This is a piece I wrote about for Japan Tourist about a guesthouse that Nori and I stayed at during our Shimanami Kaido bike trip last week (we’re going to write up a blog about that lil ‘adventure shortly!)
Crossing the epic Shimanami Kaido on bike is one of the highlights to any trip of Japan. From the stark beauty of the 6 islands you traverse to the architectural marvels of the longest series of suspension bridges in the world; there is no better way to cross from Honshu to Shikoku (or vice versa).
Departing from either Onomichi (Honshu) or Imabari (Shikoku) the 70km ride is easily marked and is sprinkled with gorgeous panoramas of the Seto inland sea. There are also many interesting places to visit on each of the islands, such as temples, museums, ancient fishing villages, beautiful beaches and mountain parks. There are rent-a-cycle terminals (nice hybrids) at both Onomichi and Imabari and at several places along the route; and at 500¥ a day to rent the nice bikes, it truly is the cheapest way to enter beautiful Shikoku!
At 70 kms, start to finish, it can definitely be done in one day, but you’d be missing a majority of the attractions and probably a bit too winded to really enjoy the unique atmosphere of the islands. Why not spend a night at one of the many guesthouses or ryokans along the way? At almost the midpoint of the journey, there is a splendid beach, aptly named sunset beach, and right in front of the beach, lies one the Shimanami Kaido’s best accommodations; Setoda private hostel located on Ikuchijima Island.
My wife and I pulled up to the rustic set of buildings after 5 hours of riding on a perfect October day and were warmly checked-in to our private room by Omoto san - the very genki owner. We immediately headed to the perfect beach to enjoy some brews and to congratulate ourselves on a day well-biked. Though the Japanese style, tatami rooms themselves are very basic and a bit worn-out, the real charm (and value of the place) is contained in the Onsen that Omoto san himself made at the back of the complex overlooking the beach.
As we settled into our respective baths, both my wife and I were graced with huge rocks situated around a hinoki wood room with the sunset filtering through the window overlooking the beach and Seto-inland sea. About as close to Japanese paradise as you can get! After our baths we sauntered over to the dining room for our huge delicious meal of locally caught fish (both sashimi and grilled) and pork katsu.
At 3000¥ per person (4800¥ with breakfast and dinner) it is a steal. Though the staff have only a basic level of English, this place is probably the most foreigner friendly place on the route and they do their best to make all feel at home. The hostel was run as a HI hostel for many years and the layout and condition of the buildings show their age, but what the buildings lack in luster, the place more then makes up for in character and location.
If planning to cross the Shimanami Kaido, I strongly recommend to take a slower pace and stay overnight on one of the islands, and it is hard to find a more idle spot than the Setoda Private Hostel.