Cycling the Shimanami Kaido Near Hiroshima; Perfect Freedom for Outdoor Physical Distancing

ByHugh Cann
Apr 22, 2020

Cycling the Shimanami Kaido Near Hiroshima; Perfect Freedom for Outdoor Physical Distancing

You’ve rearranged your album collection. Your bookshelf. Done all the paperwork you can stand. Swapped over your wardrobe from winter to summer. You’ve watched Netflix too often. Reading, well always come back to that I personally prefer to do that lying in bed at night. It’s hard not to feel things are getting old. What about cycling? Out in the great outdoors. Easy to keep distance between you and others. Exercise. Invigorating if not exciting. How boxes does that tick?

Around Hiroshima. Cycle up to Mitaki temple for a stroll. Cycle down to Miyajimaguchi and across to Miyajima. Pretty quiet over there. But the best cycling route and rapidly becoming one of the best in Japan is the Shimanami Kaido route. It was originally designed as an express vehicular route linking Honshu (mainland) with Shikoku, but in the process, they added a cycling course into the mix. What we have ended up with is a fabulous 70-kilometer road-and-bridge network that spans six islands connecting the main island with Shikoku and features bike and pedestrian lanes for its entire length. A feature of the route is the Seto Ohashi (Great Seto Bridge), which at 13.1 kilometers (8.1 mi), ranks as the world’s longest two-tiered bridge system.

You are rewarded over and over with spectacular scenery of the Seto Inland Sea along the way. The Shimanami Kaido (Island-Wave-Sea Route) runs from Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture down to Imabari in Ehime Prefecture. And the flexibility of cycling gives you the freedom stop at any time for that Kodak moment, whether halfway across a bridge or taking an impromptu detour to check out lighthouses, shrines and the natural wonders that car travelers tend to fly past.

The cycling route starts at the charming city of Onomichi (a lovely one hour and fifteen-minute ride through the countryside on the Sanyo JR line – approx.. ¥1500) and finishes at Imabari on Shikoku.

In Onomichi, there are two cycling terminals located about 150 meters from Onomichi Station. The public cycle hire is in a parking lot west of the Green Hill Hotel at the waterfront. The other, the Giant Onomichi store, is located in Onomichi U2, a redeveloped warehouse hotel beside this parking lot – this is a little more expensive and also a little less flexible in where you can drop off the cycle. The public cycle hire first mentioned has 14 cycle rental terminals along the way; you can go at your own pace, spend a night at a campsite or inn or just hand your bike in at the nearest rental terminal and hop on a bus. There are three ferries operating between central Onomichi and Mukaishima, the trailhead of the cycle trail.


5-11 Nishigoshocho, Onomichi, Hiroshima 722-0037
Seven days 7 AM – 7 PM
Phone: 0848-22-5332


Address: 5-11 Nishigoshocho, Onomichi, Hiroshima 722-0037
Seven days 9 AM – 7 PM
Phone: 0848-21-0068

At Imabari, the two cycling terminals are located at Imabari Station. The terminal of the regular system is located a few steps from the station west exit along the railway tracks, while the Giant Imabari store is located inside the station complex. Another large terminal is Sunrise Itoyama, which also serves as a lodging; however, it is a bit difficult to access. There are infrequent buses from Imabari Station to the Sunrise Itoyama terminal. Alternatively, it is about a 2000 yen taxi ride from Imabari Station or a 30-minute walk from Hashihama Station. For those who make reservations beforehand, a shuttle bus ride can be arranged.

I did this with my two sons about 7 years ago and took two days. It was a trip we often look back on as one of those great trips we spent together.


Alternatively, you might like Tobishima Kaido a shorter 31km crossing five islands start at Kawajiri near Kure and comes to an end at Okamura Island. The Tobishima Kaido is known for its beaches, history, and citrus fruits. But, it is also the destination of choice for many cyclists who prefer a quieter and more rustic cycle course than the popular Shimanami Kaido (which is further to the East). From Okasmura Island ferries connect to Imabari on Shikoku and Omishima Island to the east – both on the Shimanami route.


Cycling is a great way to see the countryside, interact with the locals and but keep distance between you and others in these uncertain times.

Hiroaki Kaneko / CC BY-SA

About the author

Hugh Cann subscriber