The Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge is a fitting start or end to any journey along the Shimanami Kaido. It is a 4km long bridge that connects Oshima to Imabari. It is a monster of a bridge with a very long approach and a unique approach. It is one of the most photographed bridges along the Shimanami Kaido and the most famous one as well. I did enjoy crossing the bridge but I didn’t really find it as beautiful as some of the other bridges. It was very magnificent but it is very similar to comparing a big city to a small village. They are different beasts with different beauties.
The approach on the Oshima side of the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge has two distinct sections. There is the traditional approach and the Kurushima style approach. The traditional apprach starts from the coast and works its way up and over the main road. Once you cross a small bridge for cyclists, you come to a nice little lookout. The lookout has good views of the bridge and is a good place to catch your breath before continuing on.
Once you pass the lookout, you come to one of the most famous aspects of the bridge, the circling bridge approach. You go in a long loop in order to get to the bridge deck. Think of it like the clover exchanges of a highway, but for bicycles. It is a lot of fun to go down, but going up it can feel like a chore.
Once I got to the top of the bridge deck, it is still difficult to keep going. The entire bridge can be separated into 3 main sections, or even be thought of as 3 bridges connected together, and each section has an uphill section. For people without the will, or without an electric motor, it can be difficult to cross this bridge without taking many stops. I did stop a few times, specifically at a couple of the tall bridge towers. It is hard to not stop at the towers and just marvel at this feat of engineering.
The other places I did stop were at the anchorages and between each section of the bridges. They were good places to stop and take photos. I did stop near Mashima, or horse island, but I didn’t actually go down to the island itself. I wanted to but the trip down looked difficult. You actually have to go down stairs with your bicycle and knowing that I would have to return to the bridge deck to get to Imabari, I decided not to go there.
Once I got to the downhill side of on the Imabari side, I could feel my goal approaching. The bridge itself is pretty busy and a lot of people walk out to the first tower. The first tower on the Imabari side has a lot of people there so be careful if you are cycling. I had to go pretty slow to make sure I didn’t hit any little kids as I passed. I also had to slow down a bit several times on the bridge deck due to the number of people just leisurely walking along.
Once you get to the bicycle area, you head down a nice cycling bridge that does a loop before taking you to the street. The bridge is a lot of fun to go down but you have to be careful of your speed. I was taking a video of things while cycling down the loop and it was a little challenging and definitely not that safe.
Once you get to the ground, you are near the Sunrise Itoyama. This is the traditional starting point of the Shimanami Kaido. Since I was going all the way to Imabari Station, I didn’t bother to stop there. The approach actually goes even further down the road along some dedicated hills and slopes.
As you proceed down from Sunrise Itoyama, be careful! There are a few switchbacks that you have to navigate and while they aren’t very dangerous, if you are going as fast as I wanted to go, it could have been dangerous. In fact, there was one point where I could have taken the stairs, and almost did get launched off the stairs, but slowed enough to notice the easier set of switchbacks.
The entire route along the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge is a lot of fun. You can really enjoy it but it is a challenge. Like a big city, this bridge is a completely different beast to the other bridges. You do have to deal with more people and the approaches and crossings are a lot harder than the others but once you pass it, you can be happy that you accomplished something that many people only wish they had done.