We were on the road and occasionally on the water for the next three weeks. From Mc Donald’s, we pedaled another damp 25 miles to Wakayama; then took a two hour ferry to Tokushima on the Island of Shikoku. We spent 10 days circling the near empty east, the bucolic south and occasionally busy west coasts of this smallest of Japan’s four main islands, laying over along the way in the prefecture capitals of Kochi and Matsuyama. There, as in all sizable Japanese cities, all you have to do to reach the Tourist Information Offices in the central railroad stations is follow the bikeways and shared sidewalks from the outskirts to the city centers. Leaving Matsuyama, we crossed over to Honshu via one of the world’s most amazing 50 mile stretches of biking, the Shiminami Kaido, a seven bridges and six islands highway system with a dedicated bike path all the way, which connects Shikoku at Imabari to Honshu at Onomichi. There, to avoid 100 miles of Japan’s bad, bad road for bikers, National Route 2, east and west of Hiroshima, we hooked up at Kasaoka, 35 memorable km. of Rte. 2 east from Onomichi, with a 2 1/2 day sailboat ride operated by an American/Aussie couple who live on Shiraishi Island in the Inland Sea. After an overnight layover somewhere at an Inland Sea public dockside and another at world famous Miyajima Shrine, near Hiroshima, we debarked at the western tip of Oshima, the first of the Inland Sea islands to be linked to Honshu by a suspension bridge. These increasingly numerous bridges, including the Shiminami Kaido and two others linking Shikoku and Honshu have over the last thirty years rapidly decreased the historical isolation of Shikoku and the Inland Sea Islands. Fortunately, their bucolic landscapes are still largely intact. Once back on the Honshu mainland, we eventually ended up in Shimonoseki at the western tip of Honshu, then returned to Osaka via a 12 hour overnight ferry, which comes with a bed to sleep on, a floating Japanese bath house to use, and the usual bar, restaurant , etc. Along the way, we spent a day in Iwakuni, where I was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in 1963-64 – a real nostalgia trip for me – even if little more than another layover day for my fellow riders who had a chance to see the world famous five arch Kintai Bridge, practically in my backyard when I was a young Marine. The piece of nostalgia which did impress the heck out of the others was the two day cross island pedal from Iwakuni to Hagi on the Japan Sea Coast. Hagi is not only an historic Samurai town, but also the cradle of the anti Samurai Meiji Restoration of 1868, which started Japan’s sometimes bumpy ride into the modern world. In between, we laid over in Tsuwano, a remote, sleepy mountain town whose intact castle dates from the 13th Century. Forty three years ago, Iwakuni – Hagi was a tough all day 100 mile scramble over a one lane dirt road on my trusty Honda Benly 125 cc motorbike. It was also so beautiful, I did it twice. This time we pedaled over lightly trafficked, impeccably paved Routes 187 and 191, one through bucolic interior valleys, and the other along the hypnotic Japan Sea coastline of Yamaguchi Prefecture, where Japan is only 50 miles wide from Inland Sea to Japan Sea.
JAPAN: Osaka to Shimonoseki via Shikoku w/Sail Boat Ride:
30 Sept. – 21 Oct. 2007
Depart Washington Dulles (IAD
Arrive Osaka KIX: Hotel Sea Gull (81-0724-64-1188); rent cellular.
KIX Area – Osaka: Assemble bikes. Ride around Sea Gull neighborhood
KIX Area – Osaka: pedal north to Sakai (Rte 63) and return via alleys.
KIX Area to Tokushima: south to Wakayama via Rte 26 in rain; Nankai Ferry (2 hrs, 2600 yen) to Tokushima. Station Hotel.
Tokushima to Shishikui Onzen: via Rte 55 via Kainan/Kaifu beaches.
Shishikui Onzen to Muroto: via Muroto-mizaki Rte 55 (Muroto town is 5 kms from cape). Ryokan Oota.
Muroto to Kochi via Aki: Rte 55 left to coast road at Akakaocho; north at Kochi-wan to city center. Tosa Business Hotel.
Kochi Layover: Rain. Walk around center and covered shopping arcade.
Kochi to Kubokawa: Rte. 56 to Suzaki-shi then long climbs, tunnels on Rte 56. Iwamatoji YH & Ryokan.
Kubokawa to Ashizuri-misaki: Rte 56 to Nakamura; (51), Rte 271 Tosashimazu (38); narrow dangerous road to cape. Overnight ? Hill Resort.
Ashizuri-misaki to Sukumo: Rte 321 to Tosashimazu (16), Otsuki (59). Hotel Matsuya.
Sukomo to Uwajima: (sex museum) Rte 56 via Tsushima;
Uwajima to Matsuyama: Rte. 56 to Ozo (42); Rte 24 to Nagahama; Rte 378, to Matsuyama. Hotel New Kasinamaya. Rain last 15 miles.
Layover in Matsuyama.
City biking to Dogo Onzen area.
Matsuyama–Imabari-Shimanami Kaido to Setoda. Rte 196 to Imabari (50); SK to Setoda (40). Hostel.
Setoda via SK to Onomichi (40); Rte 2 (Fukuyama) to Kasaoka (35): Shiroishi Ferry (40 min., Y 200). Ride around island (10). Minshuku.
Sailboat Day 1: Depart Shiraishi @ 8:00 AM.; 18:00 anchor off beach.
Sailboat Day 2: Depart 06:30; arrive Miyajima mid afternoon. Ferry & trolley to Hiroshima Peace Park.
Sailboat Day 3: Miyajima – Oshima;
Oshima to Iwakuni: Bridge to Rte. 188 to MCAS. Plaza Iwakuni Hotel
Iwakuni Layover: Base area, Ushinoya (my neighborhood 43 years ago) , Kintai-kyo, city.
Iwakuni to Tsuwano: Via Rte. 187 to Nichihara, Rte. 9. Ryokan Miyake.
Tsuwano to Hagi via Masuda: Rte. 9 to Masuda (40); Rte 191, coastal detours to Hagi (65). Ryokan Biyohama.
Hagi Layover: Bike around Samurai area, Citrus Park, port, city.
Hagi to Shimonoseki to Shin-Moji – Osaka Ferry : Rte 64 to Nagato, Rte 191 to Rte 35 (50) back to Rte 191 to Kita Kyushu Ferry (55) to Shin Moji Ferry Terminal (18).
Osaka Port – KIX Area Hotel: Arrive 08:00 Sunday @ Osaka South Harbor Nanko Pier. Pedal back to Hotel Sea Gull.
Box bike. Metro to Osaka. Afternoon Osaka Castle tour; PM Namba pubs.
Rinku Town Factory Outlets
Return flight: KIX – SFO.
Pt. to Pt.
15 Pt. to Pt. days;
Avg. 80 km/day
Pt. to Pt.;
15 Pt. to Pt. days;
Avg. 50 miles/day