The Inland Sea, Japan’s most beautiful body of water, is not landlocked, as its name suggests, but seems almost so with its serene waters and over 3,000 pine-studded islands.
Donald Richie, in his classic travelogue The Inland Sea (1971), sets the scene of a boat journey westward through the narrow defiles of water: “On the left are first the sharp and Chinese-looking mountains of the island of Shikoku, so different that it appears another land, and then the flat coasts of Kyushu.
This shallow sea is a valley among these mountainous islands.” You can cycle along a path Y Y that stretches from Onomichi to Imabari. Bridges, local ferries, and cruise boats provide access to the 750 or so inhabited islands. The remote fishing villages on these islands, with their saltweathered wooden houses and black ceramic-tiled roofs, seem to hail from a different era. Among the most visited are Awaji, the largest island, Setoda, Omi, and Shodo, a beautiful island that, with its olive and orange groves, seems to belong more to the Mediterranean than the Orient.