our lunch in the shade of Innoshimahashi bridge and then went to the beach.

Mukoujima park beach lunch

muloujima restaurant bar

Mukoujima island flowers

Jerome played catch with some of the other bathers, children make friends so quickly, while I relaxed in the sun and read the next few pages on my kindle.

mukoujima island beach

mukoujima beach seto inland sea

Check in time for our Ryokan Innoshima was not until late afternoon.The modern ryokan I had booked stands on a hill in the Setonaikai National Park   with views outstanding views of the docks and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea. Hotel Innoshima offers both western and Japanese style rooms, but when travelling with children and to experience sleeping on a futon on tatami mats it makes sense to go for Japanese style room.

innoshima hotel room tatami floor

innoshima hotel futon

Our room provided us with stunning views towards Ikuchijima and Ikuchi bridge and the sun setting over the hills and into the sea.

innoshima hotel terrace lantern

innoshima hotel lantern

hotel innoshima view sunset

Some people might raise their eyebrows at the architecture of the building; I have always taken a liking to weird architecture. The hotel is housed in a building that probably was built in the 1960/70s but has been recently renovated. The rooms are therefore up to date and they have a super onsen with saunas for both men and women. Jerome was impatiently waiting to go down to the onsen and sit in the hot bathtub with Chris. I went into the female part, where I stored my clothing and items in one of the lockers. The onsen is located on the lower ground floor but has panorama windows looking into field of cherry trees (must be incredible to be there during sakura) and the sound of the cicadas sitting on their tree trunks. After the ritual of having washed myself thoroughly, as you do when going to an onsen, I found myself restlessly sitting in the bath. I cannot, for some reason, relax in the hot bath, so instead got dressed in my yukata and purchased a bottle of my favourite cool Itoen jasmine tea from the vending machine.

Innoshima hotel yukata

When the boys came back, having steamed in the tub with some of the locals, Jerome insisted on having a Ramune. This is very traditional Japnese lemonade made in glass bottles with a marble stopper. Refreshed, we went for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. The restaurant still seems to be stuck in a bygone era from the times of the “Japnese Bubble” with brass chairs, orange tablecloths and curtains. The food made more than up for the décor, it was fresh, Kaiseki style and cooked for us by 3 chefs, each of them specialised in their own cuisine. They also prepared a special children’s meal for Jerome and the other children in the restaurant while we got served 7 courses, plus small a dessert. We booked the standard dinner plan and we could only imagine what the deluxe plan must include. Everything was delicious and one of great things about Kaiseki dishes is that we ate food we normally would never dream of ordering.

innoshima hotel terrace party

When we walked back up the stairs to our room we could see outside on the terrace a group of guests having their dinner under the light of red and white coloured lanterns.