Cycling Paradise in Imabari, Ehime

The sea, the bicycle, and the towel

By Ryan Mannschreck    - 6 min read

Imabari is a lovely coastal city made up of islands and a corner connection to the large island of Shikoku, off the main island of Japan. Part of Ehime prefecture, Imabari is well known for its island cycling tours, beautiful inland sea views, and a peaceful pace of living. The city itself is made up of a good mix of industrial cotton factories, large shipping yards, historical sites, and simple modern living. A great place gentle outdoors adventure. Overall, Imabari is a relative cyclist’s dream. It also hosts many boating activities, fishing, and easy hikes. Combine these with Imabari’s vast array of historical sights and this island hopping adventure is not one to miss.

Evening scenery of Shimanami Kaido
Evening scenery of Shimanami Kaido

Highlights of Imabari

Imabari has a warm temperate climate throughout the year. Characterized by grassy island landscapes surrounded by the azure waters of the sea. Many wildflowers grow around the area and line the roads during spring and summer.

  • What is Imabari famous for other then cycling? Towels. Yes you read that correctly, towels. Imabari houses about 60 percent of Japan’s towel production industry and a large contributor to its cotton industry. Imabari even houses a towel art museum, where you can make your own towel, learn about the history of towel making, and see artworks made from towels. It’s towel-tastic!
  • If towels don’t tickle your fancy then how about a castle, with sharks! Imabari castle is one of only three castles in all of Japan that boasts a salt water moat. The castle itself is also a beauty. It houses many exhibits of note and several photo worthy angles. The castle is given a wonderful highlighted glow in the evenings thanks to handy spotlights. So it’s recommended, see the sharks (okay, small ones) in the light but the castle at night!
  • No trip in Japan is complete without the local delicacies. Imabari’s chicken yakitori is known as the best in Japan. Its local fish markets host all kinds of delicious fresh fish that also keep the local restaurants across the islands stocked. Above all try Imabari’s greatest local dish, Yakibuta tamago meshi, a succulent pork over rice dish topped with a mouth watering seasoned fried egg.
Set meal at the fishery cooperative's cafeteria
Set meal at the fishery cooperative's cafeteria

Recommended around Imabari

  • Shimanami Kaido:
    The main landmark of Imabari is the Shimanami Kaido toll road. No ordinary toll road, Shimanami Kaido spans over 60 kilometers connecting Japan’s main island of Honshu to the island of Shikoku. This road winds past six smaller islands that populate the Seto Inland Sea. What makes Shimanami Kaido truly special is its ability to be traversed by car, bike, or pedestrian affording novel views of the island and saltwater landscape.

  • Oyamazumi Shrine:
    Located on the island of Ōmishima in the Seto Inland Sea, Oyamazumi Shrine is dedicated to the gods who protect sailors and soldiers, making it particularly well-known among former military leaders.

  • Onmaku Festival:
    Onmaku means ‘dramatic, mess, or fullest’ in the Imabari dialect. The Onmaku festival is one massive celebration where every city and town throughout Imabari unites to hold celebrations for two full days. Most of this is concentrated on Imabari Port and its surrounding areas. Finally ten thousand fireworks light up the night sky across the area turning the whole sky into a show. Celebrations begin August 4th to the 5th. For more information go to: http://www.onmaku.jp/about/. Japanese only.

  • Oyamazumi Shrine Seraglio Festival:
    This festival celebrates the move of Oyamazumi shrine from its old location to its current location in Ehime prefecture. A parade is held traveling from Miyanoura Port to the shrine. Stalls also line the path selling goods and treats. Many visitors not from the island come to enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Sea kayaks
Sea kayaks

Live like a local

If cycling is your jam, Guesthouse CYCLONOIE has you covered. CYCLONOIE provides a cycling tour of Oshima island that you can request along with your stay. Through their company ‘CycloTourisme Shimanami’, you can experience a professionally guided tour through the area, be shown some of the best sights to see along your journey, and enjoy your travels in confidence.

Kurushima Kaikyo Bashi's Approach Bridge
Kurushima Kaikyo Bashi's Approach Bridge

Don’t worry about going hungry on your tour, your guide will lead you to many of the best spots for local cuisine to keep your energy up. Their site includes places to stay throughout your trip, where and how to rent bikes, how to send luggage, and food recommendations!

Attractions and experiences along route:

Expect some great sightseeing on your tour including, Kurushima-kaikyo bridge (the longest bridge on Shimanami Kaido road where you can catch a great view of the tidal currents of Kurushima Strait) and the famous quarries of Oshima stone.

If all this talk of biking fun is getting you itching to go we recommend a stay with CYCLONOIE. They are well versed in traveling the islands, biking adventures, and all you need to know for a great visit to Imabari.

Booking your stay at Guesthouse CYCLONOIE

Facilities include a variety of private room (starting 3,300 yen/night) and dorm (starting 2,800 yen/night) accommodation, with meals available separately. Reservations can be made directly online or over the phone: +81-898-35-449.

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Ryan Mannschreck

Ryan Mannschreck @ryan.mannschreck

Oklahoma girl now living in Japan. Graduated Keio University with a Masters in Media Design. Current student of the art of Shodo. Going on 4th year in Japan but still so much to explore. Specialties include art, design, culture, psychology, and sciences. 

Join the discussion

Kim B 9 months ago
So much great cycling around here. The Shimanami Kaido was memorable for me!
Elizabeth S 9 months ago
A salt water moat with sharks!

I stock my bath and kitchen with Imabari towels in my suburban Chiba home. Imabari towel handkerchiefs make great gifts for visitors and locals alike, too.