Oshima to Ohmishima

(55 KMs)

Saturday 28th October

Oshima - Ohmishima

Island Explorer Route

Edi served us a lovely little breakfast at 8am including melted cheese on salad and bread, a milky, cinnamon pumpkin dish, persimmons, yoghurt and fig jam.  It was light and delicious.  The night before she and Yoshi had suggested that we cycle up the observatory and we had dismissed it as being too steep for our bikes with panniers.  However, given that it was a beautiful sunny morning, we decided to leave our panniers at the guesthouse and make the climb.  it was about a 3.5km climb with signs every 500m advising how far to go and the gradient ahead.  It was all 5-9% until we reached the last 500 metres when it became 10-15%.  It was easily manageable without panniers.  A couple of cyclists passed us on e-bikes and there were very few cars on the road, which was fortunate as it was very narrow. Another cyclist arrived not long after us looking exhausted from the climb.

The view from the top was worth the effort.  Located on Mt Kiro at almost 310 metres, the observatory platform was a work of art in itself, being almost buried into the hilltop, and providing 360 degree views.  We could see Imabari in the south, the Kurushima-Kaikyo bridge in the northwest and many islands in the Inland Sea.  The cyclist that arrived just after us appeared with an ice cream as we were attempting to set up the camera for a selfie and offered to take it for us.  Simon obligingly held his icecream and then took his photo in return.

It was a quick trip down and Edi had made us iced tea and provided a KitKat snack.  Yoshi joined us and they were keen to hear more about our travels and asked us to write in their guestbook.  They also showed us the little temple next to their house that they looked after together with three of their neighbours. Simon got to ring the bell twice which is meant to get the God’s attention. Yoshi gave us a fresh fig as a parting gift and we finally waved our goodbyes and set off. 

We cycled through the centre of Oshima Island before reaching the coast and then climbing up to the Hakata-Oshima bridge where you could see the whirlpools created by the changing of the tides.  We stopped at the Hakata S-C roadside station on Hakatajima Island to try its famous soft serve salt icecream which we enjoyed sitting on the beach.  We got chatting to an American family as we were unlocking our bikes who were fascinated that we were touring and had brought our bikes with us from Australia. 

After crossing the Omishima Bridge we detoured off the main route and picked up the Island Explorer route to visit some of the Omishima Island museums and places of interest.  We stopped at a little restaurant, Pit In for lunch and ordered their Bento box (it was the only item on the menu).  It consisted of some tempura, green salad, noodle salad, miso soup, rice with endamame beans (shaped in four cylinders), eggplant, taro and other vegetables,   It was delicious but we couldn’t finish the rice so the owner packed it up for us to take with us.  He also asked us to write in his guest book.

As we were getting ready to leave, a young man came over to us and asked us some questions in excellent English.  He said that the owners wanted to know where we were going, how long we were travelling and a host of other questions, including what did we think of our lunch. We chatted for a while, and as a parting question, he said that they wanted to know Simon’s age. 

The Island Explorer route took us along the coast, noted on the map as “a hilly region full of mandarin orange orchards” which was most apt.  Some 10kms later we reached the Ken Iwata Mother and Child Museum and opted to buy a three-museum pass giving us an extra incentive to cycle quickly.  The Museum was an open ring of concrete with a large number of (mainly) bronze sculptures of nude women and children.   

A couple of kilometres further along we reached the Toyo Ito Museum of Architecture which consisted of some large architectural structures and two very different buildings.  The Steel Hut had an exhibition about how many more people were visiting Omishima Island on the Shiminamo Kaido but visitor numbers to   the Oyamazumi Shrine had decreased.  There were models and suggestions on how to make the nearby port city of Miyuara more appealing for visitors to increase numbers to the Shrine.  There was one panel in English and then the rest of the exhibit was all in Japanese. The Silver Hut was the relocated former residence of the architect.  We went into the main area with its archways and views but the rest of it is used for workshops and not open. 

The third museum was the Tokoro Museum, a contemporary sculpture museum.  It too had amazing views and some interesting sculptures but photography was prohibited. 

Our final stop was the Oyamazumi Shrine, once one of the most important shrines for samurai, and now houses a collection of armour and weaponary.  It is set in a grove of about 200 camphor trees, with two of them over 2600 years old and wrapped in sacred ropes.  We had a quick look at the shrine but unfortunately didn’t have time to visit the museum as we wanted to arrive at our accommodation before dark.  Fortunately, it was a pleasant ride to the Farmor Guesthouse along a bike path that kept us off the main road for most of the way.

The owner, Farmor, helped make us comfortable and reminded us when it was time to leave for our restaurant booking at Garuku restaurant, a five minute walk away. We had a pleasant dinner and a quick walk home as the evening was clear and cold.