Japan’s Setouchi region looks to attract more travellers interested in cycling

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Hi everyone: Here’s the latest travel news from Japan’s Setouchi region:

Early next year is a great time for cyclists to swap Aussie’s heat to ride in cooler climes. Another great reason for visiting Japan at present is the Aussie dollar, which is very strong vs the yen. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Here’s the news:

These days, even people overseas are aware of Japan’s famed Shimanami Kaido. This 60km route, traversable by cycle or foot as well as traffic, jumps from island to island and connects Hiroshima’s Onomichi on Honshu with Shikoku via the city of Imabari.

Recently, the Setouchi region, where this route is located, has begun to attract more travellers who are interested in cycling in other areas of the region’s nine prefectures.

Recently, Setouchi Vélo, an organisation determined to establish a lasting brand image for Setouchi as a cycling destination, trialled new potential route in Kagawa Prefecture’s capital city of Takamatsu.

Their course made use of electronically assisted bicycles to attract more hobbyists and was attended by the prefecture’s governor. The trial follows a refresher of Setouchi Vélo’s website and app, which helps cyclists to discover and follow new routes.

So far, Setouchi Vélo has added two new routes to the mix in the year since its founding. These additions bring the total number of registered cycling routes in the region to 82 (with a total length of 7,612 km). The newly registered routes include the Yumeshima Kaido Cycling Course in Ehime and a 1,000 km route that encircles Shikoku.

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While cycling has always had a niche appeal and audience, the Setouchi region is hoping to draw more international travellers of all ability levels. Thanks to the availability of motor-assisted bikes, riders of almost all fitness levels can enjoy exploring Setouchi by bicycle.

Their bikes can be rented at many places across the region’s nine prefectures and are extremely affordable.

For slow travel and getting off of the beaten path, bicycles can reach highlights in Setouchi that would otherwise be possible only via rental car. Moreover, bicycling allows international visitors to savour what life is like around Japan’s Seto Inland Sea in a way that no other means of transportation is able.

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While spots like Kosan-ji and the Hill of Hope are icons of the Shimanami Kaido, many hidden gems in the Setouchi region are also best visited via bicycle. For example, the Townscape of Mitarai (an important preservation district for groups of historic buildings) on Osaki-Shimojima (above) is one of the highlights along the Tobishima Kaido. While this cycling route is not for the faint of heart, it is but one of many in Setouchi.

Even within the confines of major cities in the region, having access to a set of wheels can be a great boon. While many spots can be reached via bus, travellers are largely beholden to their schedules rather than free to move about as they please. Especially in the more rural regions of Setouchi, this is a godsend.

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While Setouchi Vélo’s most recent test route in Takamatsu was more of a full-on cycling course, motor-assisted bicycles are also a great way to explore the city. For example, the charming Ritsurin Garden is located 2km from the station area, so access to a bicycle greatly expedites the trip.

Additionally, having a bicycle (especially a motor-assisted one) enables travellers to reach further out to locales in Takamatsu such as Yashima Temple with its stunning views, and Shikoku Mura where visitors can learn all about life on Japan’s smallest main island. Normally, these spots would be too inconvenient for most travellers, except for cyclists.

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In October this year, Japan saw more inbound visitors than it did prior to the pandemic, with over 2.5 million people entering the country. Already then, Japan was setting a new high-water mark every year. Many of the tourists now flocking to Japan are not on their first visit, and seek something a little different.

Setouchi’s Shimanami Kaido aside, renting a bike is a great way of exploring the more rural sides of Japan. Additionally, thanks to the country’s existing infrastructure for shipping luggage around from hotel to hotel, travellers can bike around to their hearts’ content without worrying lugging their suitcases around too.

Since few people bring their own bicycle to Japan, there are places to rent all over Japan. In the case of e-bikes, Tabinrin has listed all the places that offer rental services in Japan. The site has links to local vendors who provide the service.

Finally, for cycling around the island of Shikoku be sure to check some of the spots listed in the following sample itineraries. While these are not specifically for cyclists, these are must visits for all travellers in the area.

Discover Shikoku’s rich history and culture on this four-day Itinerary

/Public Release.