South Island Gallery / Cycle touring / 2014-12 Shikoku Cycle tour  

I've wanted to go cycle touring in Japan for years, as I keep hearing how good the riding is. This year I got my chance, as I was in Tokyo for a conference (3DV). It was the middle of winter so I headed further South to Shikoku island, which should have been warmer and dryer, except there was unusually heavy snow and rain while I was there. It was still a good ride, 1020km in 8 days mostly on quiet mountain roads.

Route: on Google maps here. The mountain roads are awesome to ride, except the busy East-West routes (197 and 438). The North-South routes cross mountain passes. The more major roads around the coast and through cities have awesome bike paths. The Shimanami Kaido bridges linking a chain of islands between Honshu (the mainland) and Shikoku has an awesome bike trail running alongside it.

Accomodation. There's lots of places to stay, especially on the pilgrim Henro trail (and listed in the Henro trail guidebook), but usually you need to book in advance, in Japanese. There are a few hostels (which expect you to book if you want food). Otherwise the bigger towns have business hotels, and the smaller places appear to have nothing. The food is good, especially if you like oily fish, but it was often hard to find anything open in December (off-season). 8 day trip cost about Y110000 including trains. A phrasebook or guidebook with Kanji would have been useful...

Trains. I used a Ground Effect Tardis bike bag. The best place on the trains/Shinkansen for it was slotted behind the last row of seats.

Maps. I used OpenStreetMap and the tablet app (with offline maps). It worked really well, but without any topographic information I never knew how big the passes were going to be. I had Backcountry navigator with topo maps, but the app was too unstable to use.

 P1050689 Shinkansen
 P1050690 Bike out of ground effect Tardis bag
 P1050694 Biking the Shimanami Kaido along bridges and islands from Honshu to Shikoku
 P1050695 Looking back towards Honshu
 P1050699 Persimmon tree
 P1050701 Nice bike paths through orange groves
 P1050706 These mini flyovers are just bike paths
 P1050708 The middle flyover is just for bikes and mopeds, the top is a 4 lane motorway
 P1050711 Tide races between the islands
 P1050712 Black-eared kites circling overhead
 P1050718 Ferry glide
 P1050720 More well-engineered bike paths
 P1050723 It means 'this road will turn to gravel'
 P1050724 Autumn colours everywhere
 P1050728 Warning of icy conditions in the mountains
 P1050730 First snow! Better stop and take a photo before I go over the pass
 P1050732 A bit more snow
 P1050734 I didn't have a topographic map so didn't know how high some of the passes were, only stacked twice though
 P1050738 Congestion
 P1050741 Some cool kayaking rivers if there was more water about
 P1050743 Oversize replacement birds (it doesn't really show how big they are in the photo)
 P1050745 Coastline near Cape Ahizuri
 P1050752 Riding up the ShimantoGawa in a snowstorm--next stop Kochi 195km from ShimantoShi, sheltering in a tunnel to stop for food
 P1050753 A motorist stopped and gave me some handwarmers, much appreciated!
 P1050756 Very happy to find a vending machine serving hot chocolate, in the forest in the middle of nowhere
 P1050757 In Kochi at last, almost made it in the light!
 P1050758 Cape Muroto, after a day hiding from snowstorms in the mountains by taking the coast road
 P1050763 Braided rivers just like NZ

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