Japan, You’re so Fresh and so Green, Green (Cycling the Shimanami Kaido)

Two weekends ago, I followed through with possibly the worst idea I’ve ever had: biking the Shimanami Kaido – the 70km route between Onomichi City on Honshu and Imabari City on Shikoku, Japan’s 4th major island. The route crosses multiple islands and the bridges that connect them in the Seto Inland Sea. My friend Whitney, equally insane, agreed to this foolhardy mission and then convinced a third friend – Kwame – to come with us. I find it statistically hard to believe, in retrospect, that there are three people this mental in one tiny prefecture – but it’s possible. The bike ride was monstrously exhausting; it didn’t help that we got lost numerous times – on a well-marked trail…. When all was said and done (and we were too tired to function or think), we biked over 80km, or 55 miles. I may never ride a bike again. It was a breathtaking ride, though and a great adventure through the islands and over the brides and across the sea in Japan!

(disclaimer: just because you run 2-3km three times a week does NOT mean biking 70km will be “fairly easy,” as I may or may not have suggested it would be…)

Saturday morning – 10am: First island (after getting lost for an hour – which added, oh, an additional 10km to the ride)

The second bridge. The ride is beautiful, albeit masochistic.

and then we were on Easter Island! Me: "What? Why?" Whitney: "This is Japan." TIJ. Truth.

(Disclaimer: inappropriate simile) All the green was like an orgasm for my senses. it's so lush it's unreal.

Atop one of the bridges.

Whitney and Kwame at 40km. I have no idea how I had the energy to even take the picture!

28km left - In my head: "OMG I WANT TO BURN THIS BIKE." Around 30km or so, we made a wrong turn onto a more advanced path. Then, Kwame went ahead while Whitney and I stopped for a water break. When we went to catch up with him, we made another wrong turn and ended up on a super advanced, "short-cut" path. By "super advanced" they mean LANCE ARMSTRONG WOULD BE PANTING.

The chain came off Kwame's bike. Solution? Give up. (also, thank goodness for the vending machine love in Japan - we always had water!)

A second wind. Me: "Alright, guys - I'm feeling genki again! (happy/excited/ready to go) We can do this!" So. so wrong.

60km. 6:30pm. Waiting for Whitney and Kwame to catch up, I fell asleep on the road. Really.

The final bridge!!!! It's 4km - the longest - and has an incline - the hardest. But the sunset was gorgeous. I rode with one hand on the handlebars, and the other pushing my leg down to keep moving.

Sunset rest break.

I couldn't get enough.

last one. I promise.

But, by 8pm, we made it! Truthfully, I am shocked that we finished it. I kind of expected desperately wanted us to return the bikes somewhere along the way and take a bus. None of us would really settle for that option, though. knew where we could do that, though. By “none of us” I mean Whitney and me. Kwame outcycled us like nobody’s business. Boy can bike.

It was hard, but it was rewarding (kind of) to finish it. My muscles felt like they were on fire, and I was sunburned and grouchy, but doing this bike ride has been a goal of mine since last September, and goals are good to meet… right? haha I wouldn’t do it again, but it really was a good experience.

Interested in cycling the Shimanami Kaido? Here are some tips:

Rent bikes near the Onomichi Port. It’s across the street from Onomichi Station on the JR line. Fax this bilingual form to reserve bikes. I recommend this – bikes go quickly, especially near holidays. The start of the route is not in Onomichi. Take the ferry by the bike rental (yeah… it probably should have been self-evident for us, too….). There are three routes – a recommended, intermediate and advanced. Stay on the recommended if you’re not moderately fit superhuman. Watching the sunrise over the last bridge is beautiful but try to cross it before dark (it feels never-ending…). There is a Sunrise Itoyama right off the ramp of the last bridge in Imabari. Rooms are as cheap as 4000yen for a single. You can also return bikes here. There’s an affordable, pretty tasty restaurant and a large ofuro. They have a free shuttle bus in the morning to the JR Imabari Station. Ganbatte!

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~ by C on June 16, 2010.

8 Responses to “Japan, You’re so Fresh and so Green, Green (Cycling the Shimanami Kaido)”

  1. 1) That is a long way and I am super impressed.
    2) You look so hot
    3) I love the random Japanese you are starting to use.
    4) You should have totally found an onsen afterwards, it would have made the trip even better!

  2. agreed on all accounts. i mean…. haha an onsen would have been amazing. we went to one the next day in Matsuyama, though!

  3. “OMG I WANT TO BURN THIS BIKE.”
    Hilarious, with a good face to match!

    Just found your blog today, but come this July, I’ll become Southerner-turned-JET, too (not in Yamaguchi, though… I’ll be in Kansai). So just sayin’ hey!

  4. congrats on getting into JET! welcome to the family! where are you in kansai? enjoy your last five weeks in the States – make sure to eat everything you love another 100 times before you come! 🙂

  5. Nice trip. Sure looks like a lot of work though : )

  6. […] Cyndi: See previous post for her long-winded answer. […]

  7. nice pictures ! im going to shimanami after tomorrow ! its gonna be freezing but iam excited !!! could u please send me an email telling me in which island is the easter island statues ? thanks very much my email is henryyjr@softbank.ne.jp

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