Imabari / EhimeCharming, Scenic Islands with Easy-going Vibes: Oshima and Omishima in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture


Administered by Ehime Prefecture’s Imabari City, Oshima and Omishima are two islands which belong to the Geiyo Islands group in the Seto Inland Sea. Oshima and Omishima, as well as several others islands, are connected to both Imabari in Shikoku and Onomichi in Honshu via a combined expressway and popular cycling route called the Shimanami Kaido.

Surrounded by the calm waters of the Seto Inland Sea and boasting a rather warm, almost Mediterranean-style climate, the two islands produce a number of agricultural products, including various types of citrus. Their hilly terrain also makes for incredible views and a landscape that continually surprises, while buildings and structures designed by some of Japan's leading architects provide ample opportunities for sightseeing.

Relax and Refresh at an Idyllic Seaside Spot

WAKKA’s café offers both spacious interior and terrace seating to appreciate the waterfront view.

WAKKA bills itself as a “comprehensive cycling facility in Omishima,” but besides bicycle rentals, they offer plenty of services to cyclists and regular visitors alike. Having just opened in March, 2020, their bright, modern facility includes cozy bungalows with seafront views, and a stylish on-site café with terraced seating that is open to the public even past business hours.

Enjoy the café’s great coffee alongside food and sweets made with fresh, local ingredients.

Whether staying here overnight or just stopping by, WAKKA is a great place to relax and appreciate the laid-back atmosphere of the Seto Inland Sea, surrounded by neighboring islands. The staff also provide cycling support, rent out SUP boards and kayaks, and can arrange tours to experience marine sports, trekking, and agricultural activities.

Experience SAORI Weaving

SAORI is easy to learn and the only limits are your creativity.

Founded in 1968, SAORI is a type of weaving that encourages self-expression. Free of restrictions on colors, weaves, and materials or rules such as uniformity and patterning, you get to choose the materials you want and incorporate them liberally into the loom. The objective of the experience is more akin to creating art than producing something practical.

The teacher only introduces the basics of operating the loom – the rest is up to you!

As one of their many activities, WAKKA offers the chance to experience SAORI at the home of a teacher in Omishima. Surrounded by homespun decorations and other crafts, you’ll not only see a very different side of Japan, but also gain a unique perspective on local island life. Best of all, there is no need to fret about making mistakes, for imperfections are what add character to the weave!

Stay Overnight in a Former Schoolhouse

The building exterior is largely the way it looked to elementary schoolchildren decades ago.

How often does one get to stay overnight in a school? Probably not very often, which is what makes Ikoi-no-Ie an unusual and unforgettable place to stay on Omishima. This elementary school closed down decades ago, but under the supervision of famous Japanese architect Toyo Ito, it was renovated in 2018 as an inn offering both Western-style bedrooms and traditional rooms with tatami mats.

Before you drift off to sleep, think of all the lively first-graders that once bandied about here!

The inn sits directly adjacent to a secret, sandy beach on the Inland Sea. Seeing as how school buildings generally do not have baths, a special facility was constructed with large baths that offers fine views of the gentle waters, while showers outside also make it easy to clean off after a swim in the sea during warmer months. Meanwhile, the inn’s dining hall also features fresh, delicious seafood caught from those very waters.

View Whirlpools Swirling in the Inland Sea

The open-decked boat offers excellent views of the Inland Sea.

After enjoying views of the Inland Sea from the islands, get a change of perspective and experience the beauty of the archipelago from the water. Kayak and SUP board rentals are certainly fun, but the most exciting option is with the Kurushima-Kaikyo Rapids and Tide Observation Boat, which departs from near the Michi-no-Eki Yoshiumi Iki-iki Kan roadside station on the island of Oshima.

Frothing eddies indicate the powerful current flowing around the islands.

The boat first heads out into the rapids of the Kurushima-Kaikyo, considered one of Japan's three major rapid currents. If the timing is right, you’ll spot the telltale whitewater of multiple eddies churning when the tide flows in or out of the Inland Sea, and these straights are one of only two places in Japan to see this incredible phenomenon occur.

Ships in various stages of construction at the Imabari shipyards.

Afterwards, the boat passes under Kurushima-Kaikyo Bridge, the world's first triple suspension bridge, and circles around the Imabari shipyards. Within this small bay, Japanese companies construct enormous ships that will someday ply the world’s oceans, including tankers, container ships, and cruise liners. It’s only when the tour boat draws up alongside that you realize how massive these vessels and their powerful propellers are!

Enjoy Italian-style Lunch with Fresh Local Vegetables

Owner and chef Shohei Morioka grows his own organic vegetables near the restaurant.

Noka Ristorante Ve.G.I is a cozy Italian restaurant that just opened on Omishima Island in the fall of 2020. After refining his culinary skills at an Italian restaurant on the mainland, owner and chef Shohei Morioka returned to his island hometown to practice organic farming, focusing on vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and a variety of leafy greens.

All of the ingredients in this salad and smoothie are fresh and organic.

However, the lack of pesticides means that organic produce sometimes does not meet the visual standards of vegetable buyers, even if the produce is perfectly fine otherwise. Morioka found a way to salvage such produce by opening his own Italian restaurant and incorporating the fresh, healthy ingredients into the menu.

Enjoy a variety of classic Italian dishes in the stylish restaurant interior.

Due to farming operations, the restaurant is open only on weekends for lunch and dinner. Nevertheless, Morioka’s menu features a wide variety of tasty, classic dishes, including handmade pizza and pastas with carbonara, meat sauce and pepperoncino, served with a small fresh vegetable smoothie. Espresso as well as fresh citrus juices made with locally-grown varieties are also available.

Catch a Magnificent 360-Degree View

An unobstructed view from one of Japan’s most well-designed observation decks.

Located at the southern tip of Oshima, Kirosan Observatory Park features a unique observatory designed by Kengo Kuma. Kuma is currently one of Japan’s leading architects, and even designed Japan’s new national stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In true Kuma fashion, his take on an observatory is anything but ordinary – steps, slopes and intricate, winding pathways lead you to different levels and perspectives on the structure.

Split levels and stairways make this an exciting place to explore.

The decks have been constructed high enough to be unobstructed by the flora below, affording unusual 360-degree views over the Seto Inland Sea. Even on hazy days you’ll observe nearby islands and their connecting bridges for the Shimanami Kaido, while on clear days you may even spot Mt. Ishizuchi, the highest mountain in western Japan.

Access information

Getting to Imabari’s Oshima and Omishima Islands, Ehime:

Imabari is located about 40 kilometers northeast of Matsuyama, the prefectural capital of Ehime that’s approximately a one hour and 20-minute flight from Tokyo. From the Imabari City center on the main island of Shikoku, drive (or cycle) to Oshima and Omishima in about 40 minutes or less.

Article provided by: JTB Communication Design, Inc.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
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About “Countryside Stay Japan“

If you’re looking for a new way to experience Japan, sign up for a farm-stay experience through the Countryside Stay Japan program and participate in traditional rural-lifestyle activities in recommended countryside locations.


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