Hiroshima's hidden gem, Tobishima Kaido

Hiroshima's hidden gem, Tobishima Kaido
Cycling is one of the best ways to explore and enjoy the stunning scenery of the Seto Inland Sea. In recent years, the Shimanami Kaido route running across islands and bridges that link Onomichi in the north with Imabari and Shikoku in the south has become a firm favorite among cyclists around the world. However, among cyclists and tourists in the know, another island bicycle route west of the Shimanami Kaido is gaining popularity. This is the Tobishima Kaido – Hiroshima’s hidden gem packed full of breathtaking scenery, delicious food, golden sandy beaches and idyllic villages where you can come in contact with locals going about their daily lives.
With ferries connecting the Tobishima Kaido to the Shimanami Kaido, the two routes complement each other perfectly. Cyclists often book a night’s accommodation along the Tobishima Kaido and combine the two routes in one epic cycling adventure. Whether you are a serious cyclist or just like the idea of riding a bike near the sea, the Tobishima Kaido has something for you.

The Route

The Tobishima Kaido consists of five islands connected by bridges to the mainland. The islands are Shimo Kamagari, Kami Kamagari, Toyoshima, Osaki Shimojima, and Okamura. The Tobishima Kaido starts as you cross the impressive Akinada Ohashi Bridge from the mainland to Shimo Kamagari Island. Okamura, the fifth island in the chain, is part of Ehime Prefecture and offers regular ferry crossings to Imabari and Omishima Island - both part of the Shimanami Kaido. Shimo Kamagari Island is a one-hour drive from Hiroshima Airport and 1.5 hrs from Hiroshima City. Alternatively, for quick access from Hiroshima Airport, take the bus to Takehara Port and catch the high-speed ferry to Ocho on Osaki Shimojima.

Bicycle Rental at Shimo Kamagari

Unless you plan to bring your own bike to Japan, the first port of call those wishing to enjoy Tobishima in the saddle is the bike rental shop on Shimo Kamagari Island. Head to Camp & Cottage Kajigahama for a wide selection of top-of-the-range bicycles and plans that cater to every travel need. As well as being able to drop your bike off on any of the other islands when you finish, they also offer a service to deliver the rental bike to you at any spot within the island chain - meaning you can start your cycle trip anywhere you want. Call the number on their website to book a bike. Although the website is in Japanese, they can speak English: https://kajigahama.jp/rentcycle/

Old Town Sannose

While on Shimo Kamagari Island, make sure to save some time to wander the streets of the old port town of Sannose. The island has long been an important stop-off point for ships sailing up and down the Seto Inland Sea. Most famously, Korean envoys complete with their large entourage would stop on the island during their official visits to present-day Tokyo in the 17th and 18th centuries. The arrival of the Korean emissaries and the islanders welcoming them is now celebrated every year in the third Sunday of October where locals recreate the procession of the Korean envoys. If you have time, the two museums in the town - the Shotoen Museum and the Rantokaku Art Museum - are both well worth a visit.

Take-Out Okonomiyaki - Perfect for Cyclists.

For food, check out the popular Plus Shimokama in Sannose near the bridge to Kami Kamagari. Run by the friendly and effervescent local Yuuya-san, this hole in the wall food stand has a string of hit items on its menu. Yuuya's most popular dishes are his Hiroshima style okonomiyaki and his Hiroshima style fried noodles. So order some food and cycle to a picturesque spot of your choice for a delicious picnic.

Check below for details:
Plus Shimokama
Address: 2361-7 Shimokamagari, Kure City.
Hours: 11am to 3pm
Closed: Irregular holidays

Kami Kamagari Island

Shiosai no Yakata

Cross over the bridge to Kami Kamagari and head to the north side of the island if you want to try your hand at catching some of Seto Inland Sea's bountiful fish. Shiosai no Yakata offer fishing trips in the morning, where they will take you out in a boat and guide you around the best fishing spots in the area. This will be your best chance to catch the celebrated sea bream, one of the most prized fish in the Seto Inland Sea. Fishing trips run from 6am to 12pm and cost between 6,000 - 8,000 yen. Email Shiosai no Yakata to book or request more information: umikaranookurimono@itg.bcj.ne.jp

Kenmin no Hama Beach

This beautiful stretch of sandy beach lined with palm trees is the perfect place to pause and relax. The views out from the beach are superb and the calm waters make this ideal for families and children. There is accommodation, self-catering chalets, a restaurant and a hot spring onsen all within walking distance from the beach. During the peak months of summer, the beach is packed full of local sunseekers, but during the rest of the year, it is not uncommon to have the entire beach to yourself. For those with a curiosity about the stars, head to the Kamagari Astronomical Observatory on the western edge of the beach. For those looking for something more active, try the sea kayaking experience:
URL: http://kama-bg.net/kayak.html

Moshio Salt

People have been producing 'moshio' salt on the beaches of Kami Kamagari as early as the Jomon period (14,000-300 BCE). This process involves using seaweed to concentrate the salt content in the sea water before extracting the salt over a fire using earthenware pots. This salt has recently experienced a boom in popularity among global foodies after it was featured in a popular Netflix food documentary. On Kenmin no Hama beach, you can try making your own moshio salt using the ancient technique at Kenmin no Hama beach. You'll see every step of the process from preparing the seaweed and water to simmering the liquid off over an open fire. At the end of the workshop, you'll be left with your own moshio salt earthenware pot to take home. See the link below for more information on the course:
URL: https://www.moshionokai.jp/learning/

Toyoshima Island

Fishing Town Toyohama

The fishing town of Toyohama has long been renowned throughout Japan for producing some of the finest fishermen in the country. Only a couple of generations ago, many of Toyohama's fishing families lived on their fishing boats, leaving for months at a time to fish waters around Japan. They were given access to rich fishing waters in exchange for teaching local fishermen their fishing knowledge and techniques.
Although today's fishermen mostly stay within the Seto Inland Sea, the island has become famous for catching tachiuo - scabbard fish. The skin on these silver, glittering eel-like fish is extremely delicate and only the finest fishermen can land the scabbard fish without blemishes. These prize catches are trucked daily to high-end restaurants in Osaka.
The layout of the town is unlike any other settlement on the Tobishima Kaido. A maze of houses and narrow paths rise up the steep hillside from the harbor. Just walking through the town is a fun experience. At some points, the paths narrow and it is easy to lose your bearings. But never fear, if you find yourself lost, just head down hill and you'll eventually reach the waterfront. During the day, you'll no doubt come across groups of friendly old locals chatting in the street. Make sure to stop and say hello.

Osaki Shimojima Island

Osaki Shimojima & Citrus

This island is one of the most popular islands within the Tobishima Kaido for tourists and cyclists. A big reason being the island's famous citrus industry. With terraced citrus fields rising up the mountainsides, the island was known as the 'golden isle' in its heyday, when the whole island would glow and glisten when its oranges came into season. The town of Ocho on Osaki Shimojima was where the first ever Japanese lemon variety was successfully grown and harvested in the late 19th century. The island still produces some of the finest citrus in Japan and the Ocho brand of mikan orange and lemon are sold in upmarket shops in Tokyo and Osaka. During citrus season (autumn to spring) you'll find bags of delicious oranges on sale throughout the island and juice stands selling freshly squeezed orange juice.

Neroli Café

This is a popular rest stop for cyclists travelling through the Tobishima Kaido. Sitting above the ferry terminal in Ocho Port, Neroli Café has a spacious and chic interior with large windows opening out to a wonderful view of the Seto Inland Sea. Neroli Café produce their own natural aroma oils from the citrus peel they collect on the island. During distillation, the café fills with the refreshing aroma of lemon and other citrus fruits. Try Neroli's popular lemon smoothie or original blends of coffee.
URL: https://www.hr-info.net/neroli-e

Historic Mitarai

This beautiful harbor town is one of only three historical preservation districts in Hiroshima Prefecture (the others being Takehara and Tomonoura). The town developed during the Edo Period as trade ships travelling to and from Osaka waited for favorable tides and winds. Compared to Shimo Kamagari, Mitarai was preferred by ships wanting to reach Osaka quickly.
Mitarai quickly flourished with an assortment of shops, bathhouses and trading posts springing up to cater for the seafarers. Mitarai was also home to a vibrant nightlife, with tea houses and a prominent geisha house that at one time housed 100 geisha. Most of these buildings have been preserved and you can enter them as you walk through the town. As well as historic buildings, there are a number of restaurants, cafes and shops in Mitarai including unique establishments like a Showa-era toy museum run by the local Buddhist monk and an authentic English tea house serving handmade scones.

Rekishi no Mieru Oka Park

A short climb from Mitarai past rows of citrus groves will bring you to Rekishi no Mieru Oka Park. This park commands spectacular panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea. Sit and gaze across at Shikoku and the bridges of the Shimanami Kaido in the distance and watch the modern container ships and boats navigate up and down the Seto Inland Sea to deliver their cargo.

Guesthouse Kusushi

The beautifully renovated interior of this guesthouse make you forget entirely that it used to be a small general hospital. This iconic turquoise building on the edge of Mitarai is a favorite among cyclists, especially those attempting to cycle both the Tobishima and Shimanami Kaido routes. The guesthouse provides bunkbeds and all the comforts to ensure a good night's sleep. You can also book an individual room if you prefer more privacy. It certainly is not your run-of-the-mill guesthouse, but that's why everyone loves staying here. Book online or by phone. English spoken.
URL: https://hatagoya-kusushi.com/

Visited in May 2019

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