Cycling from Osaka to Hiroshima via the beautiful Shikoku Island
This post is a throwback to 2015, when I decided to cycle from Osaka to Hiroshima. As I was spending the summer in Japan, and didn’t have most of the bike touring equipment bike tourists usually carry, I was limited to sleeping in hotels and eating in restaurants. I had read several posts that talked about how amazing Shikoku Island was to ride on, so I decided to ride to Hiroshima over three days, spend a rest day in Hiroshima, and then take a bus back to Osaka. The ride was tough, hot, and long, but totally worth it.
Day 1: Sakai City --> Momonga Village (143.5 km)
Cycling in and out of big cities is always stressful. I decided to leave Sakai, the suburb of Osaka I was staying in, at 5am so that I could get an early start for Wakayama, where I would have to take the ferry across Wakayama Bay to Tokushima on the far eastern side of Shikoku Island. One piece of kit that I highly recommend in Europe and Japan is the Compact Rinko Bag Quick Carry. The beauty of this bag, is you only have to take off the front wheel, attach it to the side of the frame, slip the bag over the bike, hook the carry handle from the seat to handlebars and go. I’ve used this bike carry system to get onto trains and boats in Japan and Sweden without having to pay extra for a bike. Cost about $45, but pays itself off in the short run.
The ride from Sakai to Wakayama is pretty uneventful. As bikes are not allowed on the expressways in Japan, you end up riding though small towns nearly the whole way to Wakayama. Not the most exciting ride, but it was nice to do an early morning ride through small Japanese towns, while watching the country come alive. I reached Wakayama after about 2 hours, and had a nice 2.5 hour ferry ride to Tokushima, which costs $18. This gave me time to have some breakfast, and enjoy a little nap before reaching Tokushima. The good thing about this tour is that I was riding an old road-bike, so it was quicker going than a touring bike. However, I didn’t have a rack so I had to carry my things in a small backpack, which made for a sore back at the end of the day.
The ride was Tokushima to Momonga Village was great. I spent most of the ride following the river in the valley, while riding on a separate bike path. It was fast and smooth. The only downside of the day is that it was early July, days before a Typhoon would hit, and it was nearly 40 degrees outside. This called for lots of stops at 7/11 for Pocari Sweat and ice-cream.
Day 2: Momonga Village --> Ikuchi Island (134km)
I found a great guest house up in the mountains that was cheap and not too far off the bike route, so I decided to make a short detour. It was a really great place, with a great ambience. The next morning I knew would be tough, so I went to bed early to get some well needed rest. I left as soon as the sun came up.
The day started with a beautiful ride slowly rising up into the mountains, going up narrow country roads that were completely shaded by the trees. After about 8km I turned to go up a mountain overpass, which took me up nearly 600 metres over the next 2km. I then went through a tunnel and was rewarded with an incredible downhill to Shikokuchuo City, where I would then hug the coast all the way to Imabari. This is where you reach the Shimanami Kaido Bridge, which goes for 63km while crossing 7 beautiful islands through the Shimanami Sea Way. All the bridge segments have completely separate bike/walking paths, and even some of the ramps to get onto the bridge are for bikes only. Everything, from the paths, the views, and the air is so fresh and amazing, it’s no wonder that this bike route is often cited as one of the most beautiful rides in the world.
I do apologize for the crappy video quality of the video below.
I was fortunate to get a couchsurfing host on Ikuchi Island, so I had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with a local to show me around the area, like the lookout on the mountain in the middle of the island.
Day 3: Ikuchi Island --> Hiroshima (138km)
The final day of riding would take me 138km, with an amazing start to the day riding across the remaining two islands on to Onomichi before turning west towards Hiroshima. I decided to ride along the coast, rather than taking the more direct route towards the city. It was really interesting to ride this route, as Hiroshima Prefecture has many ship building factories, and it’s really interesting to see all these mega-ships taking shape. The day was really hot, as usual, but I was really excited to be arriving at Hiroshima.
I arrived in Hiroshima near dinner time and managed to find a place to stay, before heading out to have some food. I’m a massive fan of okonomiyaki, and was really looking forward to having the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. The Hiroshima version of the dish is different from the Osaka version in that it includes yakisoba noodles and a lot more cabbage, as well as pork belly, green onion, and some other veggies. It’s not really a pancake, but does use a Japanese style batter to mix and cook with all the ingredients. A truly delicious dish.
The last day of my trip was my chance to see all that Hiroshima had to offer, from its dark history to its bright future. Only giving myself one day was a mistake. I should have given myself an extra day, so I didn’t have the time to truly appreciate the city. I started my morning by taking the train to Miyajimaguchi so I could cross over to Itsukushima Island to see the Floating Tori Gate. The gate dates back to year 593 and is a registered UNESCO World Heritage site. I spent about an hour in the park, but didn’t do much more, as I had limited time. I spent the afternoon going to some of the must-see sights in Hiroshima, such as the Hiroshima Castle, Atomic Bomb Dome, and the Peace Memorial Park. It’s really something to see the Atomic Bomb Dome and the photo galleries of what Hiroshima looked like after the bombing. The skeletal remains of the dome really puts into perspective the supreme amount of destruction and tragic loss of life that the Americans inflicted when they dropped the atom bomb. To think that a city was chosen as a target simply because it had previously escaped from being bombed and the US could clearly measure the bombs effects is both disturbing and heartbreaking. It’s good to see that Hiroshima is now a thriving and developed city that has re-built itself into a shining example of peace and re-birth.
A must visit on any trip to Japan. I can’t wait until I have the chance to go again.