しまなみ海道 - Shimanami Kaidou - Inland Sea Bridge
Tomoko and I went to Tokyo for the first weekend of April to get her visa from the embassy. When we got back, on the 7th (Tuesday), we headed to Senkoji to partake in Hanami. Hanami literally translates to flower viewing / watching and is usually done during the day. You can read all about it on wikipedia here
. In any case we got some great photos.
While we were there we met two foreigners, Betsy and Judy, who were hitch-hiking from Hokkaido to pretty much all over Japan. They were on their way to Shikoku to attempt the 88 shrine pilgrimage. On Shikoku there are 88 temples and basically people go to that island and visit all 88. If you're walking it takes about 3 months to complete. Some people can complete it in a few weeks by bicycle, apparently my brother can do it on bike on a 3 day weekend
. The entire course is about 1100 kilometers, or pretty much the length of California (North-South). After chatting with the two for awhile we found out they were riding from Onomichi to Imabari, across the Inland Sea Bridge, the next day from about 9am. It just so happened that I was making the same journey from 6am with another member of Ken's Team, Sakai-san.
The journey is roughly 140 kilometers, there and back, and it covers six bridges and a number of islands. The bridge connects the main island Honshu with the next island Shikoku, it's absolutely one of the best rides in Japan and an absolute must for any cyclists visiting Japan. The route is well documented with signs, cycling paths, and green painted road surfaces, combined with the number of other cyclists, of all skills, it's pretty much impossible to get lost.
I left in the morning at sunrise and headed towards the rendezvous point to meet Sakai-san. Early in the morning as he left the house he got a puncture in his wheel and had to head back and repair it so he ended up being 20 minutes late, however that worked great for me, because then I had time to get a sunrise photo over the convenient store where I ate breakfast.
Afterwards it was on to the bridges. The first bridge I don't have a picture of because actually that bridge sucks and the much cooler way to cross is via the ferry in downtown Onomichi. Onomichi is also incredibly beautiful and a wonderful ride to get warmed up for the rest of the day. The first island is Mukaishima and to be honest there isn't much to say about it, its an island, it's first, it has a bridge at the end.
To be honest this bridge is a bit spooky, not so much spooky as in Halloween spooky, but spooky more like, holy fuck this is some scary shit spooky! The reason is because the pedestrian portion of the bridge is below
the actual bridge, as in its the part hanging underneath. To make matters worse the ground where you ride the bike is just wide enough for two bikes side by side, then there is a fence, and on the other side of the fence a 100 meter drop to your death. To make it even more fun its generally windy as all hell and so you sometimes have to ride at an angle to keep your balance. All the scary shit aside, of course it is perfectly safe.
After the second bridge, is Innoshima, this island pretty much doesn't have anything, except for our cooking teacher lives there. There are a few tasty places to eat but its impossible for me to explain where they are on this web site so you'll just have to trust me that they are delicious. Above we have bridge number three, to Ikuchijima, this bridge is considered the most beautiful bridge and thus the picture on the left was taken from the tourist center which is located right at the entrance of the bridge. On the other side of the street from the tourist center is a nice place for camping, I went there once before with my friends who own Little Wing Cafe. On this island, incredibly close to the bridge entrance, is a great place to get some Japanese snacks, the best strawberries and mochi (ichigo-daihuku) in Japan.
Above left is bridge four and on the right is bridge five. Bridge four leads to Omishima and bridge five leads to Oshima, Omishia doesn't have much but a year ago I did go on a cycling tour there with the members of Ken's Team. An old school building was transformed into a hotel type place and it was a great experience. However it was here at bridge four where I ran into some old friends.
Besty and Judy were on their way to Shikoku and we ran into them on the way back home. If either of them is reading this, I hope you made it to all 88.
On the tallest mountain in Oshima there is a great view which is where I took the photo of the last bridge and they have an amazingly delicious salt flavored ice cream. On the right above is a shot of the same bridge but from the Imabari side, which is on Shikoku island. That is the entire ride, we completed it in 8 hours of riding, 12 hours total for the day and we covered 185 kilometers. We met a friend, who came from Hiroshima by ferry, in Imabari and we also ate breakfast there as well as took photos, etc. At the end of the journey when I was rolling into home I realized I spent a long day on the bike when I took, what I thought to be, the last photo of the day - sunset.
However when I got into the house I was welcomed with a very pleasant surprise. Tomoko that day had a cooking class about cakes and desserts so when I came home I had this wonderful little treat waiting for me when I got in.
What a day.
Thanks for reading.