Where is Kasaoka island located in?
The Kasaoka Islands (Okayama Prefecture) located between Osaka and Hiroshima, were the first islands in the Seto Inland Sea to open up to foreign tourists. The Shiraishi International Villa was constructed in 1985 for the express purpose of appealing to foreign tourists who yearned to experience the real Japan. Information in English and a web presence for well over a decade has resulted in a band of loyal travellers who come back to visit this cultural mecca again and again.
By resisting large bridge construction projects, the Kasaoka islands have managed to avoid large-scale tourism and preserve their island’s traditions and laid back charm. Few cars, few tourists, friendly locals and a plethora of private beaches is what you can expect visiting this island chain.
And now good news for cyclers: The Kanafuro Ferry service now offers bicycle rentals onboard!
You can take the ferry from Kasaoka’s Fushigoe Port by checking this.
Let’s rent a bicycle! Enjoy Island hopping!
While on board, pick out your bicycle and pay a rental fee of 500 yen for the day (plus a 500 yen deposit returned to you when you bring back the bicycle). Ask for an English map of Kitagi island.
Several styles are available, including two children’s bikes.
Kitagi island: the Island of Stone, Small and beautiful Ports and Beaches
Start by cycling around the Kitagi island clockwise on the road that hugs the shoreline.
Kitagi (population about 950) is a working island known for its stone masons. Their granite rock has been used in the construction of Osaka Castle, Fukuyama Castle, Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, and to make the stone torii gate at Yasukuni Shrine (Tokyo).
While following this well-paved road, you’ll pass small fishing ports and beaches. The road is mostly flat and easy riding.
There’s plenty of wildlife enjoying the quiet island life too.
There is one hill just before Maruiwa Port, which is the end of the 4-kilometer road.
In the summer time, you can take a special bicycle road (look for a narrow path off to the right) up into the mountain and around the back side of the island, affording more spectacular views. The road eventually comes back to Kanafuro Port.
If you you’re not feeling so energetic, you can turn around and take the same road you came on to get back to Kanafuro Port. There aren’t very many amenities on Kitagi Island so be sure to arrive in time to catch the 14:00 ferry to the next island: Shiraishi!
Shiraishi island: A lively vibe along the beach
You’ll arrive at Shiraishi Island (population 525) at 14:32. Shiraishi is a tourist island known for its nearly 1-kilometer long beach. The beach is never too crowded but has a lively vibe in the summertime with a beachside restaurant, a bamboo beach bar and kayak rentals. The yearly Bon Festival featuring the 700-year-old Shiraishi Dance is also popular from August 12-16.
Shiraishi means “white rock” which refers to the granite rocks found here. There are many interesting rocks on the island that you can see while circumnavigating the island on the 6-kilometer road. You’ll hardly see any cars and it only takes about 45 minutes to complete the circuit despite three big hills. But don’t worry, the sea views will make it worthwhile!
When you’ve completed your two-wheeled journey around the island, you can either relax on the beach for a while before heading back on the Kanafuro Ferry (weekends and holidays only) or chill out with dinner and a sunset by staying overnight at the Shiraishi International Villa (3,500 yen per person).
The International Villa is on top of a small hill and offers rooms with views of the sea and a self-catering kitchen if you want to cook your own food.
Just keep using your bicycle and return it on the ferry the next day (additional day’s rental is 500 yen).
Note: There are several different ferry companies servicing the Kasaoka Islands. Bicycle rentals are limited to the Kanafuro Maru Ferry. If you have your own bicycle, you can take it on any of the ferries, including the regular passenger ferries, and thus have more options. In fact, you might also want to hit Manabe Island too, the last island in the Kasaoka Island chain.
Pick up the Setouchi Cycle Pass for discounts on ferries in the Seto Inland Sea
Situated between Osaka and Hiroshima, the Kasaoka islands are easy to access from the bullet train. Get off at Fukuyama station (Hiroshima Prefecture) and take the local JR train on the Sanyo Line three stops to Kasaoka Station. The port is behind the station.
Kanafuro Maru Ferry Schedule
English website for Shiraishi Island
Shiraishi International Villa website
Shiraishi Reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why not time your trip to coincide with a festival?
Toyoura Autumn Festival–First Saturday and Sunday in October
Hina Doll Festival (sending dolls out to sea on boats) First Sunday in March
Cherry Blossom Viewing Party–First or second Sunday in April (depending on the blossoms)
Bon Dance Festival Aug. 12-16
Live Band and Fireworks Festival–fourth Saturday in August
Shiraishi Autumn Festival–second Sunday in October
Bussharito Buddhist Festival with fire ceremony–every Nov. 15
For further information on events on Shiraishi and Kitagi Islands: email@example.com
Originally from the US, I've spent the last 20 years sailing, cycling and exploring the Seto Inland Sea. I love to introduce people to the lesser known treasures and off-the-beaten-track destinations in the Inland Sea. Here you can meet local people, eat super-fresh seafood, and watch the sunset (every day!). Better yet, on the islands you can watch the sun set, then run to the other side of the island and watch the moon rise! This is a magical side of Japan you never knew existed.
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