After spending the first part of our time in Japan exploring the dense cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, it was time to escape the heat and bustle of the city for a more sedate day island hoping through the Seto inland sea. Between Onomichi in Chugoku and Ehime in Shikoku the Shimanami Kaido cycle way links many of the Geiyo Islands via a series of impressive bridges. The complete journey is around 70km, but we decided to instead explore the section between Onomichi and Setoda, where we could catch a ferry back to our start point. At about 35km it would give us plenty of time for some exploring and breaks on the way.
We caught the train over from Hiroshima where we had spent the night early in the morning, and set off for one of the bike rental companies located near the station. After catching the free ferry between Onomichi and Mukaishima where the route began. We meandered out of town along some quiet roads with cycle lanes, before picking up the road along the coast. Most of the trail is along quiet country roads, with the exception being the bridges between the islands. The rides across these bridges were among the highlights of the ride, although were often proceeded by long, but gentle climbs in order to gain the height required to meet the bridge itself. These climbs were probably the most impressive parts of the cycle path, with dedicated cycle paths leaving the road at the base of the mountain, and winding it’s way up the hillside in order to meet with the main road as it crosses the bridge.
It was a lovely sunny day, great to be exploring on two wheels, so after a great relaxed ride across the islands of Mukaishima, Innoshima and Ikuchijima we reached our destination of Setoda. What greeted us there was the amazing complex of temples at Kōsan-ji. Although we had arrived shortly after overloading on temple visits at Kyoto, this one was particularly beautiful as well as interesting at the same time. It featured a deep series of caves containing 1000 stone Buddhas, an impressive site, and luckily it was a refreshingly cool place to escape the fierce heat of the day. Overlooking the temple was an area of marble sculptures, so dazzling in the light they were hard to look at!
From Setoda a sleepy late afternoon ferry returned us to our start point and brought to the end a great day and one of the highlights of the trip so far. It will be great to come back and venture along the entire route one day, although next time I might have to bring my road bike!