Story & PhotosShimanami_Story_%26_Photos_1.htmlShimanami_Story_%26_Photos_1.htmlshapeimage_12_link_0
Nuts & BoltsShimanami_Nuts_%26_Bolts.htmlShimanami_Nuts_%26_Bolts.htmlshapeimage_13_link_0

Yes, you heard that right: it is now possible to cycle all the way between two of Japan's major islands, Honshu and Shikoku, by bicycle - via what is now perhaps the nation's premier cycle route: the Shimanami Kaido. "Shima" means island and "nami" means waves, and the name is appropriate: you cycle across several of the former and directly above the latter, skipping across the water like a two-wheeled stone, via a series of spectacular bridges like the one shown here. In return for the great views, you toss a 50-yen or 100-yen coin into a basket as a toll for each bridge. The route is exceptionally well marked; it's virtually impossible to get lost. More to the point, it's an easy 77-kilometer cycle: the only hills you will encounter are the entrances to each bridge - which, admittedly, can reach dizzying heights, with the kind of views you'd expect. Haven't sold you yet? Well... did I mention the spectacular Inland Sea scenery (try to make sure you do it in good weather), the great seafood along the way, and the fact that the route links two excellent tourist destinations: Onomichi on Honshu and (with an additional 40-km ride) Matsuyama, home to one of Japan's most famous hot springs? Put simply: this is one of the best rides in Japan - and that's saying a lot.