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Dive! Hiroshima Official Guide

Dive! Hiroshima Official Guide

    I am back from a wonderful bicycle ride on the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido. I was a bit reluctant first

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    Side ways

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    I am back from a wonderful bicycle ride on the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido. I was a bit reluctant first as I imagined it as a flat boring concrete way, but it is nothing like that. The path is a wonderful way to discover the cultural wealth and the beauty of one part of the Seto Inland Sea.

    Shimanami Kaido is very diversified sometimes running along the shore at its level or overhanging it, sometimes crossing villages and getting over the sea in between islands, it is an extraordinary door opening on a local concentrate of Japan. The islands do have specific productions, a local history linked with the national one, an everyday life still marked by the insularly isolation even after bridge constructions, which are very interesting to discover.

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    Bicycle rental

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    After arriving at the Onomichi Station, we sorted out our luggage and sent it at a reasonable fee to our final destination in order to travel light.* The bicycle rental Terminal is located close to the railway station and is quite easy to find.

    The Ojisan (man of a respectable age) in charge was busy doing things on the other side and we had to call him. There is the choice of 10 or so models of bicycles, among which some are designed and made in the area, child-seat bicycles (till 20 kg), child bicycles and tandems in some rental points. On the whole, Shimanami Kaido has around 1,500 bicycles that can be rented as Norisute (one way rental) that does not oblige you to return it to the place where it has been rent.

    This is the option we have taken. In this case the deposit of 1000 yen becomes a basic fee and the rental fee is 500 yen per bicycle a day within the opening hours. If you go for the works, take a 500 yen set of 10 vouchers covering all the bridge tolls, that you’ll remove according to each toll and leave in a box at the entrance or the exit of each bridge.

    *From the JR Onomichi Station, you can send your luggage to your destination via delivery service. Please be advised that luggage may not arrive same-day. Contact the tourist information center at the station for further details: +81-(0)848-20-0005

    Ferry

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    So let’s go! First, we cross the channel by ferry from the pier located next to the rental terminal (70 – 110 yen) to reach the opposite Island of Mukaijima and begin the ride. After getting out of the ferry, one just has to follow the blue marks on the side (left, of course) of the road to get on his way.

    In Japan to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk is tolerated to parents accompanied by children and elder, so we have ridden on the road side.

    Houses are becoming fewer as we are reaching the sea side that we follow for a while before the first bridge shows its impressive shape. The steepness of the access ramp is well designed to offer a light slope. We climb it eager to know the impression of the view from the height of a bridge.

    The Innoshima Bridge is the only 2 stage bridge of the Shimanami Kaido and the view there could be better but as the first bridge of the day, it is very impressive.

    Hassaku-ya

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    On the other side of the bridge, on mid-slope is Hassaku-ya, a shop specialized in fruits Daifuku (Mochi rice pastry). The most typical Daifuku is made with Hassaku, as the shop name reveals it, a citrus fruit that tastes like lemony orange.

    In general, Daifuku are stuffed with red bean paste that gives a slight heavy feeling, but here, the using of fruit itself in an envelope made by Mochi rice flour brings its specific texture and gives it freshness.The fruit juice mixes with the fruit paste pad; it is delicious!

    It is not a surprise because the maker’s passion and his desire to share it are obvious. You just have to look at him to know it will be good!

    On the road, lots of shops and restaurants do have bicycle stands and provide free water for riders. In order to get riders to know it, they use a specific sign. Some inns welcome riders with the same idea.

    Another good thing with Shimanami Kaido is that it alternates “land” phases in villages, along beaches and “aerial” phases on bridges right in the middle of huge panoramas. But, what is also good is to get out of it and take streets running in between houses to catch a bit of people’s everyday life.

    Mr. Miyawaki's Ice Creams

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    At the end of the afternoon, we stopped at “Setoda Dolce” an ice cream shop of Setoda located on the sea shore. Mr. Miyawaki, a passionate man, uses local fruits and ingredients on the island and picks them up carefully at their best to make aromatic and refreshing ice creams in the Japanese fashion with a good balance of sugar. It is served in cornet made especially for Setoda Dolce and divided in cells retaining the melting stuff for a longer “natural” pleasure.

    This melts rather quickly compared to others because neither gelling agents nor other unnatural agents are used in the preparation. He offers delicious, freshly made ice creams every day. I couldn’t resist tasting a lemon, pure aromatic experience: an exquisite balance of sweetness and acidity. A slightly salty milk ice cream contains local production salt that enhances its flavor and brings a mineral freshness at the end.

    Don’t hesitate to speak to the guy because he loves it: there are Japanese guys who become ice cream makers because they can’t become Italian.

    The sunset in front of the shop is beautiful, but it is becoming dark and we need to go to the inn we have booked.

    *Visited in November 2013.
    *Please check the latest information about fare etc.
    *Find out more information about Setouchi Shimanami Cycling Course

    Kosanji Temple

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    After a night in the inn of the Ikuchijima Island we are beginning slowly our second day by the visit of Kosanji Temple. It is an old temple which particularity lies in its buildings built on the model of famous religious building like the Yomeimon gate of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine.

    It conceals also a big statue of Kannon Goddess, a cavern symbolizing hell and a hill the top of which is paved and covered with statues of white Carrara marble symbolizing paradise.

    There is a great view on the sea and islands around. Except one month in the cold season, the temple always has flowers, especially in August when lotuses contained in 300 display cases are flowering.

    All temples in Japan have an access way called (Omote) Sandô.

    We are taking this of Kosanji Temple. Decorated differently according to seasons, it gathers shops selling traditional snack food that cyclists can enjoy while riding, the typical building of an old post office transformed in a rest room for cyclists, traditional wealthy houses of salt producers, and at the end of the street, in an old salt warehouse, a small and free marine museum, opening on the street, held by an old spirited lady who doesn’t speak a word of English but who will explain you everything on former boat life. A wonderful encounter!

    From there, we are going in the direction of the Tatara Bridge. Its access ramp weaves along slopes convenient for orchards where organically grown trees are covered by mikan (Japanese mandarin) and lemon, originated from this island.

    The Tatara Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge with its pure lines fits well in the landscape. Pieces of wood were placed under its pylons for passers-by to create sounds that the pylons echo reverberates with a metallic effect.

    Fish-burger, Jako-ten

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    On the other side of the bridge is the Tatara Shimanami Park Michi no Eki, a direct sale market for the local production of fruits, vegetables and other natural products, adjoining some restaurants. After a few hours of ride, it is really the good timing for a sandwich break. I cannot resist to the local famous sea bream fish-burger in a small fish-burger shop: very tasty, melting in the mouth with a light and crispy crust in soft and crusty bread. I have also bought some flavorful lemons and a pot of mikan honey. That’s it, now we are ready to move on.

    The island has got some interesting art museums but we decide to go along the coast with this fabulous view of the surrounding islands in the morning sun. We are going up in the green on the bicycle lane to reach a height overlooking the bridge and the bay. The arc bridge has got nothing particular but the view from it is splendid.

    The Hakata Island is just a transit spot for us. We have just passed a shipyard, one of the main local activities and are following our way to the foot of the Oshima Bridge. There is Marine Oasis, a small leisure complex where we stop to contemplate palm trees on the beach and the bridge. I am testing there a very simple and very surprising snack called Jako-ten. (You should taste this very Japanese and local snack – a square made of rockfish paste steamed and fried).

    Murakami Suigun Museum

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    Just energized enough, we are crossing the bridge to take a very picturesque road running along the seashore and finally reach the area of the Noshima Island surrounded by strong currents, which stood the Murakami fleet fortress.

    Further after the very typical long fishing port with its small sized boats is the Suigun restaurant where we are having a rest and a delicious fish based lunch across the street from the Murakami Suigun Museum.

    The numerous islands of the regions strengthen the tide effect which results in strong currents. Those were feared by old time navigators who, for most of them, did not know how to swim. Inhabitants began naturally to guide boats against remuneration, pirating ships occasionally, and organized themselves on the region level before to be rented by fiefdoms as extra battle fleet during wars, capable of affecting the battle results.

    The museum, new and clearly organized, explains their story and offers visitors to try on related armors and kimonos. Simple and rewarding!

    After the visit, we are back to the village center to take again the Shimanami -Kaido which crosses the island in its middle and passes two small hills to reach the Kurushima Kaikyo impressive three successive bridges. It is a master piece of 4 km long spanning on small islands. There is an astonishing view on islands from there, and we have a good timing for sunset, as well as a great spectacle enjoyed by local people through jogging or family walk.

    The bridge runs up with a false flat to its center and from there you just have to let you go right to the Imabari bicycle terminal located at the foot of the bridge where you can enjoy again the bridge you have crossed. We are exhausted because of spindrift and pure air but very satisfied!

    *Visited in August 2013.
    *Please check the latest information about fare etc.
    *Find out more information about Setouchi Shimanami Cycling Course

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