Breezing Through Setouchi in Ehime
#01 The sea breeze, mountains and more! 11 bike routes you can fully enjoy through the nature of Ehime.

Have you ever been to Ehime Prefecture? It’s a place known as a cycling paradise. Ehime is blessed with a mild climate overlooking the Seto Inland Sea with a rich natural environment. There are many cycling routes, through sea and mountain, including the Shimanami Kaido, which was selected by CNN as one of the seven best cycling routes in the world.

Ehime Prefecture is located in the northwestern part of Shikoku on the Seto Inland Sea side and has the largest population of the four prefectures in Shikoku. It is famous for its production of “mikan” oranges and is surrounded by nature, both ocean and mountain. There are also many historical sites such as Matsuyama Castle and Dogo Hot Springs, which were models for Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Spirited Away”.
This will be series of articles on Ehime’s attractive cycling routes. In this article, I will introduce 11 cycling routes in the prefecture, and from the second article, Jeremy, an American rider living in Shikoku, will report on the charms of cycling in Ehime.

Table of Contents

 1. Besshi-Suiha Flower View Cycling Course
 2. Ishizuchi Mountains Cycling Course
 3. Imabari-Saijo Hot Springs Cycling Course
 4. Imabari-Dogo Sea Breeze Cycling Course
 5. Iyonada-Sadamisaki Seto Seaside Cycling Course
 6. Uchiko-Nakaiyo Rural Cycling Cours
 7. Okuiyo-Hijikawa River Cycling Course
 8. Uwa-kai Roaring Surf Orange Cycling Course
 9. Uwajima-Shimanto Terraced Fields Cycling Course
 10. Ainan Sunshine Cycling Course
 11. Shimanami Kaido (Shimanami Coastline Cycling Course)

1. Besshi-Suiha Flower View Cycling Course

Starting Point:Mine-Topia Besshi
(707-3 Tacchikawa Town, Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture)
The ” Besshi-Suiha Flower View Cycling Course ” in the eastern part of the prefecture is 87.7 km long and runs around mountains at elevations of 1,500 to 1,700 m above sea level. This route starts from a roadside station “Mine-Topia Besshi” built on the ruins of the Besshi Copper Mine, one of the three largest copper mines in Japan, and then climbs Mt. Oonaga at first.

Tonaru Copper Mine Histrocial Documents Library

After crossing a rare loop bridge that circles around more than 360 degrees, you can see the huge industrial ruins of the Besshi Copper Mine, known as the “Machu Picchu of the East”. There is also a historical museum. From the start to the Oonaga Tunnel, the route climbs uphill at a stretch, but once you get over that, you can enjoy the gentle ups and downs as you ride along the lush green river. The beautiful autumn leaves are also a highlight in fall.

2. Ishizuchi Mountains Cycling Course

Starting Point:Shikoku Testsudo Bunkakan
(798-1 Omachi, Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture)
In this route, you can see Ishizuchi (elevation: 1982 m) Mountain. It is the highest peak in western Japan and one of the 100 most famous mountains in Japan. This is suitable for advanced cyclists with good endurance and technical skills, as it has long stretched of gentle uphill slopes, sharp curves, and many ups and downs.

Chodokamegamori Line

The Chodokamegamori Line, so-called UFO Line, is known as a road with a spectacular view of the sky. It runs along a ridge between 1,300 and 1,700 meters above sea level. On a clear day, you can see everything from the Seto Inland Sea to Tosa Bay on the Pacific side. The route is 146.6 km in length and it’s highly challenging, but the beauty of the scenery is exceptional, including lush forests with different vegetation at each altitude, Ehime’s unexplored Namegawa Canyon, and UFO Line.

3. Imabari-Saijo Hot Springs Cycling Course

Starting Point:Roadside Station Imabara Yunoura Onsen
(798-1 Omachi, Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture)
This 67.8-km course has not very many ups and downs, so it makes enjoyable for beginners. The course offers nostalgic and relaxing views of rice paddies with terraced fields and other rural scenery.

The Towel Museum

In the first half of the course, there is a popular stopover museum called The Towel Museum. It’s known for their photogenic exhibition that combines towels and art. It has become a hot topic on social media. The course also passes through three hot spring resorts, Yunoura Onsen, Nibukawa Onsen, and Hondani Onsen. There are many hot spring facilities that can be used for one-day trips, so if you are tired, you can take a relaxing break at a hot spring.

4. Imabari-Dogo Sea Breeze Cycling Course

Starting Point:Cycling Terminal Sunrise Itoyama
(2-8-1 Sunabacho Town, Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture)
This is a pleasant coastal cycling course with a side view of the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. It connects Imabari City, home of the “Shimanami Kaido”, and Matsuyama City, the center of Ehime. You can enjoy the beauty of the Seto Inland Sea with its refreshing sea breeze, the blue sea shining in the sun, and the orange sea dyed by the setting sun in the evening.

Dogo Hot Spring

In Matsuyama City, you can heal your tired body at Dogo Onsen, which is the model for Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Spirited Away”. This 52.1-km long route has less elevation changes, so it’s recommended for beginners, but be careful on Route 196 along the coast as the shoulder is narrow and the road is busy with traffic.

5. Iyonada-Sadamisaki Seto Seaside Cycling Course

Starting Point:Shiosai park
(Iyo City, Iyoshimori, Ko 91-1, Ehime Prefecture)
This 81.8-km course heads for the tip of the Sadamisaki Peninsula, the westernmost tip of Shikoku and the “longest and slenderest” peninsula in Japan. The first half of the course is relatively flat, and cyclists can enjoy the blue ocean of Iyonada and the seasonal flowers along the route.

Roadside Station Futami

After crossing the Shin-Nagahama Ohashi Bridge, the route is undulating and has many tunnels, so it is recommended for intermediate to advanced riders. But the long and narrow peninsula road offers views of the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Seto Inland Sea to the north. It makes it a uniquely scenic cycling road and is a one-of-a-kind riding experience.

6. Uchiko-Nakaiyo Rural Cycling Course

Starting Point:Tobe Sho-jo Danso
(450 Iwayaguchi, Tobe, Iyo, Ehime Prefecture)
This 82.6-km course starts in Tobe Town, the birthplace of traditional pottery “Tobe-yaki”. The starting point is the largest fault in Japan called “Tobe Sho-jo Danso”, where you can see a rare reverse fault and it’s designated as a national natural monument. The route continues uphill for 30km, then downhill from there to Uchiko Town in 40km away.

Roadside Station Uchiko Fresh Park Karari

Uchiko Town prospered through the production of Mokuro (wooden wax used to make Japanese candles), and the historical townscape Yokaichi and Gokoku districts are designated as a national preservation area for important traditional buildings. There are accommodations and other facilities that have been converted from machiya townhouses. It is also a great place to relax and stay in a time-traveling town.
After leaving Uchiko Town, you will climb up a mountain road, and the second half of the course will be a challenging part as there are repeated large ups and downs until you return to Tobe Town.

7. Okuiyo-Hijikawa River Cycling Course

Starting Point:Nagahamako Port
(Nagahama, Ozu City, Ehime Prefecture)
This 62.3-km course with few elevation differences run from the sea to near the border of Kochi Prefecture. It is recommended for beginners due to its light traffic. The route passes through Ozu City, known as Iyo’s “Little Kyoto,” and there are hot springs and roadside stations where visitors can take a day trip, so there is no need to worry about rest stops.

 The Red Bridge of Nagahama

This Hijikawa route is said the road that Ryoma Sakamoto, the Kochi-born samurai who fought for modern Japan, took when he escaped from the domain, and the further into the mountains you go, the more you can enjoy the natural beauty of the clear water. Nagahama’s Red Bridge, with its eye-catching red color over the Hijikawa River, is famous as the oldest movable bridge still in operation in Japan.

8. Uwa-kai Roaring Surf Orange Cycling Course

Starting Point:Yawatahama Port
(Okishinden, Yawatahama City, Ehime Prefecture)
The first half of the course from Yawatahama City to Seiyo City is a seaside course with beautiful scenery of the Uwakai Sea, running along the rias coast with its fun zigzags and Akehama Seaside Park with its tropical atmosphere. The second half of the course climbs up the mountain, repeating ups and downs in small increments. Hoketsu Pass, a scenic spot with a panoramic view of the Uwakai Sea, is a recommended stopover.

 The town view of Unomachi

Then, the route will take you to Unomachi, where you can feel the history. You can stroll around Kaimei School, a Meiji-era elementary school building that has been opened as an educational resource center, and the townscape with its beautiful white walls and traditional architectural style. This 81.4-km course allows you to visit the sea, mountains, and villages all at once and enjoy a variety of scenery.

9. Uwajima-Shimanto Terraced Fields Cycling Course

Starting Point:Komobuchi
(Komobuchi, Uwajima City, Ehime Prefecture)
This 108.7-km course starts at the tip of the Komobuchi Peninsula and runs along the Uwakai seacoast to the headwaters of the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture, which is known as the last clear stream. You can see the terraced fields of the Yusumizugaura area which have been selected as one of the “100 most beautiful landscapes of Rural Japan”. While the view from below alone is breathtaking, it is possible to climb to the top by bike. The view of the port from the steep slope is well worth a visit.

 The terraced fields of the Yusumizugaura area

After climbing a mountain path lined with trees, it is downhill along the Shimanto River. There are two routes on this course, one for beginners. The Hiburi-Uwajima route via Komobuchi Port and some trains on the Yodo Line are currently in test operation with the “Cycle Train” that allows you to load a bike as is, so beginners will not have to worry about their limits. The distance you can travel can be expanded if you make good use of the trains.

10. Ainan Sunshine Cycling Course

Starting Point:Yamaidashi Ikoi no Sato Hot Spring
(4082 Midoriotsu, Ainan town, Uwa District, Ehime Prefecture)
This course is located in Ainan Town at the southernmost tip of Ehime Prefecture. From the starting point, the course first runs through lush green mountainous areas, then continues along the beautiful rias coast toward the ocean.

Koumo Cape

The highlights of the ocean side of the course are included Koumo Cape, with its cliffs over 100 meters high, and fishing villages. The unique townscape of the Sotodomari area is a must-see. It is surrounded by high stone walls to protect houses from typhoons and seasonal winds. Although it is 111.3 km long, the area has very little traffic, allowing cyclists to enjoy the sea and mountains at a relaxing pace.

11. Shimanami Kaido (Shimanami Coastline Cycling Course)

Starting Point:Cycling Terminal Sunrise Itoyama
(2-8-1 Sunabacho Town, Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture)
The Shimanami Kaido is a popular cycling road that attracts many cyclists from Japan and abroad. The 69.9-km course runs from Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture to Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture, passing through seven islands. There are blue lines (road surface markings) around the “Shimanami Kaido” serve as road signs for cyclists. It indicates the distance and direction to major destinations, so even first-timers can get around easily without getting lost.

 Hakata-Oshima Bridge

The most attractive part of the course is the magnificent bridges connecting the islands, which offer an exhilarating and spectacular ride with a 360-degree view of the Seto Inland Sea. Along the way, in addition to bike rental spots, there are many local stores that provide services as “Cycle oasis” such as rest stops, water supply, restrooms, and air fills. It makes a safe and enjoyable environment for cyclists.

How did you like the 11 attractive cycling roads in Ehime Prefecture? In next article, Jeremy, an American rider living in Shikoku, will ride the famous Shimanami Kaido. Stay tuned!

Reference Websites:

Text_Miku Yoshimura
Born and currently residing in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture. After living in Tokyo, Hawaii, and Zushi, I returned to my hometown about a year ago. I will introduce you to the charm of riding in the pleasant climate of Shikoku.