Indulge your sense of adventure while soaking up history and taking in the scenery of Hiroshima, the Seto Inland Sea, and Shikoku. You'll walk, hike, cycle and paddle to temples, islands, shrines, and memorials and get a true sense of life in Seto Inland Sea communities.  This trip is designed to accommodate travelers who are used to easy walks, hikes, and bicycle trips and is suitable for children ages 12 and up.

Highlights

  • Explore Hiroshima's World War II memorials
  • Visit Miyajima's Itsukushima Shrine, with its iconic "floating" torii
  • Tour the coast of Sensuijima Island by sea kayak
  • Cycle the Shimanami Kaido, a route that takes you across the Seto Inland Sea
  • Hike part of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Trail

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Hiroshima Hiroshima
Day 2 Travel to Miyajima Island Miyajima
Day 3 Sea Kayak Around Sensuijima and Walk Through Tomonoura Tomonoura
Day 4 Walk in the Hilltops of Onomichi Onomichi
Day 5 Cycle Along the Shimanami Kaido Onomichi
Day 6 Complete the Shimanami Kaido and Begin the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage Imabari
Day 7 Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Temple 58 to Dogo Onsen) Matsuyama
Day 8 Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage (Temples 45 to 44) Matsuyama
Day 9 Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Temples 60 to 62)  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hiroshima

Atomic Bomb Dome and Cherry Blossoms, Hiroshima
Atomic Bomb Dome and Cherry Blossoms, Hiroshima

Travel by shinkansen (bullet train) to central Hiroshima. Hiroshima was the first in city history to bear the impact of the use of atomic weapons. The city's residents never forget the past, and you will notice memorials to the August 6, 1945, bombing, including the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial and Museum.

Tonight you'll either stay in Hiroshima at a modern hotel or take a ferry to the UNESCO World Heritage island of Miyajima and stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).

Day 2: Travel to Miyajima Island

Torii and Deer on Miyajima
Torii and Deer on Miyajima

Explore Miyajima Island, where the wild deer roam free. Experience an amazing view of the iconic Great Torii (Shinto gate) of Itsukushima Shrine, which appears to float at high tide. At lunch, you might want to try local Miyajima oysters or Anago Meshi (grilled eel).

During the afternoon, you'll have time to climb Mount Misen, the highest peak on Miyajima. You'll have a spectacular view of the Seto Inland Sea as you return by cablecar. Alternatively, you can take a longer hike and forego the descending cablecar ride, or substitute a gentler, flat sightseeing route covering the island's main attractions.

Walking distance: 3 miles/4.7 km of optional hiking; longer option is 7.5 miles/12 km
Elevation gain: 2,660 feet/810 m of ascent, negligible descent
Time required: About 2-3 hours

Day 3: Sea Kayak Around Sensuijima and Walk Through Tomonoura

Tomonoura Bay
Tomonoura Bay

This morning you'll travel to Tomonoura Bay, the lovely thousand-year-old port town that inspired Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki as he created his animated film, Ponyo. In its heyday, Tomonoura was known as Shiomachi-no-minato (port for awaiting a favorable tide). This town preserves its old-fashioned feel; it's still a working port, but you can see dozens of buildings in Tomonoura that date back to the Edo period.

Enjoy a morning sea kayak tour around Sensuijima Island. Later in the afternoon, you'll take a ferry to Sensuijima Island for your overnight stay at a traditional Japanese inn.

Kayaking time: 2-3 hours
Walking distance: 1.2 miles/2 km of optional sightseeing
Elevation gain: Negligible ascent and descent
Time required: About 1-2 hours

Day 4: Walk in the Hilltops of Onomichi

View of Onomichi, Japan
View of Onomichi, Japan

This morning you'll head to the romantic seaside town of Onomichi, which is the mainland entry point for the Shimanami Kaido cycling course. Spend the day exploring Onomichi’s old-fashioned shopping arcades and quiet hilltop back streets and spend the night at a historic ryokan or a modern cycling-themed hotel.

Walking distance: 2 miles/4 km
Elevation gain: 850 feet/ 260 meters of ascent and descent
Time required: 3-4 hours

Day 5: Cycle Along the Shimanami Kaido

Innoshima Suigun Castle, Innoshima, Japan
Innoshima Suigun Castle, Innoshima, Japan

Select your bicycle and depart from Onomichi for your first day of cycling on the Shimanami Kaido. Explore the wonderful natural landscapes and relaxing café culture of the Seto Inland Sea before spending the night on a remote island part-way along the cycling route.

Your cycling time and distance today and tomorrow will vary based on the location of the inn you stay at and how many of our optional side-trips in the six Shimanami Kaido islands you wish to undertake.

Cycling distance: 20-40 miles/35-65 km (the total Shimanami Kaido route is 50 miles/80 km)
Elevation gain: Negligible ascent and descent, with some very brief ups and downs to reach each bridge
Time required: 3-8 hours, depending on the distance covered

Day 6: Complete the Shimanami Kaido and Begin the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage

Shimanami Kaido and the Seto Inland Sea
Shikoku Temple 57, Eifuku-ji, Photo Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0

Continue along the Shimanami Kaido cycling route, passing through small island settlements. Your destination is Imabari on Shikoku Island. Drop off your bikes at Imabari Station and head inland by bus to the trailhead of our four-day Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage walking tour.

Cycling distances vary based on where you stayed last night and how many of our optional side trips you wish to undertake as you cycle through the islands. Most guests will undertake a 28-mile/45-kilometer, 4-hour cycle today.

Your Shikoku temple pilgrimage begins with a hike to Temple 57, Eifuku-ji, in Imabari. As you continue from there toward Temple 58, Senyū-ji, the scenery will gradually change from an urban townscape to rural farming communities before you enter a forest. The hike to Senyū-ji is a steady climb. You have the option to detour to Temple 56, Taisan-ji, today if you wish. Tonight you can stay at Senyū-ji, which offers pilgrim lodgings or stay in a western-style hotel in Imabari.

Cycling distance: 13-28 miles/20-45 km
Elevation gain: Negligible ascent and descent
Time required: 2-4 hours

Walking distance: 2.7 miles/4.4 km
Elevation gain: 820 feet/250 m ascent; negligible descent
Time required: About 1.5 hours

Day 7: Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Temple 58 to Dogo Onsen)

Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama
Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama

Your pilgrimage continues with a gentle walk down the mountain from Senyū-ji, with the opportunity to explore small villages along the way. You'll return to the town of Imabari, with an optional hike on a paved road to Temple 59, Iyo Kokubun-ji, and continue to Matsuyama by train. Tonight you'll stay in Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama's historic hot spring area.

Walking distance: 2.7 miles/4.4 km
Elevation gain: Negligible ascent and 820 feet/250 m descent
Time required: About 1 hour

Day 8: Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage (Temples 45 to 44)

Shikoku Henro Temple 44, Daiho-ji, Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0
Shikoku Henro Temple 44, Daiho-ji, Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0

Today you'll travel south by bus and prepaid taxi to Temple 45, Iwaya-ji, a temple closely linked to Kōbō Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism and the temples at Mount Koya. Climb the iconic ladder to Kōbō Daishi's meditation spot, which offers spectacular views of the region. From Iwaya-ji, enjoy a lovely hike through the forest to Temple 44, Daiho-ji. In the evening,  you'll head back to Matsuyama by bus and spend a second night in Dogo Onsen.

Walking distance: 7.3 miles/11.7 km 
Elevation gain: 2,130 feet/650 m ascent and 1,900 feet/580 m descent
Time required: About 4 hours

Day 9: Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage (Temples 60 to 62)

Shikoku Henro Temple 60, Yokomine-ji, Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0
Shikoku Henro Temple 60, Yokomine-ji, Courtesy of Simon Desmarais, CC BY-SA 2.0

Your tour ends today with a rewarding hike in the east of Ehime Prefecture. Travel by bus and prepaid taxi to reach the trail. You'll walk through a rural part of Shikoku to Temple 60, Yokomine-ji, Temple 61, Kōon-ji, and onward to Temple 62, Hoju-ji. After your hike, you'll travel by train to the Kansai area, arriving mid-evening.

If you would like to take a shorter hike, you can reduce your hiking time by about one hour and avoid the hike's first uphill section. Simply pay locally to extend your taxi ride to Temple 60, Yokomine-ji.

Walking distance: 8.5 miles/13.7 km
Elevation gain: 2,050 feet/620 m ascent and 3,850 feet/870 m descent
Time required: 4-5 hours

Map

Map of Self-Guided Active Japan: Cycling, Hiking, Kayaking - 9 Days
Map of Self-Guided Active Japan: Cycling, Hiking, Kayaking - 9 Days