A 70-kilometer bike trail revitalizes the tourist economy of a Japanese coastal city

Onomichi is a small city in the Hiroshima Prefecture of Japan. It faces the Seto Inland Sea, and was founded on April 1, 1898.

A restored Onomichi guest house built in 1931.
Photo courtesy of Setouchi Minato no Yado.

As of 2016, the city had an estimated population of 141,811. It might be best known (to old-timers, anyway) for being featured in the 1953 movie Tokyo Story.

Long a popular-but-sleepy day trip destination, annual festivals include the Onomichi Minato Matsuri (the Port Festival) in April, the Onomichi Sumiyoshi Hanabi Matsuri (fireworks) on the last Sunday of July, the Innoshima Suigun Matsuri (at Suigun Castle) in August, and the Onomichi Betcha Matsuri on November 1–3.

Now, Onomichi has metamorphosed from a merely “pleasant” day trip into a full-blown destination in its own right.

The Shimanami Kaido bike trail.
Photo courtesy of Japan Guide.

One of the biggest reasons is the Shimanami Kaido bike trail, which opened in 1999.

The 70-kilometer route runs from Onomichi to Imabari in the Ehime Prefecture of Shikoku.

It traverses six islands and seven bridges, and the panoramic sea views and distinct feel of each island have helped make the trail an international tourist attraction.

Another key element of the local revitalization strategy is the concept of “a good old future,.” This refers to a mix of Onomichi’s status as a historic seaport and the timelessness of the Seto Inland Sea, combined with recent efforts to reposition the area as a tourist hub.

Panoramic photo (cropped) of Onomichi by Tim Vickerman (Vickerman625) at English Wikipedia.

See blog “Revitalization runs like a current through Onomichi” by Louise George Kittaka.

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