Ikuchijima is one of the larger islands of the Shimanami Kaido. It is also the longest section of the cycling route for a single island. It doesn’t take long to cross the island but it can feel long, especially if it is your first day there.
I started off the trip by taking the north coast route. You can easily do the south coast as well but the north coast has more points of interest. As I travelled the coast, I was met with various different artworks. The entire island is littered with art, although there is less than you would expect and they are not easy to find. Some of them are hidden, and some of them are less interesting than you expect. It is good to try to stop and see them if you can, but don’t expect to be impressed.
As you go along the north coast, you will come to a big “Michi no Eki”, or a road station. These are very popular in Japan and along the rural roads you will find these centres where you can try the local foods. I wanted to go to the ice cream shop called Dolce, but ended up just buying some cold, nearly frozen juice instead. It was a great way to refresh myself as it was a very hot day.
The next point where I stopped was the main town area. You will know you are there when you see a few museums. There is Kosanji, a famous temple that also acts as a museum. I didn’t go in because it is expensive, but the front gates are very elaborate and interesting to see. I found it more interesting to continue on to the main shopping street.
The main shopping street is for the locals. There are a few shops for people to get some drinks, but there are also a lot of shops to buy locally grown foods and other items. It was very colourful the day I was there and while I couldn’t go very quickly along the street, you really don’t want to go quickly as you just want to soak up the atmosphere of the place.
As you go along the shopping street, keep an eye out on the right for the entrance to Choonzan Park and Temple. When I was checking Google Maps, there was no sign and the road to get up there was very small. It was more of a path between buildings than an actual road. Now, they placed a nice stone marker with information in Japanese, but it is still hard to notice if you aren’t looking for it.
If you have a bicycle, you may not want to go up to the park as there are steep hills to get there. I ended up pushing my bicycle partway up the hill and then walking a little farther up to just see a small cemetery. The cemetery was interesting because they had a Christian cross in it. I’m not sure of the meaning of the cross, or if there were actually Christians there, but I was intrigued. I ended up not going to the top as I was just too tired, lazy, and didn’t feel like pushing my bike all the way up. I also had my fill of temples from Onomichi, so I didn’t feel like I missed anything. If I ever go back to Ikuchijima, I will return and try to go up to the top without a bicycle.
Once you pass the shopping street area you are at the port of the island. There are ferries that will take you back to Onomichi if you’d like. It is popular for people to rent a bicycle in Onomichi, cycle out to Ikuchijima, and then return to Onomichi by ferry. There are special bicycle racks on the ferries for your bicycles. If I only had a day, I would consider taking the ferry back, and if I do return to Ikuchijima, I just might take the ferry there instead.
Closer to the other side of the island, near Tatara Bridge, is Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach is exactly what it sounds like. It is a nice little beach where you can see the sunset. I didn’t see the sunset because I was staying at a B&B on the other side of the island and cycling at night would not have been a good idea. While I was at Sunset Beach, I noticed that there were more foreigners there than Japanese people. I’m not sure why, but it could have been because it was a Friday afternoon. The entire area was dead when I visited but I could imagine that it will be a lot busier during the summer holiday season.
The beach was really nice but do be aware that the sand was not very soft. It was a bit hard in places but once you get into the water, it is soft. The water was pretty cold and since I was just wading in, I didn’t worry about getting too cold. I did feel that the facilities were a little difficult to use as everything was a bit far from each other. There is a place to wash your feet after going into the water and there is a shower, but the shower required 100 yen for a few minutes, so I figured it wouldn’t be worth it.
The gift shop, “Cycle Through” on Sunset Beach was nice. There are lots of items to help you cycle around the area and there are some local items too. I saw the typical mikan juice packs, but also Dolce’s ice cream. There were 2 types of the ice cream, ice cream and gelato. The gelato style was softer and more expensive, so obviously I had to get that one. They do appear to have only a single person working on weekdays, so you might have to ask them for help.
Depending on the season, as you approach Tatara Bridge, you come across the citrus fields of Ikuchijima. All along the hillside you will see orchards of mikan trees. It is a lovely sight, but I was there during the off season so there were no fruit on the trees. I do hope to go back again in the future so that I can enjoy the trees when they are full of fruit. Maybe I can also steal some for myself. 😉
The last part of my journey for the day was to get to Setoda Link. Link is a small bed and breakfast with a very friendly couple. I had a little trouble finding the house as it is on the coast; off the main street. I did pass the main entrance by accident but found a sign telling me to go to the B&B using a back road that is closed to cars. I cycled up to the back entrance and was pleasantly greeted by the owner. The B&B was great and if I am ever on Ikuchijima again, you can be sure that I will be staying there.
While I was at Setoda Link, I decided to take a dip in the Seto Inland Sea. They have a small private beach, for the local residents. It was a nice beach with nice sand, but beware of the seaweed. There is a lot of slippery seaweed and it was difficult for me to walk. I nearly slipped and landed on my head, but I was safe. In May, the water was very cold. I felt as if I would have had a heart attack from the cold shock, but it was very refreshing and welcomed.
Setoda Link is located on the south side of the island, so I actually had to pass Tatara Bridge to get there. On the next morning, it was raining, so I donned my rain gear and headed out in the morning in a light rain to Tatara Bridge.
Ikuchijima is a great island and there is a lot to see and do. You really need a good day to enjoy it and to be able to see everything. You may not be able to see and do everything you’d like but you can definitely get a lot done. Like the other islands in the Seto Inland Sea, you can just take your time and enjoy the island time.