Warning: "continue" targeting switch is equivalent to "break". Did you mean to use "continue 2"? in /homepages/14/d417290830/htdocs/GAYTRAVELHERALD/wp-includes/pomo/plural-forms.php on line 210

Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /homepages/14/d417290830/htdocs/GAYTRAVELHERALD/wp-includes/pomo/plural-forms.php:210) in /homepages/14/d417290830/htdocs/GAYTRAVELHERALD/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-phase2.php on line 60
Shikoku - Japan's undiscovered natural gem - GTH
Pages Navigation Menu

Exploring our world through gay eyes

Shikoku – Japan’s undiscovered natural gem

Kayakers brave the rapids of the Yoshino River outside of Oboke / Koboke Japan. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Kayakers brave the rapids of the Yoshino River outside of Oboke / Koboke Japan. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Explorers looking for an “off the beaten path” experience in Japan need look no further: we have the ideal itinerary featuring an undiscovered route. Forget the tour buses and stick with bicycles, boats and trains to experience this wonderful trip through Japan’s Inland Sea and the smallest of its four major islands, Shikoku.

Day 1: Arrive in Hiroshima and spend some time at the Hiroshima Peace memorial before taking a JR train to Onomichi City. After checking into your hotel, make the climb up to Senkoji Park where you will get a great view of the whole city at sunset. For dinner feast on Okonomiyaki, a Japanese-style pancake and Hiroshima’s specialty, at one of the small restaurants surrounding the JR Train Station.

Bicyclists crossing the Innoshima Ohashi Bridge ride underneath the automobile lanes. This is the only bridge along the Shimanami Kaido to offer such an interesting perspective. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Bicyclists crossing the Innoshima Ohashi Bridge ride underneath the automobile lanes. This is the only bridge along the Shimanami Kaido to offer such an interesting perspective. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Day 2: Get up early to watch the sunrise over the harbor, then make your way to Jikoji Temple, one of the seven major temple in the city for a quick tour and to create your own Nigiribotoke: a handmade Buddhist statue made of clay. Remember to squeeze just once while making your wish.

Rent your bike and take the ferry from Onomichi City to Mukaishima. This short two minute cruise is the start of the famous Shimanami Kaido biking route. Be sure to get your bridge toll tickets, you’re going to need them.

Ride through Mukaishima Island and across the Innoshima Ohashi Bridge, the only bridge on the route where you will actually ride under the automobile lanes. Take a quick rest at the Innoshima Flower Center before continuing onto Ikuchijima Island across the Ikuchi bashi Bridge.

Dried octopus hanging in a vendors stall on Innoshima Island. The delicacy is a common fixture in the diet of those living near the Seto Inland Sea in Japan.

Dried octopus hanging in a vendors stall on Innoshima Island. The delicacy is a common fixture in the diet of those living near the Seto Inland Sea in Japan. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

On Ikuchijima Island make a quick stop at Dolce to enjoy some Italian Gelato before riding to Kosen-ji Temple. This temple will definitely be one of your highlights on the bicycling tour so take time to enjoy the grounds. If mikan (mandarin oranges) are in season, go orange picking at Kono Farm. Sunset at Setoda Sunset Beach shouldn’t be missed before making your way to Ryokan Tsutsui. Have dinner and then relax in Ryokan Tsutsui’s lemon shaped public bath tub, where lemons help with those sore muscles.

Day 3: Rise early to catch the sunrise over the Pagoda at Kojoji Temple, made famous by the artist Hirayama Ikuo. This is your final day on the Shimanami Kaido. Start by crossing the Tatara Ohashi Bridge, making sure to pause under one of the bridge’s huge pylons. Use the wooden clappers attached to the bridge and listen to the otherworldly echo produced by the acoustics in the structure.

The tall statue of Kannon towers over Kosenji temple. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

The tall statue of Kannon towers over Kosenji temple. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

This day is a long one so rest as often as needed but make sure to make your way to Oyamazumi Shrine on the north side of Omishima Island. The traditional Shinto shrine is beautiful with a museum that shares the grounds featuring one of the most amazing collections of Shogun era armor you will ever see.

Cycle your way across both the Omishima bashi and the Kahata Oshima Ohashi bridges before tackling the long uphill climb on Oshima Island. Stop for a quick seafood BBQ at Yoshiumi Ikiiki-kan before entering the Kurushima-kaikyo Ohashi Bridges, 3 connected bridges spanning two and a half miles. This is the final stretch so be sure to enjoy the cool ocean breezes and watch for whirlpools in the waters below.

Congratulations!! You’ve completed the Shimanami Kaido, one of the world’s premier bicycling routes. Turn in your bike and make your way to the hotel. We suggest the Imabari Kokusai Hotel, the best hotel in the city. Your aching body will welcome the rest in the most comfortable accommodations around.

The bright colors that decorate the temples and shrines at Kosenji temple shine in the afternoon sun’s light. This temple is one of the main attractions for anyone biking the Shimanami Kaido.

The bright colors that decorate the temples and shrines at Kosenji temple shine in the afternoon sun’s light. This temple is one of the main attractions for anyone biking the Shimanami Kaido. (c) GTH & Nathan dePetris

Day 4: It’s another early morning; Imabari jo Castle is just a few blocks’ walk from the Imabari Kokusai Hotel. This castle is a complete reconstruction but well worth the view, especially as the sun rises.

Grab a JR train from Imabari and make your way to Oboke for your afternoon adventure of river rafting. Either before or after your rafting experience make sure to try out a local delicacy, Tokushima ramen.

West-West offers fun river rafting year-round but late spring, when snow melt swells the river, is the best time to have a really exciting time with a bonus of possibly catching the sakura (cherry blossoms) if you are lucky enough to time your journey just right. Autumn is for the less adventurous traveler as the river level is lower and the rapids not so vigorous. Fall’s colors as the trees begin to turnoffers another of nature’s awe inspiring sights.

Cyclists often stop at a pylon of the Tatara Ohashi Bridge to create echoes using wooden clappers that are attached to the railing. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Cyclists often stop at a pylon of the Tatara Ohashi Bridge to create echoes using wooden clappers that are attached to the railing. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

During this portion of your trip, you will either need your own car (not recommended) or to hire a car. Your journey to Hotel Iyaonsen will take you through some of the most breathtaking scenery and along some of the scariest narrow roads. Along the way, stop for pictures at the Iyakei Ravine. Once at the hotel make your way as the sun sets to the Iyakei Gorge Peeing boy, a statue memorializing the innocence of youth.

After dinner take the cable car down the gorge to the onsen hot springs. These are the hot waters that have made this hotel famous and you simply must partake. Alternatively stay at the Hotel Sunriver Oboke. While not as lavish as the Hotel Iyaonsen, it’s closer to train station and much easier to get a reservation at.

Day 5: Now we know we said no tour buses, but… well, this one is a must. Make a reservation to take a ride on one of the “historic” bonnet buses that run tours around the Oboke/Iya area. Though the wooden benches may leave a ‘lasting impression’, there’s something nostalgic about the experience. Also, it’s one of the easiest ways to see numerous attractions including the Kazura Bashi Bridge (Vine bridge), Biwa Waterfall and others.

Volunteers at the Oyamazumi Shrine sweep the grounds clear of fallen leaves. Such morning rituals are as much an exercise in meditation as they are efforts of cleanliness.

Volunteers at the Oyamazumi Shrine sweep the grounds clear of fallen leaves. Such morning rituals are as much an exercise in meditation as they are efforts of cleanliness. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

For a fun lunch before boarding the train to Tokushima consider making your own soba noodle dish at Okuiya Menme Jyuku. The experience is quite fun, especially if you get one of the ladies to sing a traditional song along with the meal. You can’t mess up soba noodles that much, and they can be absolutely yummy.

Board a JR train  to Tokushima and check into the Hotel Clement Tokushima located inside the station. As the sun sets, head out into the city and grab a meal at a local izakaya pub., Marvel at the LED light art that adorns many of the buildings and bridges, Tokushima is one of the major manufacturing centers for LED, then head over to The Awa-odori Kaikan for the Awa Odori dance.

Awa Odori is a traditional dance that’s the center attraction for Tokushima’s largest festival every year. Performances are offered nightly at the beautifully modern dance hall. Don’t be shy as you can take part in a competition after the dance troops teach you this extremely simple yet  physically demanding dance. During my performance, I won a special honor at one of the dances and returned home with a gorgeous handkerchief as a prize.

Wishes and prayers, written on strips of paper, are tied to long lines on the Oyamazumi Shrine grounds.(c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Wishes and prayers, written on strips of paper, are tied to long lines on the Oyamazumi Shrine grounds.(c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Day 6: The Naruto strait and its massive whirlpools are calling for you to check them out before heading home. If you catch the whirlpools at high or low tide you can expect to see an impressive force of nature. The biggest whirlpools can measure up to  65 feet across! You can either view them up close on one of the cruise boats offering tours or from Uzu no Michi, an enclosed walkway under the Onaruto bridge.

On your way to the airport for your flight home, stop at the  Aizumi-cho Historical Museum for a little indigo dyeing. Indigo was the major source of dye in past and Tokushima was the major growing and manufacturing hub in Japan, exporting the color to the rest of the country. Modern chemical dyes have since killed the commercial use of indigo. But, thanks to a few surviving masters, the technique is still alive and seeing a resurgence as an intangible heritage. You can dye a handkerchief to your favorite shade in a number of traditional designs and shop at the small store for those last minutes souvenirs.

 

 

Dancers perform Awa Odori nightly at the Awa-odori Kaikan in Tokushima. The traditional dance is a much loved part of Shikoku's heritage. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Dancers perform Awa Odori nightly at the Awa-odori Kaikan in Tokushima. The traditional dance is a much loved part of Shikoku’s heritage. (c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

If You Go:

Official Shimanami Kaido website

Official Hiroshima Prefecture Tourism website

Official Shikoku Tourism website

Official Tokushima Prefecture Tourism website

Official Japan National Tourism Organization website

Out Asia Travel

Significant portions of this article’s underlying trip were hosted by the Japan National Tourism Organization. My opinions, however, are my own, and I have not been paid to express any bias for or against a place or product.

Share

One Comment

  1. Shikoku is great indeed.
    It has a lot of beautiful castles, the oldest onsen in Japan (Dogo Onsen), a lot of history (thanks to Sakamoto Ryoma), delicious food (Sanuki Udon) and so much more!
    I especially enjoyed the whirls of Naruto!

    And in recent years the art island Naoshima became quite popular among foreign tourists.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *