The Seto Inland Sea is a shallow sea separating the island of Shikoku from Honshu, the main island of Japan. A chain of very picturesque islands, large and small, straddles the sea between Imabari in Ehime, and Onomichi in Hiroshima. This route is linked by the Shimanami Kaido, a highway with spectacular suspension bridges over the sea passages. The highway is part of Japan’s expressway system, and tolls are levied for vehicles of all types. But unlike most expressways, the Shimanami Kaido has a lane for pedestrians and cyclists, although these are restricted to the bridge sections of the highway. Where the highway crosses an island, the pedestrian lane peels off and descends a looping ramp while the expressway plows on in a somewhat straight line, plunging into tunnels here and there through mountains.
On the Ehime side, Sunrise Itoyama represents something of a gateway to the route. An attractive steel and glass building, it offers one of the best views of the suspension bridge over the Kurushima Channel from the huge picture window of its lounge. The view is sure to whet your appetite for the crossing ahead. Wi-Fi is available in the lounge, and when I visited, cyclists from Europe, America and Oceania were all busily gobbling up the bandwidth with their laptops and iPhones. I gobbled up a few strands myself to post a photo of the bridge to Facebook.
Besides being able to use your own communications equipment at Sunrise Itoyama to gather information, you can also get excellent help in English from the staff at the information counter. They’re friendly, engaging and dedicated to helping you get the most of your visit. Various tours are available in the area including food tours, fruit picking, and boat rides to see the dramatic tidal phenomena of the Inland Sea up close.
For cyclists without their own bikes, Sunrise Itoyama offers 400 bikes for hire, including mountain bikes, cross bikes, road racers, shopping bikes with gears and baskets, kid’s bikes, and even tandems and electrical-assist* bikes. At 500 yen a day with a 1,000 yen deposit, rates are very reasonable. See the separate article Shimanami Kaido Cycling for details.
Sunrise Itoyama has a restaurant, Kaze no Restaurant, and nineteen guestrooms priced at around 3,000 yen per person.
This is one of the best tourist facilities of its kind that I’ve visited.
*Different rates and conditions apply