Feel a Nice Breeze While Cycling in West Japan
Shimanami Kaido Umashima Island
Cycling is one of the most popular leisure activities in the world! There are many cycling routes that cater for all levels, from serious cyclists to beginners. Among them, here are two of Japan’s greatest cycling routes!
The Shimanami Kaido
As one of the greatest and most famous cycling spots in Japan, Shimanami Kaido has been chosen as one of the “seven best bike routes in the world” by CNN, and was also designated as one of the first three National Cycle Routes last year for being a cycling route that represents Japan and that can be boasted to the world. Connecting the main island and Shikoku island via the islands of the Seto Inland Sea with eight bridges and a ferry, this cycling route offers you an opportunity to cycle while enjoying beautiful landscapes with the ocean, islands, as well as a nice sea breeze. Advanced cyclists can complete the route in one day; however, most people will take the time to complete in two days or more.
Point 1: Safe even for beginners!
The cycling roads are well-maintained, which make it an easy route to cycle. If you follow the blue lines on the ground, you won’t get lost! Resting spots called “Cycle Oases,” which are offered by local residents, are located here and there, where you can borrow tools and pumps, and even use the washroom at some places.
Point 2: Feel a pleasant sea breeze!
One of the attractive aspects of the Shimanami Kaido is that you can feel as if you are riding over the ocean. On the Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge especially—the longest suspension bridge on the route (about 4 km long), which connects Imabari City in Shikoku and Oshima Island—you can cycle while gazing at the beautiful ocean and islands below and feeling the sea breeze. Umashima Island—located near the middle of the bridge—can be accessed by an elevator from the bridge. Don’t miss the island with its beautiful ocean view and quiet atmosphere.
Point 3: Lots of delicious food!
The area around the Seto Inland Sea is a treasure trove of food! Seafood in the area, in particular, is a must-eat. You can enjoy tai-meshi (seasoned rice, cooked with red bream), one of the local specialty dishes. The area including Ikuchi-jima Island is famous for growing lemons, and offers various items that contain lemon, including sweets and juice. It is a perfect place to take a break on your cycling trip.
Rental bicycle services
■Shimanami Rental Cycles
There are 13 terminals on the route, where you can rent and drop off a bike, so you can enjoy cycling a part of the route. Various kinds of bicycles are available (1,100 yen and up per day. * For elementary school children and younger, the price is 300 yen).
An outlet store for the brand that is popular among cyclists, this store also offers high-quality bicycle rentals, including the latest models of road bikes. The branches are located in Onomichi and Imabari (2,700 yen and up for 5 hours).
Biwaichi—cycling around Lake Biwa
This is a cycling route around Lake Biwa, Japan’s biggest lake, which is located in Shiga Prefecture. The entire loop of the route is about 200 km! Depending on your available time and/or physical strength, you can choose to just go around only either the north side of Biwako Ohashi Bridge (North Lake—about 150 km) or the south side (South Lake—about 50 km). This route offers a peaceful atmosphere with the sparkling surface of the lake, lush mountains, and rustic scenery.
In the middle of the route, there are many spots where you can see and feel the history of Japan, including the national treasure Hikone Castle, the beautiful streetscape of Omihachiman, along with historic shrines and temples. The attractive area around Lake Biwa also has some hot springs, including Ogoto Onsen and Nagahama Taiko Onsen, so it is recommended to spend a few days to complete the route while refreshing yourself in the onsens.
The route has some check points. If you visit these check points after signing up on the special website, you can receive a “Cycling Around Lake Biwa Certificate” and a sticker (which can be shipped overseas). “BIWAICHI Cycling Navi,” an app designed to make cycling more convenient and enjoyable, is also available in both Japanese and English. You can use this as motivation to challenge this route!
Rental Bicycle services
■Maibara Cycle Station
Directly connected to JR Maibara Station, this rental bicycle service is available for you right after getting off the Shinkansen (bullet train). With a wide variety of products, including domestic and international branded products, this shop also offers high-quality maintenance services. The station is also equipped with shower booths, making it a strong ally for your cycling (3,800 yen and up for 1 day, tax not included).
Maibara Cycle Station
*The information herein is as of May 2020.