Shimanami Kaido


Photo by Daniel Penso


Daniel Penso

Hiroshima. The name conjures up different images for different people given the sad events of WWII. For residents, the Hiroshima Carp are an exciting baseball team which have been pennant winners three years in a row recently, from 2016-2018. For visitors, there is Itsukushima Shrine, famous for being plopped right in the ocean, Hiroshima Castle and okonomiyaki among other things. Yet, the purpose of my journey there was to go cycling.

In Hiroshima prefecture, there is a world-renowned cycling course, Setouchi Shimanami Kaido, which starts from nearby Onomichi Station and ends in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, in Shikoku. The course spans 76 kilometers (47.2 miles) and stretches over six large islands, after crossing from Onomichi to Mukaishima by ferry. There are six bridges on the blue line course, which I took, and the last bridge, Kurushima-Kaikyo, and the world’s largest suspension bridge, spanning a total length of 4,015 meters, was magnificent.

Photos by Daniel Penso

Given that Kurushima-Kaikyo is on the last leg of the course, if you’re coming from Onomichi like I was, you could be out of gas and faint at the sheer sight. It is quite a bridge. As a Japanophile and cyclist, I happened upon the Shimanami Kaido cycling course while doing a research project earlier this year and dreamt of the day that I would be there riding along it in person. On a previous trip this year to Japan, I had planned on going but was occupied with other business so had to postpone it. It was definitely worth the five-hour Shinkansen ride from Tokyo. There are no direct connections from Tokyo to Onomichi, where your adventure will begin, so if you’re pressed for time, you should jot down the train times beforehand because you’ll likely be changing at least once. In addition to the blue line course, there are two other long courses, a Murakami Kaizoku (pirate) course and Mountain View (Zekkei no Mountain) course. The latter apparently is the hardest one, going for 85 km (52.8 miles) and involves plenty of uphills.

Photo by Daniel Penso


Daniel Penso

Lived in Tokyo from 1999 – 2009 and calls it his second home. Currently he resides in California and is a Japanese-English translator. He enjoys traveling, learning languages and cuisine. When visiting Japan, he enjoys watching rakugo shows.
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