The Setouchi region enjoys a climate that is so temperate throughout the year that it is called the “Mediterranean of Japan”. The region has become a mecca for cyclists around the world because it’s possible to enjoy cycling while bathed in gentle sunshine. Enveloped by the sea and mountains, and with a topography that has just the right amount of undulation, the region is perfect for cycling. By cycling over the large bridges connecting the islands and down coastal roads you will be able to appreciate the charms of the Setouchi region in a more personal way.

A dynamic cycling course that crosses over a sea strait.

The Shimanami Kaido is a set of bridges that cross the Seto Inland Sea, connecting Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture and Imabari in Ehime Prefecture. The 70-km Shimanami Kaido consists of seven bridges connecting six islands. It is a route that cyclists around the world look to with longing and is unusual in that it allows people to cycle all the way across a sea strait. The course also passes by historic shrines and restaurants serving local cuisine. Cycle rental infrastructure is well-organized and even amateur cyclists can try their hand at making the crossing with peace of mind.

Enjoy great views of the inland sea while cycling over a series of seven bridges!

The course from Onomichi to Imabari is 70 km in length. Cyclists who complete the crossing in one day may be able to see the Seto Inland Sea bathed in the morning sunlight as they leave Onomichi and in the light of the setting sun just before reaching Imabari. For cyclists making the crossing in two days staying somewhere along the way, we recommend that they take it at a relaxed pace and enjoy locally produced food such as gelato and okonomiyaki on the various islands as they pass through.

photo-Tetsuya Ito/Courtesy of DISCOVERLINK Setouchi

A cyclist friendly hotel where you can stay with your bicycle.

The best place to use as a base when cycling on the Shimanami Kaido is ONOMICHI U2, a massive multipurpose facility built from a renovated shipping warehouse. Towards the back of the facility, which features cafes and cycling shops that also rent bicycles, there is a hotel which provides numerous special services for cyclists. You can even check in at the front desk without getting off your bicycle! Guests are allowed to keep their bicycles in their rooms.ONOMICHI U2

An island famous for olives, with fun undulating slopes.

There are a large number of other great cycling spots in the Seto Inland Sea region in addition to the Shimanami Kaido. The first we would like to introduce to you is Shodoshima, an olive tree-covered island with a certain Mediterranean air about it. The island is also known for its mysterious places of Buddhist pilgrimage. We recommend that you cycle over the island’s undulating topography up to Shodoshima Olive Park, which is located up on a hill. From there you can lie back on the grass and revel in the view of the sea and sky of Setouchi.

A cycling course that runs through traditional Japanese scenery.

The Kibiji cycling course (which is named after the old name for Okayama Prefecture, Kibi), runs through traditional Japanese landscapes. Both sides of the 21 km course feature pastures, creeks, and rice fields and the landscape is dotted with the remains of ancient burial mounds called “kofun” built for powerful people in 3rdto 7thcenturies. There are also scenes along the way reminiscent of Kyoto with five-storied pagodas and convents, making it a course on which cyclists can bask in history and nature.

Dashing through a beautiful townscape of white-walled buildings.

Kurashiki in southern Okayama Prefecture is famous for its attractive historical district which is also known as the “town of white walls”. A canal that runs through this district serves as the town’s symbol. Along the banks of this canal a merchant town grew and prospered during the Edo period and it remains intact today. The paths along the canal, where willows sway in the breeze, is perfect for cycling. From there, more experienced cyclists might like to stretch their legs and enjoy a 90 km course up to the top of Mt. Washuzan.

An almost unknown cycling course along the coast of the Seto Inland Sea that has won the hearts of many cyclists.

Yamaguchi Prefecture’s Suo-Oshima Island can be reached by crossing the Oshima Bridge from the mainland. The island is shaped like a tadpole, and there is a highway that runs from the tadpole’s head to its tail on the side facing out to the Seto Inland Sea. At raised points along the course it is possible to look out across the sea to the Setouchi islands stretching out far away into the distance. From the Yuhi no Oka (sunset hill) lookout point, you can watch as the sun sets into the Seto Inland Sea. This relatively unknown course is quietly winning the hearts of more and more cycling fans.