I am back from a wonderful bicycle ride on the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido. I was a bit reluctant first as I imagined it as a flat boring concrete way, but it is nothing like that. The path is a wonderful way to discover the cultural wealth and the beauty of one part of the Seto Inland Sea.
Shimanami Kaido is very diversified sometimes running along the shore at its level or overhanging it, sometimes crossing villages and getting over the sea in between islands, it is an extraordinary door opening on a local concentrate of Japan. The islands do have specific productions, a local history linked with the national one, an everyday life still marked by the insularly isolation even after bridge constructions, which are very interesting to discover.
Access to Shimanami Kaido:
After arriving at the Onomichi Station, we sorted out our luggage and sent it at a reasonable fee to our final destination in order to travel light.* The bicycle rental Terminal is located close to the railway station and is quite easy to find.
The Ojisan (man of a respectable age) in charge was busy doing things on the other side and we had to call him. There is the choice of 10 or so models of bicycles, among which some are designed and made in the area, child-seat bicycles (till 20 kg), child bicycles and tandems in some rental points. On the whole, Shimanami Kaido has around 1,500 bicycles that can be rented as Norisute (one way rental) that does not oblige you to return it to the place where it has been rent.
This is the option we have taken. In this case the deposit of 1000 yen becomes a basic fee and the rental fee is 500 yen per bicycle a day within the opening hours. If you go for the works, take a 500 yen set of 10 vouchers covering all the bridge tolls, that you'll remove according to each toll and leave in a box at the entrance or the exit of each bridge.
*From the JR Onomichi Station, you can send your luggage to your destination via delivery service. Please be advised that luggage may not arrive same-day. Contact the tourist information center at the station for further details: +81-(0)848-20-0005
So let's go! First, we cross the channel by ferry from the pier located next to the rental terminal (70 - 110 yen) to reach the opposite Island of Mukaijima and begin the ride. After getting out of the ferry, one just has to follow the blue marks on the side (left, of course) of the road to get on his way.
In Japan to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk is tolerated to parents accompanied by children and elder, so we have ridden on the road side.
Houses are becoming fewer as we are reaching the sea side that we follow for a while before the first bridge shows its impressive shape. The steepness of the access ramp is well designed to offer a light slope. We climb it eager to know the impression of the view from the height of a bridge.
The Innoshima Bridge is the only 2 stage bridge of the Shimanami Kaido and the view there could be better but as the first bridge of the day, it is very impressive.
On the other side of the bridge, on mid-slope is Hassaku-ya, a shop specialized in fruits Daifuku (Mochi rice pastry). The most typical Daifuku is made with Hassaku, as the shop name reveals it, a citrus fruit that tastes like lemony orange.
In general, Daifuku are stuffed with red bean paste that gives a slight heavy feeling, but here, the using of fruit itself in an envelope made by Mochi rice flour brings its specific texture and gives it freshness.The fruit juice mixes with the fruit paste pad; it is delicious!
It is not a surprise because the maker's passion and his desire to share it are obvious. You just have to look at him to know it will be good!
On the road, lots of shops and restaurants do have bicycle stands and provide free water for riders. In order to get riders to know it, they use a specific sign. Some inns welcome riders with the same idea.
Another good thing with Shimanami Kaido is that it alternates "land" phases in villages, along beaches and "aerial" phases on bridges right in the middle of huge panoramas. But, what is also good is to get out of it and take streets running in between houses to catch a bit of people's everyday life.
Mr. Miyawaki's Ice Creams
At the end of the afternoon, we stopped at "Setoda Dolce" an ice cream shop of Setoda located on the sea shore. Mr. Miyawaki, a passionate man, uses local fruits and ingredients on the island and picks them up carefully at their best to make aromatic and refreshing ice creams in the Japanese fashion with a good balance of sugar. It is served in cornet made especially for Setoda Dolce and divided in cells retaining the melting stuff for a longer "natural" pleasure.
This melts rather quickly compared to others because neither gelling agents nor other unnatural agents are used in the preparation. He offers delicious, freshly made ice creams every day. I couldn't resist tasting a lemon, pure aromatic experience: an exquisite balance of sweetness and acidity. A slightly salty milk ice cream contains local production salt that enhances its flavor and brings a mineral freshness at the end.
Don't hesitate to speak to the guy because he loves it: there are Japanese guys who become ice cream makers because they can't become Italian.
The sunset in front of the shop is beautiful, but it is becoming dark and we need to go to the inn we have booked.