The day trip from Hiroshima did not turn into Hangover #5 as Saijo sake town was in its quiet period after the brewing season. But now with some time to kill, our intrepid tour guide (me) started to fret about entertaining the disappointed guys – considering it was only about 2:00pm.
The suggestion of hopping the train to Onomichi on the Inland Sea was met with a mixture of ‘what ever’, and ‘not another hour on a train’. Neither reaction was going to deter this fearless leader. I am a real fan of going places without a strong plan, and being able to avoid returning on the same route – lost sight seeing time in my book. Hence this Hiroshima – Saijo – Onomichi – Setoda – Mihara – Hiroshima loop ticked all the boxes.
Typical of much of the landscape away from the coastlines, between Saijo and Onomichi on the JR Sanyo Main Line it is quite rugged, hilly and spectacular. Small villages are passed as the line wends its way though the mountains to then run beside the Nuta River to Mihara on the Inland Sea. The JR Shinkansen Line, expressways and highways cross over high above the river and us craning our necks from our seats in the JR Local.
A few stops later is Onomichi, one of the starting points for the Setouchi Shimanami cycling course – an immensely popular 70 kilometre bridge hopping and island hopping route to Imabari City. Noted for a future trip.
A quick visit to the Visitor Information Office at the station led us to a sprint to the ferry terminal to catch the last ferry out to Setoda on Ikuchi Island.
Why Setoda? No reason, other than we could loop around by ferry to Mihara. Floating along the Inland Sea for a couple of hours also sounded inviting. We knew nothing of Setoda at the start of the day, till the Visitor Information Centre alerted us to it.
The larger islands around this part of the Inland Sea are now connected by road bridges. Numerous ferries still ply these usually calm waters, joining island villages with the mainland.
The ferry route map and timetable is here. Having made the 4:30pm ferry literally by
jumping from the wharf, we made our way via Shinhama just up from Onomichi, along a narrow channel between the small Iwashi Island and the large Moukoujima Island, and then to Shigei on Innoshima Island.
After Sunoue on Sagi Island, our ferry silently cut through the placid waters, under a magnificent road and pedestrian bridge, to finally tie up at Setoda right on time at 5:12pm.
As we found out through Wiki the next morning, Setoda is a very old fishing and trading port, with an outstanding and interesting history going back to the 1300’s.
On weekends particularly the island is popular with day visitors. Having arrived late in the day, very little was open to explore. However the atmosphere of this old town was clearly evident. In fact, the four of us visitors seemed to be the only people around at this time. There was a small store open selling various items including vegetables and fruit. Chris got a bag of fruit delights that we devoured pretty quickly, hoping that we all soon wouldn’t be fighting over a squat.
(to be continued)