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Shimanami Kaido

Written on: Friday February 26th, 2010

A journal entry from: Japan

After New Year's I went on to Imabari, one of the end points of the Shimanami Kaido ("sea road"). The road stretches across a section of the Inland Sea, from Imabari (Shikoku) at one end to Onomichi (Honshu) at the other. It hops across a string of nine smaller islands, all connected by a series of bridges, and it's a little over 70km long. Great views of the Inland Sea. Of course you can drive the road. But why would you, when you can bike?

It's easy and pretty cheap to rent a bicycle at one end and drop it off at the other. I planned for a two-day trip, but if you are trying, it is do-able in one day. The scenery and the fun of biking the route (yes, fun, yes, biking over 70km on a little three-speed granny bike...I know, I know, you don't believe me...) was what really made the trip worthwhile, but there are some other attractions.

The main place to visit for me was Ooyamazumi Shrine (大山祇神社). The gods the shrine is dedicated to are the gods that are supposed to protect sailors and soldiers, and it was the most important shrine for the suigun – the maritime warriors who once dominated the Inland Sea. The shrine is a pretty one, but what was really great about the place was the attached museum. Many of the artifacts are from the suigun, and, astoundingly, comprises about 80% - 90% of the items designated as national and cultural treasures in Japan. I keep wondering if I've somehow got that stat wrong; the museum isn't that big, but I've read it a few times now. Most of the exhibit contains swords, helmets, and body armour. A few of the items belonged to or were "dedicated" by Minamoto no Yoritomo - the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate and the first shogun - or his younger brother, Minamoto no Yoshitsune. And a lot of the artifacts were very interesting and beautiful. So even though it was small, it was really good.

The very last leg of the trip was a 10-minute ferry ride into Onomichi, as the evening grew dark. When I landed, I went straight to the nearest ramen shop and bought a fantastic bowl of Onomichi-style ramen. Perfect.