Trip on unexplored national roads in Japan – Part 1

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Trip on unexplored national roads in Japan – Part 1

Its length is 190km but we will be walking 72km from Imabari in Ehime to Onomichi over a span of three days. Six islands are connected along this route, so we will visit these islands of the Inland Sea.

From Imabari, the first destination is Oshima Island. Walk for about an hour to the Kurushima Kaikyo 3rd Bridge. Its length is 1,571m and it is one of three connected suspension bridges which make up the Kurushima Kaikyo Long Bridge, which spans about 4km. Enjoy the view of the beautiful Inland Sea as you walk towards Oshima. Once you reach Oshima, make a stopover at Yoshiumi Ikiiki Kan for a meal. Customers can select their favourite fresh seafood, such as scallops and oysters, and barbecue the items immediately.

After your meal, make your way to the next island. Interestingly, part of Route 317 is actually a “sea road”. So you’ll have to travel by ferry from Oshima to Hakata Island, which is 20 minutes away. You can spend the night at Hakata Island. You may wish to stay at an inn called Uzushio. For dinner, you’ll get to feast on sashimi, stewed black rockfish and sea bream rice. It is said that the best sea breams in Japan are from the Inland Sea.

On the second day, from Hakata Island, make your way to Omi Island. Ferries from Kumago Harbour were discontinued about 14 years ago so you’ll have to cross a bridge to reach the island. However, if you’re lucky, you may just be able to hitch a ride on a boat passing by. At Omi Island, walk along the 1.5km-Tatara Bridge to go to Ikuchi Island. While on the bridge, clap your hands to experience what is known as the “Tatara Howling Dragon”. It refers to the sound being echoed from the pillars of the bridge.

After crossing the bridge, you will arrive at Hiroshima’s Ikuchi Island. The first thing you will notice is many lemon trees. Ikuchi is known as the best lemon-producing island in Japan. A local speciality called Eco Lemon is grown here and its peel can be eaten too. After crossing Ikuchi Island, have a meal at a “bus” restaurant called Fuku-chan. It was previously a bus and was revamped into a restaurant which serves delicious Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, featuring udon instead of soba.

Continue your trip along Route 317. Bid farewell to Ikuchi Island and make your way to Inno Island next. You can reach there by walking along a bridge for an hour, or by ferry, which takes only five minutes. However, do note that there is no ferry service on Sundays. Once you’re at Inno Island, check out the downtown area of the island. Stay overnight at the island.

On the third and final day of this trip along Route 317, before heading to the next place, Mukai Island, drop by a sweets shop called Shoaido. Founded in 1921, one of its popular items is Hassaku Daifuku, featuring Hassaku orange covered with bean paste and fresh rice cake. It is a sweet treat not to be missed! Later, cross the two-layered Inno Island Long Bridge to go to Mukai Island. The bridge is about 1.3km long; the top layer is for cars, while the lower one is for pedestrians and bikers. After walking for 20 minutes, you will reach Mukai Island, the last island of this adventure. At the island, you’ll have to cross one last bridge, the Onomichi Long Bridge, before finally arriving at the goal of this trip, Onomichi.

The next national road we will be checking out is Route 140. It stretches about 218km from Kumagaya city in Saitama prefecture to Koma-gun in Yamanashi prefecture. Route 140 used to be the only main road connecting the Musashi and Kai regions. Due to its long history and beautiful scenery, it has been named one of the best 100 roads in Japan.

Start the trip from the bus terminal at Otaki Hot Springs, Chichibu. Walk for about 1.5 hours to the huge Karisaka Tunnel. The tunnel is not accessible to pedestrians but don’t worry, there’s a walkers’ path just beside the tunnel. The particular portion of Route 140 we’ll be taking is 15.2km and one has to walk along a traditional mountain road. The journey takes about two days, so first make your way to Karisaka Lodge, where you can spend the night. Walk along a paved road of Route 140 for about 40 minutes, after which the harsh mountain road starts. Karisaka Lodge is 6.7km away and you’ll have to climb up to a height of 2,000m.


Tips:

1) Some Inland Sea islands are accessible by bridge or ferry but do note that ferry services may not be available everyday


2) On the Tatara Bridge, clap your hands to experience a phenomenon known as the “Tatara Howling Dragon”

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