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Daydreaming in SHIMANAMI

Navigating the winding road that stretches toward the sea, we speed ahead on electric motorbikes courtesy of CAKE. Since our departure from Onomichi, the question lingers: How many bridges have we crossed on this island journey so far? Descending the slope, the unfolding panorama reveals the next chapter of our adventure amidst the enchanting expanse of the Seto Inland Sea.


This is my first time traveling on the Shimanami Kaido. I’ve actually never been to Hiroshima Prefecture before either. I’ve always had a positive image of the Seto Inland Sea region. What’s the phrase again, “tatoubi”? I imagined a beautiful sea with numerous islands. I’m looking forward to visiting the citrus orchard of LE MONT, whose juice labeI I had the opportunity to design. And, of course, I don’t want to miss out on some authentic okonomiyaki!
Actually, I was born in Hiroshima Prefecture. My mother is from one of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea. We moved when I was very young though, so I have no memories of the place. The only nostalgia I have is the flavors of ‘Onigiri Senbei’ and ‘Umakachan Ramen,’ which are well-known in Western Japan. So this time, I’m approaching this journey with a fresh perspective, ready to embrace whatever comes my way.

Journey Begins: A Welcome from the Enchanting Islands

“This is so beautiful. I’ve heard the term ‘Tatoukai (archipelago),’ but now I see it refers to this scenery,” Mayumi Yamase exclaims, seated on the Drum Rock at Senko-ji Temple. The abstract painting on her white shirt is her own creation. As an artist, she explores the theme of “things that you can’t see but exist no less.”

Colossal rocks dot the landscape of Senko-ji Temple in Onomichi. Among them, “Tsuzumiiwa (a.k.a Pon-pon-iwa)” or “Drum Rock”, offers an outstanding panoramic view of Mukaishima. As we stand here, on the cusp of a new adventure in Shimanami, we can’t help but daydream about what lies ahead.

Next to her, Sakura Tsuruta, a musician known for her work as an electronic artist and DJ, gained insights moments earlier into an unfamiliar aspect of her home prefecture while savoring Hiroshima’s local green tea at Tea Stand Gen Yamate.

“I was surprised to learn that tea is produced in Hiroshima. And the shop’s architecture and visual landscape, it’s like you can almost reach out and feel time. It’s quite impressive. Gen Takahashi, the Tea Stand’s founder, exudes a sense of calm while earnestly pursuing his dreams. I wonder if it’s because of living in the Seto Inland Sea or not. I’m eager to find out and explore more through this journey,” Sakura shares. 

As the sea gently calms, and as the sun sets on Shimanami, the sky slowly paints itself in soft hues. Taking a stroll along the embankment in Setoda on Ikuchi Island, Tsuruta-san exclaims, “It’s truly beautiful. I could spend days here!”

Dreams outlined by the gentle sea

Navigating the Shimanami Kaido that connects Onomichi and Imabari, we speed along, island hopping on our CAKE lightweight electric motorbikes. As we traverse the bridges, Yamase-san muses, “It’s my first time on a journey hopping between islands. I feel like I might lose track of where I am.”

From Onomichi to Mukaishima, through Innoshima, over to Ikuchi Island. After setting up our homebase at SOIL Setoda, we extend our journey to the neighboring Yumeshima Kaido. Meeting islanders, we lend our ears to their stories. At meal pit stops, we satisfy our hunger with okonomiyaki and fresh seafood.

At the end of the journey, we reflect on our travels over coffee at OVERVIEW COFFEE nestled within SOIL.

In front of SOIL Setoda on Ikuchi Island, Yamase-san takes a moment to instruct Sakura-san on how to ride the CAKE bike. “It’s completely silent as you ride. You can relax and just cruise like you’re on a bicycle.” 
CAKE’s electric motorbike boasts a futuristic design, exuding a nimble presence somewhere between a bicycle and a motorcycle.

“Is there something, Sakura, that stands out the most for you?”

“As someone deeply immersed in music, it has to be meeting Dave Sinclair. My husband is British, so he was really jealous that I got to meet him, jokingly saying, ‘I have so many of his records!’ I was wondering why he chose to move to the island, but coming here to see what his life by the sea is like, it all made sense.”

“You were completely absorbed with the studio’s synthesizers.”

Unwinding in luxury at the Azumi Setoda.
Taking a leisurely stroll through the garden of the LOG hotel in Onomichi.

“Mayumi, how about you? At Sohaku you bought some original pottery and hand-spun Indian fabric, right?”

“It got me totally sidetracked from the interview, haha! Saki Nakao, the owner, introduced everything in her own words, and I thought ‘if she’s recommending something, it’s worth believing.’ And then there was the island yacht cruising!”

“Oh, I loved that too! Such a special experience.”

“That was the first time in my entire life, sailing, on a yacht! The scenery was breathtaking of course, but the time just spent on the sea, now that was extraordinary. There was that beach bag made from up-cycled sails and you knew you had to have it at first sight, right Sakura?”

“Yeah, handmade by Captain Sam Saito himself. He builds his own boats too. He’s one big bundle of vitality. You can tell, he seems laid-back on the outside, but there’s an incredible passion within.”

“Indeed, most of the people we met on this journey seem to share that quality. Sam mentioned how ‘living on the island, with the quiet and the low living costs, lowers the hurdles in pursuing your dreams.’””Instead of being pushed around by pressure, most people here seem to be focusing on their dreams at their own pace. It’s like the Seto Inland Sea is gently blowing at their back.”

More people are relocating to the Shimanami Kaido area, pursuing their dreams and establishing their own shops or farms. One such example is the appointment-only cafe “NAGI” on Mukaishima.

“Sakura, are you and Marina Goto around the same age?”

“Yeah, we are. If I were in her shoes, faced with a challenge like that, I’d probably hesitate, but she just jumps right in. Like a reflex. I find that amazing.”

“That duo, the Minato-Gumi? Those idol farmers? They’re only 25! It seems like there is something about the Seto Inland Sea that lets you dream big without the stress.”

The bus ride back to Onomichi is imminent. As we exchange farewells, a local informs us that there’s another option; to return not by land, but by boat. On the last leg of our journey, yet again we learn something new — this time from the tranquil and calm sea.

photography | Natsumi Kinugasa, Toshitake Suzuki text | Yosuke Uchida Special Thanks ~ CAKE, Hiroshima Tourism Association, Staple Inc.