A spectacular drive through the Shimanami Kaido

The Nishiseto Expressway is well known as the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido, running from Ehime to Hiroshima via nine connecting bridges. Discover sacred sites, works of art and places of scenic beauty in the islands of the Seto Inland Sea while enjoying an exceptional drive over bridges and islands down to Onomichi!

Day 1

  • JR Imabari Station

    35 min
  • Towel Museum

    Learn about Imabari’s most famous export

    The city of Imabari has a 120-year history of towel production and is the leading production area in Japan. There are almost 200 factories in the city to process and dye cotton yarn, and make towels. The Towel Museum is a building complex with a working factory, galleries, eateries, and shops where you can buy towels, toweling accessories, and regional souvenirs.

    The main exhibition space has displays of intricately designed towels as well as a mock factory floor with functioning machinery that illustrates the production process. Creative and colorful installations made from towels or spools of yarn make for fun photo opportunities. A permanent gallery is dedicated to the world of Moomins, the popular storybook characters from Finland. Statues of the characters can also be found in the Museum’s strolling garden.

    30 min
  • Kurushima Kaikyo boat ride

    Experience the tidal currents where the sea turns to rapids!

    This boat tour delves into one of Japan’s three fastest currents, the Kurushima Strait. The 40-minute ride provides views of the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge (the world’s first triple suspension bridge), the shipyards of Imabari (Japan’s biggest maritime city), and islands once governed by the Murakami Suigun. The boat trip through the tidal currents becomes a white-knuckle ride more akin to white water rafting, and the swirling rapids are almost overwhelming! The tour features the uniquely thrilling experience of travelling through the rapids even with the boat's engine switched off!

    10 min
  • Kirosan Observatory Park

    Enjoy a panoramic view of the Seto Inland Sea

    Kirosan Observatory Park on Oshima Island has some of the best views along the Shimanami Kaido, a cycle route over the Seto Inland Sea. Built on Mt. Kirosan, over 300 m above sea level, the observatory offers views of the islands of the Seto Inland Sea and the bridges that connect them. The observatory is designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma. It blends into its surroundings and conforms to the natural shape of the mountain. There is a shop next to the parking lot at the base of the observatory where you can buy souvenirs and refreshments.

    20 min
  • Murakami Suigun Museum

    Experience the life of the pirates of the Seto Inland Sea!

    The museum presents the maritime history of the Murakami Suigun, known as “the lords of the sea”, who were in control of the Seto Inland Sea during the Sengoku period. The exhibition includes precious documents on the history and culture of the Murakami Suigun and the Imabari area. Visitors can experience the life of a pirate by putting on a suit of armour or paddling against the sea currents while enjoying views of the rapids around the Noshima castle ruins and the Hakata and Oshima Bridges.

    10 min
  • [Michi-no-Eki] Hakata S.C. Park “Marine Oasis Hakata”

    Enjoy a range of local salty delicacies!

    Marine Oasis Hakata is a roadside station (‘Michi-no-Eki’) surrounded by a well-maintained beach and park grounds located at the foot of the Hakata and Oshima Bridges. The shop sells local specialties including unique products made with the local Hakata salt, freshly picked vegetables, and marine products from the Seto Inland Sea. You can also taste local specialities such as Shio Ramen at the on-site restaurant. Experience the pleasant sea breeze, catch the sunset over the bridges, and enjoy the incredible scenery! You can also see dolphins and whales at the nearby “Dolphin Farm Shimanami”.

    20 min
  • Oyamazumi Shrine

    The shrine dedicated to the tutelary deities of the sea, mountains and martial arts

    Oyamazumi Shrine is the oldest shrine in Ehime, the head shrine of approximately 10,000 Yamazumi and Mishima shrines across the country. A gigantic 2,600-year-old sacred camphor tree stands in the centre of the shrine precinct. The shrine holds many items designated Important Cultural Properties including the Honden (the mail hall) and the Haiden (the hall of worship) and time will fly by as you wander around this mysterious place. The shrine has been worshipped as home to gods of the sea, mountains and warriors and many military generals dedicated arms to pray or give thanks for military victories. There is a treasure hall with displays of these arms within the shrine precincts. It is estimated that the collection of weapons and armoury are 80-percent of the nation’s National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties.

    15 min
  • Tokoro Museum Omishima

    The museum where every object is art

    Opened in 2004, the Tokoro art museum has about 30 collections including works by American-based Noe Katz, Tom Wesselmann, Giacomo Manzu (known for the 14-year project of the gate of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome), along with Japanese artists such as Norichika Hayashi and Takashi Fukai. In this museum, even the views of the Seto Inland Sea are works of art!

    2 min
  • Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture, Imabari (TIMA)

    An architectural museum complemented by its natural surroundings

    This is the first museum of contemporary architecture in Japan. The museum consists of two buildings: the Steel Hut exhibits the works of the architect Toyo Ito, while the Silver Hut is the relocated and converted former residence of the architect. Inside the museum architectural models are displayed as if they were islands floating on the clear blue water of the Seto Inland Sea. In the dark-blue carpeted room round white cushions are set like clouds over the sea, visitors can make themselves at home and enjoy the displays and the exhibition space while sitting or lying down. Get taken away in this uniquely designed museum as you lose all sense of dimension and space.