The Shimanami Kaido is one of the most memorable things you can do in the greater Matsuyama area. Quite a few of our guests have done it, and most of them have done it in one frantic day, 80kms of spectacular scenery.
After doing the ride ourselves 2 months ago, we are convinced that the best option for biking the bridges is to either spend a night on one of the islands, or to do a day trip from Matsuyama.
This post is about the be the latter of these 2 options:
From very near Dogo Onsen station (7 mins from Sen) there is a bus that goes to Omishima (Miyaura-Ko), one of the Islands that the shimanami kaido passes over -2 hours, ¥1600. From there you can rent a bike, and follow the bridges back to Imabari (38kms). This is such a good option for people staying at our guesthouse and we highly recommend it, the quickest and cheapest option actually.
Another option is to start from Imabari.
So either from JR Imabari, or Sunrise Itoyama-recommended (at the very start of the 1st bridge- and near JR hashihama st.) rent a bike (¥500 + 1000¥ deposit, which you get back if you return to the same city from which you rented) and start the adventure. At that point, it is pretty much up to the cyclist on to determine how far they want to ride.
To get back to Imabari are 2 main options, either drop off the bike at a “return-a bike” center, for example after 20 or 30kms, and take a bus back, or put the bikes on a ferry, return to Imabari and leave the bikes there.
For the bus option:
Near all of the “return-a-bike” places, there are busses that you can use to get back to Imabari. You forfeit the 1000¥ deposit, and local busses in Japan tend to be pretty expensive, but there are quite of few of these places on the “recommended routes”. For example, from Hakatajima IC(22km) and Omishima IC (30km) back to Imabari. There are other places both before and after these 2 places that would be possible also. Another bus option would be to take a bus from either JR Matsuyama or JR Imabari to Omishima (Miyaura-ko), rent a bike there and ride back to Imabari (38kms to Sunrise Itoyama + 5kms to JR Imabari) via the Shimanimi Kaido. It’s also possible, from Omishima (Miyaura-Ko) to leave the bike, and take a bus all the way back to Matsuyama (2hours, ¥1600).
What most of our guests have done, and what I personally recommend is to take a ferry back to Imabari. It’s actually cheaper to do it this way because, the ferry is usually cheaper than the bus, and for a small fee (~200¥) you can put the bike on the ferry and get the 1000¥ deposit back when you return the bike. It is also quite a beautiful ride, and you get to see another side of the area (more fun than driving back over a portion of a route you just biked…) Also, the ferries all make at least 1 stop on the way at other ports, so it’s interesting to see these little rural Japanese ports. The bus option is a bit more flexible though.
So, some example courses are:
To Kinoura-ko port (on Hakatajima) it’s 28km from Sunrise Itoyama, there are 9 return ferries to Imabari (14:25, 16:40, 19:20pm). To Munakata-ko port (on Omishima) it’s a 48km ride (from Sunrise) and there is 1 ferry back at 19:00. For the truly hardcore, there is also a ferry back from Hubu-ko port (Innoshima) to Imabari, 52kms (16:50, 18:45).
The best place to stay mid-Shimanami Kaido is Setoda private hostel -http://ww7.enjoy.ne.jp/~ymdymd777/eshimanami.html – located on the island of Ikuchijima, located on Sunset Beach. It’s exactly halfway, 40kms from either way, it’s cheap, 3000¥ per person, private room (without meals, + 1200¥ for dinner, 600¥ for breakfast) and it has a really nice, hand-made Onsen overlooking the beach. The building/rooms are in need of a new coat of paint, but all and all a great place to stay, they even speak a bit of English.
There are tons and tons of places to see on the islands, from super interesting museums: Omishima`s contemporary art museum, and Tokoro museum; Ikuchijima`s Hirayam Ikuo museum; Oshima’s pirate (Murakami Suigun) museum, to amazing shrines/temples: Omishima`s Oyamazuimj jinja; Ikuchijima`s Kosan-ji. Sunset beach, is a pretty nice summer spot, and Innoshima has a pirate castle (Suigun-jo).
For more information, please visit JapanTourist for a huge selection of articles written about the Shimanami Kaido, and everywhere else in Japan 🙂