I biked around the Inland Sea of Japan in March-April 2012 to experience mainly the cherry blossoms and historical monuments in that part of Japan. Made also visits to several religious centers trying to understand a little bit more of Buddhist thinking and old and new ascetic and pilgrimage behavior.
Included in addition a short visit to the religious important mountains where women are not allowed, and to Nara before going back to Kyoto.
My trip started in Kyoto to Himeji, following the northern shoreline to Okayama and Onomichi. Then biked across the huge bridges to the island of Shikoku, first to Imabari, Matsuyama and south to Ozu before going east through the high mountains of Shikoku (including the Mt. Tsurug) to Tokushima where I took the ferry across to Wakayama. Then up to the religious center at Koyasan, the cherry blossoming in the Yoshino Area, and a visit to the summit of the Omine mountain range which women are not allowed to visit.
It was a very pleasant trip, with good weather most days. I had not booked any accommodation except in Kyoto at the beginning of my stay in Japan and after the biking trip. But it was mostly not difficult to find a place to stay overnight – if my search started not too late in the afternoon. Had a small tent with me in any case. It was easy to find the way, as I tried to bike on smaller roads within sight of the main roads and the Sinkansen trains. The plan for the first week was to bike along the mostly flat coast line to become fit for the mountains in the interior of Shikoku and around Koyasan/Omine. My maps had very little information about altitudes, which made the trip more adventurous and a good slimming event.
I would strongly recommend such a biking trip, but add a few days in case of more rainy weather. Having had a short Japanese language course showed to be an important advantage. It was extremely friendly and helpful people all the way. The bike I rented was perfect for such a trip.
One of my few mistakes was to follow local advise and “ bike up” the mountain to Koyasan along the old and main pilgrim route which was steep, muddy, freezing cold and gave me a very long day. Not recommended with bike, but must be very nice walking down.
I would, however, strongly recommend a small, very nice and cheap guesthouse in Kyoto centre (see www for hirano’s guest house. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org). Will also strongly recommend another very nice guesthouse at the second large island (Innoshima) along the bridge biking route from Onomichi over to Shikoku (I have only the name of the guesthouse in Japanese letters, but it’s on the northwestern shore and had a “flower sign” along the road). I asked mostly locals at gasoline stations and in shops for accommodations and they gave always good advice (or were running in front to show me the way).
This was my second biking trip in Japan and I will definitely be back again, both because of
the friendly people, but also so much interesting to learn about Japanese ways of thinking.
Jon Teigland (Norway) – March-April 2012