• Japan In Focus

Ehime: Getting Good Night’s Sleep with Your Bike

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A rider prays for safe cycling at the Oyama Shrine in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture.

The allure of the Shimanami Kaido cycling course is that there are a variety of scenic spots along the way and plenty of facilities that make bicycle excursions much more enjoyable. It even has a divine element.

At the Oyama Shrine, referred to as the bicycle shrine, on Innoshima island in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, the Watashi Okami god of transportation is enshrined. The number of visitors to the shrine began to sharply increase eight years ago when a rest area was set up on the premises of the shrine.

Each May, the shrine holds an annual festival praying for cycling safety, which attracts riders from Europe and the United States. They are said to have learned about it from social media.

Many cyclists tour the islands and incorporate overnight stays into their trips so they can enjoy the breathtaking views, eat delicious citrus fruits like mikan mandarins, and savor the local seafood.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A man parks his bicycle beside a glamping tent, where cyclists can stay overnight, on Omishima island in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.

Wakka is a lodging facility with 32 beds on Omishima island in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture. It boasts a superb view of the Tatara Ohashi bridge linking the island to Ikuchijima island. The facility has cottages and tents for glamping, which makes it possible for guests to stay overnight and have their bicycles parked either indoors or in the garden. Wakka has been flooded with reservations.

“The popularity of cycling and glamping is strong because those are the outdoor leisure activities that are less likely to risk the Three Cs [closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings],” said Wakka President Arashi Murakami.

The Ikidane Hostel & Cafe Shimanami, which opened in spring 2019 on Omishima with 68 beds, is stair-free and has bicycle racks installed in each room.

Publicly operated rental cycle facilities are also expanding, and an increasing number have added bicycle washing spaces and showers for cyclists.

An Imabari municipal government official said the city “will seek to balance infection-prevention measures and convenience with the aim of realizing a cycling road that can be visited at ease even amid the coronavirus crisis.”