Momentum built as I spiralled down the winding path from the high suspension bridge leading onto the island. I kept in the shadow of lush vegetation and sheltered from the intense midday sun. Majestic black-and-white butterflies dipped through the air in front of me, while cicadas chirped over the sound of the sea.
The day before, I had taken a boat from Mihara in Hiroshima-ken to Ikuchi Jima—one of a chain of islands in the Seto Inland Sea. The port of Mihara is a tranquil resting spot to sit and watch the boats go by. Locals affectionately refer to the sea as the Japanese Mediterranean. This is due to the climate, the slower pace of life, fresh seafood and locally grown olives, peaches and citrus fruit. If it hadn’t been for Japan’s ever-present muzak drifting down from speakers around the harbor, I’d have forgotten where I was—and the short time it took me to get there.
The boat soon arrived to ferry us across the calm water to Ikuchi Jima. On the island, I was driven by a tourist rep to my camping destination Sunset Beach, leaving the rest of the evening to explore by foot.
I set out early for a bicycle rental station close to Setoda port. From here you can cycle through Setoda, passing Kosanji temple before turning down along the coastal path, taking you from port to beach. After that, the cycle path leads to Tatara Bridge. As you climb up to the suspension bridge, the route zigzags through citrus groves until a long glorious empty path stretches to Omishima. As I crossed, high above the water, a cool breeze blew and the structure of the bridge towered overhead, architectural lines dramatic against the blue sky. This, and a hazy deep blue panorama of the nearby islands, felt like a reward for having made it there.
Cycling the Seto Ohashi is now a popular way to explore the islands, but there are still few people on the cycle route, making the winding paths and long, straight stretches across the water even more exhilarating. In a day or two you can cycle the entire 70km from the start of the bridge in Onomichi, Honshu, to its end in Imabari, Shikoku.
After a day of cycling with no set itinerary, I returning my bike to the same rental station. That evening, I savored some sushi on Sunset Beach, looking out at the gloriously golden sea.
- There is no official campsite on Ikuchi Jima, but it’s possible to camp by Sunset Beach, if you ask permission from the tourist office and pay a small fee. There are official campsites with more facilities on Omishima. On Ikuchijima and Omishima there are many youth hostels and guesthouses.
- Bikes can be hired on any of the islands for ¥1,500, which includes a ¥1,000 deposit. If you don’t mind losing the deposit, your bicycle can be left at a different rental station on any of the other islands.
- To get there, take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Mihara via Okayama. From Mihara there are regular passenger ferries to the islands.
- For info, see www.city.onomichi.hiroshima.jp