Setouchi Shimanami Kaido is a highway that connects the six islands between Imabari in Ehime and Onomichi in Hiroshima with nine spectacular bridges. The route is about 60 km long. The most unusual feature of this maritime road is that all but one of the bridges have paths for pedestrians and bicycles.
If you want to explore the Ehime side of the Shimanami Kaido by bicycle, the Giant Store Imabari is a good place to start. The store is located on the ground floor of Imabari JR railway station, so there’s no need to use a car if you don’t have one. There is however a car park if you come by car.
The Giant Store is a very attractive space filled with shiny bicycles and wall-sized maps of the Shimanami Kaido. It has a pleasant lobby area with chairs and magazines, and towards the back, changing rooms, lockers, showers and toilets.
For tourists, the main attraction of the store is the rental cycles of which there are quite a variety. They offer everything from carbon road bikes with electric assist to children’s bikes. In terms of sizes available, they have only one really large bike for adults, but they assured me that I would be comfortable on their medium size road bike. I’m 182 cm tall or thereabouts. A standard aluminium road bike costs 2,400 yen to hire for five hours, and 7,200 yen for two days with an overnight stay. This price includes loan of a helmet and free use of the changing room, lockers and showers.
Although the Shimanami Kaido has a great deal to be said for it, there are plenty of good reasons to hire a bike and try some other routes. One very attractive if undemanding option is to cycle around the Namikata Peninsula which forms the northernmost part of Ehime on Shikoku island.
To rent a bike, you have to make a reservation by calling (089) 825-1175. You also need to arrive at the store 30 minutes before time to complete the registration and payment procedures.
For those who have their own bikes but are looking for parts, clothing or accessories, the Giant Store Imabari has them.
Name in Japanese
ジャイアントストア今治 — Giant Store Imabari
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I was born in Bristol, England, and I came to Japan in 1991 … which means I’ve lived half my life in this island nation on the other side of the world. The theme of my career in Japan has been communication. I started as an English teacher, and moved into translation as I learned Japanese. I worked at a well-known electronics manufacturer, facilitating their multinational communications before I became a freelance translator. As such, I translated a lot of tourism-related information. It was obvious to me that most of this isn’t sufficient to convey the excitement and wonder of Japan. In 2011, I established Knowledge Travel Partners, an inbound tourism consultancy. After living in several regions of Japan, I settled in Ehime where my wife is from. It’s on the southern island of Shikoku facing the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, Japan’s Mediterranean. The pace of life here is slow and peaceful, but we do like to throw a raucous festival now and again.