Shimanami-Imabari Overview

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These days most of the tourists visiting Imabari finds their way here thanks to the popular Shimanami Kaido bicycle route, one of the most scenic of its kind in all of Japan, that stretches along six islands in the Seto Inland Sea, connected by modern bridges housing dedicated bicycle lanes. This route is also the only dedicated link between Honshu and Shikoku that is open to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Although Onomichi, the terminus of Shimanami Kaido on Honshu, has managed far better at capitalizing on the increasing number of bicycle fans finding their way to this part of Japan, there are signs that Imabari too is realizing the potential of becoming a destination for bikers. A hostel primarily focusing on visitors planning on traversing the Shimanami Kaido opened recently, and some major bicycle manufacturers has also set up shop in the city.

But even if you’re not planning to bike across the Seto Inland Sea, Imabari has some other treats in store for you as well. Within the city limits you will find six temples that are part of the larger Shikoku Henro, or the Shikoku Pilgrimage. The entire route consists of 88 temples scattered along a 1200-kilometer route, traditionally traversed on foot. Experiencing a part of the Shikoku Henro is becoming increasingly popular among international visitors, and Imabari is a good place to start if you’re planning to do so. For those interested, there are more information available in English at the local tourism office at the JR Imabari station.

The city has approximately 172,000 inhabitants, making it one of the biggest cities on Shikoku. Shipbuilding used to be one of the city’s main industries, but as much of this industry has moved to other countries where labor is cheaper, the city has been forced to look to other ways of boosting its economy.

Today, one of the most well-known products from Imabari is towels, with the brand “Imabari Towel” being widely renowned as producing some of the highest quality towels in Japan. The city is also the home of Nihon Shokken, the biggest producer of liquid seasonings in Japan with branches in many other parts of the world as well. Their factory is an impressive replica of the Belvedere palace in Vienna, and has become a quirky tourist attraction of Imabari.

Another, more conventional, sightseeing spot is Imabari Castle, originally built in 1602. Although very little of the original castle remains today, there’s an impressive replica built on top of its ruins today, that houses a small museum as well as an observation deck on its top floor.

Public transportation in Imabari consists of a comprehensive bus network. The city is also connected to the JR Yosan line, that runs along the northern coast of Shikoku. The nearest airport is Matsuyama Airport, mainly served by domestic air routes. There are, however occasional flights to New Zealand, Taiwan and China. The fastest way to get to Honshu is by the frequent highway buses running along the Shimanami Kaido.

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