INLAND SEA OF JAPAN

SETO INLAND SEA

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The Seto Inland Sea — Setonaikai or Setouchi in Japanese and often simply called the Inland Sea in English — is a body of water in Japan bounded by southern Honshu, northern Shikoku and northern Kyushu. Covering an area of 21,827 square kilometers, it is linked to the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean by narrow channels. It is a shallow sea with an average depth of 38 meters (120 feet), seldom deeper than 380 meters (1,200 feet), and is dotted with more than 3000 volcanic and granite islands, the largest of which is Awaji-shima.

The Seto Inland Sea is famed for its scenic beauty and is the site of Setonaikai National Park The sea stretches for 490 kilometers (300 miles) from Osaka to the resort town of Beppu on northeast Kyushu. The calm, protected waters are ideal for shipping. Four major channels connects the Inland Sea to the ocean: 1) the Kanmon Straits between Honshu and Kyushu leads to the Sea of Japan; 2) the Hoyo Strait between Kyushu and Shikoku leads to Pacific; 3) the Naruto Strait and 4) Kitan Strait between Shikoku and Honshu lead to the Pacific. Strong tidal surges in the Hoyo and Kanmon Straits form currents flowing opposite directions that produce whirlpools in the Natuto Straits, between Awaji and Shikoku Islands.

The Inland Sea is regarded as one of the most beautiful and peaceful parts of Japan. The most scenic part of the Inland Sea is between Hiroshima, Okayama on Honshu and Takamatsu on Shikoku. This area is blessed with superb coastal scenery, charming farms, slow-paced fishing villages and a mild climate. Visitors to this region of sometimes have to pinch themselves as a reminder that they are still in ultra-modern Japan.

The Seto Inland Sea's culture was born from centuries of trading along sea routes. Among its attractions are views of traditional Japanese life on the islands and vistas of the sea views while bathing in a coastal area hot spring. Enjoy fresh seafood, sample regional specialties, go fishing or sailing, chill on the beach and swim in the sea. Explore the coast by sea kayak. Cycle on the Shimanami Kaido, Hike on trails with panoramas of the sea. Accommodation includesseaside hotels and family-run Japanese-style inns,

The area has a mild climate with an average temperature of 15 degree C. With 1000-1600 meters m rain per year, mainly falling in June and September, it is rather dry compared to other areas of Japan. Summer is hot and humid, but winter has many sunny and dry days, ideal for cycling or hiking.

Many of the people who reside on the Inland Sea live the same way their ancestors did a hundred years ago. But their way of life is quickly being lost. So many young people are moving from the fishing villages and rural communities to the cities that the government is offering them cash, free boats and housing if they come back. Tourist explore the region on bicycles, ferries, local trains and buses and local cruise ships. Before setting on a trip of the area it is worth reading Donald Ritchie's Inland Sea. Websites: The Inland Sea, Setouchi Tourism Authority setouchitrip.com; Wikipedia Wikipedia ;Enjoy the Inland Sea anchorage.jp; Association for the Environmental Conservation of The Seto Inland Sea: seto.or.jp Information on National Parks in Japan by the Ministry of Environment: env.go.jp/en/nature/nps Information on Setonaikai National Parks by the Ministry of Environment: env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/setonaika ; Association for the Environmental Conservation of The Seto Inland Sea: seto.or.jp

Setonaikai National Park

Setonaikai National Park is an area of sheltered islands between Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Covering over 660 square kilometers of land and 9,000 square kilometers of sea in 11 prefectures, it includes over 600 islands and coastal segments and encompasses numerous bays, beautiful beaches, small hospitable fishing villages, and an indented sandy coast line. It is also known as Inland Sea National Park Information on National Parks in Japan by the Ministry of Environment:

Setonaikai National Park is Japan's largest national park and one of the first national parks to be designated in Japan, along with Unzen and Kirishima, in 1934. the park area includes the vast sea area and islets of the Setonaikai Sea, as well as scenic observation points ashore overlooking the Inland Sea. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

The distinct features of this park are archipelago seascapes of the inland sea studded with numerous islands and islets of varied sizes. The coastal land area abounds with observation points. The area around the Seto Inland Sea enjoyed a flourishing culture from early times as the inhabitants coexisted with nature. Areas of terraced fields, port town awaiting a favorable tide, and other scenes of people living in a state of intimate connections to nature and creating familiar scenes are signature attributes of this park.

Famous for a sweeping view of huge clusters of islands in the calm inland sea, the area exhibits archipelago seascapes that vary with the different angles and locations, such as the views from the coast, islands appearing amongst sailing ships, and the scenes beheld from observatories on the coast. Also, the scenes change as the seasons come and go and during the times of morning glow and sunset glow.

Websites: Japanese Government National Park Site: env.go.jp/en/nature/nps Information on Setonaikai National Parks by the Ministry of Environment: env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/setonaika Map: env.go.jp/park

Regional Ministry of the Environment Offices. 1) Kinki Regional Environment Office, 8F, Osaka Merchandise Mart (OMM) Building, Otemae 1-7-31, Chuo Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture 540-6591, Japan, Tel: 06-4792-0700 Fax: 06-4790-2800 E-mail: REO-KINKI@env.go.jp . 2) Chugoku-Shikoku Regional Environment Office, 11F Okayama Second Joint Government, Shimoishii 1-4-1, Kita Ward Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture 700-0907, Japan, Tel: 086-223-1577 Fax: 086-224-2081 E-mail: REO-CHUSHIKOKU@env.go.jp 3), Kyushu Regional Environment Office, 4F Kumamoto Regional Joint Government Bldg. B, Kasuga 2-10-1, Nishi Ward, Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture 860-0047, Japan, Tel: 096-322-2412 Fax: 096-322-2447 E-mail: REO-KYUSHU@env.go.jp Location

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Great Seto Bridge

Topography, Tides and Geology of the Seto Inland Sea

The Seto Inland Sea can be divided into four parts from east to west: Awaji-shima Island and its surrounding area, Bisan-Seto and its surrounding area, Geiyo Islands and their surrounding areas, and Suonada and its surrounding area. The Inland Sea has complex open sea areas and bays connected by narrows called straits and channels. The inland sea far from the outer ocean is known for its large tidal differences and fast current. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

To appreciate how the Seto Inland Sea evolved, look at the map and imagine sea levels 120 meters below what they are now 10,000 years ago during the Ice Age. At that time much of the water was gone and many islands were mountain tops. The entire area was made up of north-south-running mountain ranges that now are island chains. Valleys and large basins are covered by water and open to sea.

While there are different geological features ranging from the Paleozoic era to the Cenozoic era, the area largely consists of granite. There are distinct land features in the Horai Valley at the base of Mt. Rokko called badlands, which were formed mainly from loose granite rocks that were more easily weathered and eroded.

In addition, the area formed by the volcanic extrusion of rocks, called the Setouchi volcanic rocks, encompasses scenic sites of Mt. Yashima, famous for its tabular plateau, and Kanka-kei Gorge on the Shodoshima Island where there are rows of oddly shaped agglomerate rocks and ridges. Other attractions are the lava dome, remains of craters, and the valuable milk-white dian rocks found on the Hime-shima Island.

The calm waters of the Seto Inland Sea have areas where there are waters with strong currents due to straits, complicated seabed topography, and differences in tide levels. In particular, the famous sites include the Naruto Strait, Funaori-Seto and Ondono-Seto. Visitors can take a tidal current boat in the Naruto Strait and Funaori-Seto. Tide flows come in twice a day from the eastern and western end, so for an enclosed sea, water exchange is relatively good.

History, Culture and Industrialization of the Seto Inland Sea

The Seto Inland Sea area has prospered as the key junctions of maritime traffic from long ago, and coupled with a mild climate, the area was populated by a substantial number of people. This created the scenes of old port towns, shrines and temples, and terraced fields utilizing inclined planes, where people live their everyday lives in harmony with nature. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

Since ancient times, the Seto Inland Sea has been a major artery for marine traffic connecting Japan to abroad. During the Edo period, the Seto Inland Sea routes were established and supported the prosperity of port towns where people waited for a favorable tide and wind conditions to set sail as ships, such as freight vessels and Joseon missions to Japan, sailed here from home and abroad. Even now, you can see historical townscapes in the regions of Ushimado, Shimotsui, Tomonoura, Onomichi, Mitarai and Murozumi.

In addition, owning to the complicated tidal current and land features in the Seto Inland Sea, the Inland was home to a group of highly skilled sailors, known as the Shiwaku Navy (Shiwaku Suifu) and Murakami Navy (Murakami Suigun), and a number of remnants are still retained in their bases. The great sights around the Seto Inland Sea area that flourished from early on are mentioned throughout the Manyo-shu (the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry), Koji-ki (Records of Ancient Matters) and Taihei-ki (Record of the Great Peace). Also, the park abounds with historical buildings and landmarks in the context of the old Genpei War and a shrine or temple visit, and the islands retain traditional customs and events even now.

The shores of the Inland Sea are heavily populated and are part of Japan's most important industrial belt; many of Japan's greatest ports, including Osaka, Kobe, and Hiroshima are situated here. Urbanisation and industrialization have left their scars. At the end of the 19th century, mountains and islands were deprived of trees, as wood was not only used for daily life but also for salt-production along the coast. Fields and orchards, now restricted to the lower slopes, climbed all the way up the islands, trying to squeeze some food out of the crumbly soil. In the 1960s, even the water was heavily polluted and unrestricted land reclamation ate away at the sea-surface. In 1973, legislation was introduced that led to cleaner water and a slower pace of reclamation. Nowadays, the Inland Sea also has many success stories of environmental restoration. Even one of the traditional landscapes representative of this area, white beaches and green pine trees, is man-made: beaches formed when deforestation led to soil erosion, and pines were planted as fast-growing trees. So don't expect wilderness, but the beauty-and sometimes ugliness-created by human interaction with nature, a cultural landscape grown over the centuries. [Source: JNTO]

Animals, Aquatic Life and Plants of the Set Inland Sea

The vegetation in the coastal area is made up of a majority of second-growth forest consisting of Pinus densiflora, Quercus serrata, and Rhododendron. In contrast, the cliffs along the coast are inhabited by a shrine forest mainly of Quercus phillyraeoides, Castanopsis, and Japanese oak trees, mixed needleleaf and broadleaf forests of Mt. Misen, and many other valuable natural vegetation throughout the area. Vitex rotundifolia is a coastal evergreen shrub with a shape and leaves that can withstand heavy winds, dry conditions and saline environments. It can be found in coastal areas such as sandy beaches, and grows bluish purple flowers with a sweet fragrance from its upright branches during the period from July to September. The Setouchi area contains precious natural forests but is for the most part made up of secondary forests populated with Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) and Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora) that form a cultural landscape, a distinctive feature of the Setouchi scenery. However, many pine trees have withered in recent years, and a transition to evergreen broadleaf trees can be observed. [Source: Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan]

The Seto Inland Sea boasts a wide range of biodiversity inhabited by rare living creature native to tidal flats, seagrass beds, rocky shores, and tidal marshes. In particular, finless porpoise native to a temperate shallow sea area, Japanese horseshoe crabs known as living fossils native to tidal flat of inner bay with gentle ocean waves, Miyajima dragonfly that only lives in the Miyajima Island in Japan and other rare living creature are found here.

Also, the southwest of the Miyajima Island including the tidal marsh where spring water mixes with the inflow of seawater to form brackish tidal marshes provide an ideal habitat for the vulnerable Miyajima dragonfly, which was registered as an internationally important wetland under the Ramsar Convention in 2012. Besides, there are Japan's largest colonies of Alveopora japonica off the coast of Yashirojima Island and along with its favorable seagrass beds, it is designated a marine park zone in 2013, for the first time in the Seto Inland Sea area.

The Seto Inland Sea has many shallow waters where seagrass, and other seaweed beds thrive. Seagrass beds are referred to as "umi no yurikago" in Japanese (literally: sea cradles), and serve as a habitat and spawning ground for various sea creatures. This coral is an endemic species of temperate regions in East Asia, and is distinguished by a round skeleton and multiple polyps. The southern offshore of Suo-Oshima Island in Yamaguchi Prefecture are home to the world's largest colony of Alveopora japonica coral. It is the only area in Setonaikai National Park that has been designated a Marine Park Area.

Japanese Horseshoe Crab is sometimes referred to as a "living fossil". This crab inhabits the Seto Inland Sea area, which has shallow waters with mild waves, vast tidal flats and sandy beaches. It also occurs in some tidal flats in northern-Kyushu. While it can be found in Kasaoka City in Okayama Prefecture, and in Yamaguchi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, its presence in these areas has decreased due to landfills and other factors.

Finless Porpoise is a gray, smaller species of the dolphin that lacks a dorsal fin and can grow to 1.5-2 m. It can be found in Japan's coastal areas including the Sendai Bay, Ise Bay and the Seto Inland Sea. The population is reducing in the Seto Inland Sea has decreased due to a sharp decline in one of its food sources: the Ikanago fish. The latter are disappearing due to sea sand gathering work.

Accommodation in the Seto Inland Sea Area

In the Seto Inland Sea area, large cities offer the fully array of accommodation options, but on the islands, you will mainly find small-scale facilities, typically inexpensive, and offering meals. The traditionally Japanese ones have Japanese cuisine and require you take off your shoes.The rooms have floors made of tatami (traditional Japanese mats made from woven straw), a futon instead of a bed and a Japanese style bath. Sometimes there is virtually no furniture. The bath may be shared and usually involves showering first with soap and shampoo while sitting on a stool and stepping into the bath after making sure you are completely rinsed off. [Source: JNTO]

Ryokan are the main type of Japanese style accommodation; they vary largely in price and service. Prices normally include dinner and breakfast. From about ¥10,000 per person, you can get a comfortable tatami room with individual bath and two delicious Japanese meals. Some Ryokan offer buffet style breakfast, which includes western food like bread, bacon and eggs. They often a hot-spring-style bath, Some of them are outdoors with beautiful views of the sea. Resort Hotels are the Western style and can be quite expensive and are found mainly close to the Kansai Area, especially on Awaji Island. They can also be found on Naoshima and in the Hiroshima area. Some of them are situated in beautiful locations. Look for off-season bargains on their Websites. Many were built in the Bubble Economy era in the 1980s and are a little frayed around the edges and under-utilized.

Minshuku are simple Japanese accommodation facilities, often run by farmers or fishermen, which ensures good, fresh food. In the Seto Inland Sea Area, this normally includes a large variety of seafood. The tatami style rooms have almost no furniture and no individual bathrooms or baths. Prices including two meals range in price from ¥4,000 to ¥9,000 per person.

Pensions are the cheaper version of Western style accommodation are sometimes are the equivalent of guest houses. They are mainly situated in mountain areas, but you will find a few in the Seto Inland Sea Area. They offer family-style atmosphere and food; prices vary around 7,00 to 9000 yen. There are some in Setoda

Lodges include mainly facilities run by prefectures, towns or villages. Some public Japanese style lodges are located in National Parks and offer spacious rooms for reasonable prices (Yuge).. Others make use of old schools (Omishima).. In Okayama prefecture, you will find the International Villas (Shiraishi), interestingly designed buildings in beautiful locations were foreigners can not only stay cheaply but also cook their own meals.

Camping can be found close to some beaches (Setoda, Miyajima, Shodoshima). Campsites often offer rental tents and equipment. In Setoda, you will also find a log-house campsite affiliated to the KOA-Group. Off-site camping is not allowed in Japan. Websites: Japanese Inn Group: Website: japaneseinngroup.com ; Welcome Inn Group: Website: itcj.or.jp http://www.itcj.or.jp/

Port Towns, Harbors, Food and Restaurants in the Seto Inland Sea Area

The sheltered coastline provides the perfect location for harbours and ports, with the natural inlets and the windbreak provided by the islands, allowing safe havens for sea-goers, although the lay of the land means that the mountains and hills had to be taken into account. The harbours and port towns of the Set Inland Sea grew around tiny accessible areas along the coastline. Visitors can enjoy creeks surrounded by islands, winding paths through the hills, and intimate little towns.

The Seto inland Sea is a semi-enclosed sea, and the tides coming in from both east and west make subtle changes to the currents. The tides and currents have both affected the way the ports and harbours have grown, giving us the saying "A harbour for waiting for the tide" to describe many of these small towns. One of the most endearing features of the harbours and ports is their rich cultures and history. Over the centuries, the sea has been the first point of entry into Japan, the "Country of Islands". The sea has seen uncountable vessels bringing merchants and traders, and each port has its own records of the coming and goings of the ships over the centuries. Many of the port towns have their own unique culture, festivals, cuisine, and traditions. Among these are Tomonoura, Onomichi, Mitarai, Takehara and Yuge

Food and Restaurants in the Inland Sea Area: In the large cities along the Shinkansen route, you will find most types of food. Japanese visitors usually eat lunch while sightseeing. Sometimes this means stopping at a restaurant or snack shop bit it can also mean eating a bento (prepared meal) supplied by a tour group or grabbed somewhere, even at a convenience stor. Most tourists eat a big dinner and have a small breakfast at their accommodation at night. This means you might have trouble finding restaurants in the evenings. On the smaller islands and off the beaten track there us even less and may have to rely on your accommodation facility or a supermarket or convenience store for food. Sometimes you can find small cheap Japanese restaurants identified by a Noren at the door, a small curtain with the name of the restaurant. In some places there are not that many convenience stores and they may close early. If you look you can find seafood in all forms. Along the coastal roads restaurants sometimes show up in unexpected places. Udon noodles is popular on Shikoku. Mandarin oranges and — to a lesser extent — lemons are grown.

Traveling within the Inland Sea

By Train: Unlike the large cities where you can find an abundance of railway companies, you have to mainly rely on JR trains. On Shikoku and Kyushu, use express trains for longer distances. The local lines on the Honshu side follow the coastline more closely than the Shinkansen, sometimes offering beautiful views from the window. The main line running East-West is the JR Sanyo line. 5-ticket sets for one-day travel on local trains are available at certain times of the year (Seishun Juhachi Kippu Seishun Juhachi Kippu, 11500\ for a booklet)

By Ship: Ferry and high-speed boat lines in the Seto Inland Sea area are a maze, as every island has several ports, many small companies share the market and there is almost no English information. Easiest to use are the large ferries and high-speed boats that cross between Honshu and Shikoku, like the line connecting Hiroshima and Matsuyama. But don't be afraid of using the smaller lines to the islands, as they will give you a unique experience of the area-just allow extra time for checking twice and getting lost! Ferries are very cheap and allow for cars and bicycles; high-speed boats can be expensive. By Water-Taxi (Kaijo takushi Kaijo takushi): If you travel in a group and want to move from one island to the next, sometimes water taxis are the fastest and not so expensive option. Ask at tourist offices or accommodation. Gangi Taxi are used on the rivers of Hiroshima. Fishing boats can be organization on Shiraishi Motorboat cruising is popular in Tomonoura Setonaikaikisen is company that runs cruises, ferries and high-speed boats around Hiroshima. Websites: setonaikaikisen.co.jp Shikoku Ferry Website: shikokuferry.com/route

Cruising and Touring in the Seto Inland Sea by Boat: Inland Sea Cruises include the popular SKK (Seto Naikakai-kisen) cruises 1) between Miyajima and Ikuchi-jima Island and Ominichi and Omishima Island and 2) between Hiroshima, Eta-jima, Miyajima, and Eno-shima islands. The prices vary between ¥7,000 and ¥12,000 for the day, pending on whether you have lunch or not. Website: setonaikaikisen.co.jp

By Bus: Local bus lines are even more confusing than boats. In some cities, you will need a bus to reach the port from the station. Highway buses are convenient to cross the two bridge systems without train connection: from Kobe to Awajishima and further on to Tokushima on Shikoku, and from Fukuyama across the Shimanami Kaido to Imabari on Shikoku (see Mihara/Onomichi area)..

By Bicycle: Many cities and islands offer bicycle rental. Especially on the islands, with little traffic and almost no public transport, this is a nice way to get around. By streetcar: In Okayama, Hiroshima, Takamatsu and Matsuyama, streetcars are a cheap and easy way to move around.

Getting to the Inland Sea

By Plane: Airports in Osaka, Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi-Ube, Takamatsu, Matsuyama, Oita all provide access to the Inland Sea. Except for Matsuyama, Kobe and Osaka, it takes almost an hour to reach the city centre from the airports. The main international airport is Kansai International Airport south of Osaka, but some of the other airports have international flights too, mainly to nearby Asian countries. Check the main Japanese airlines, ANA and JAL and budget airlines such as Peach, Jetstar, Vanilla and Air Asia. Map: anchorage.jp/setouchi

By Train: Shinkansen trains run along the mainland (Honshu) coast of the Seto Inland Sea. If you have a Japan Railway (JR) Rail-pass, this is the most convenient mode of transport-if not, it is still convenient but more expensive. Different types of Shinkansen trains stop at different stations. Nozomi and Railstar are the fastest. Kodama is the the slowest but stops at stations the faster trains to pass by.You can reach to Shikoku by train from Okayama over the Seto Ohashi Bridge. By Bus: Highway buses run between Osaka and most major cities in the area.

By Ship: Long-distance ferries connect Osaka and Kobe with Matsuyama (Shikoku) and Beppu in Oita (Kyushu). A simple way to cruise the Seto Inland Sea is use the ferries. The regular ferry from Hiroshima to Matsuyama on Shikoku runs about ten times a day. On the comfortable 3 hour ride, you can enjoy the landscape of islands and sea at its best, sitting outside and enjoying the breeze. If you don’t have much time, the high-speed boat (running every hour) will take you there in 75 minutes. for more than double the price. Setonaikaikisen is company that runs cruises, ferries and high-speed boats around Hiroshima. Websites: setonaikaikisen.co.jp Shikoku Ferry Website: shikokuferry.com/route

Beaches in the Seto Inland Sea Area

The Seto Inland Sea region has many good place for swimming. The waves are gentle waves or non existent and the current constantly refreshes the water which laps onto the sandy beaches. This same current, however, can lead the swimmer to sharp coastlines-remember to stay within the bays! There are also a lot more rocky coastlines and populated areas with oyster farms, industry, shipbuilding and other human activities than beaches and often times the water is less than ideal so you can’t just in the sea anywhere. The color of water tends be greenish or brownish rather than blue and visibility is generally around three or four meters, better in some places near the open sea and far from humans. Some places have sandy beaches formed by weathered granite. Many are surrounded by pine forests that serve as a natural barrier for wind and sand. Some locations have sandbars or ripple marks related to the tide.

Some bays are beautiful natural inlets, with white sand and pine trees. There are also man-made, beach resorts with sand artificially deposited to make a beach. In late July, the whole of August and even much of September the temperature are warm or hot and there are low rainfall and clear skies, which are ideal for beach-going. Be warned, though, during the late summer stinging jellyfish arrive to some shores. Other things to consider are: some facilities such as showers are only available during the peak summer months, and camping is only allowed in designated sites. Also, there are no topless or nudist facilities.

Popular beaches can be found at Naoshima, Shiraishi, Setoda and Miyajima Hoogahara Beach on the Yugeshima Island (Kamijima Town , Ehime Prefecture) is known for its white sand and green pines. Keino-Matsubara, Shibukawa Beach, Tsudano-Matsubara, Katsura Beach and Karako Beach have weathered white granite sand and pine trees planted to prevent wind and the erosion of sand.

Activities in the Inland Seto Sea Area

Fishing has traditionally been a primary way of life for many people in the Seto Inland Sea area. There are many different kinds of fish in the Seto Inland Sea. Fishing is also a fun and popular recreational activity. Watch fish people catch often depends on the season. As you can see, there are a lot of different kinds of fish depending on the season and there also different ways of catching each fish, so it may be a good idea to ask the locals or people who work at fishing shops. You can eat almost all kinds of fish you catch, so you can also ask the best way to cook the fish you catch. It's also possible to go out to sea by ship and catch fish or experience dragnet fishing. Some islands let you rent fishing equipment. There aren't many restrictions on fishing, but you are can't fish near fishfarms or protected areas. Also there are some poisonous fish (blowfish, "manju" crab, jelly-fish) and some fish which sting (Okoze), so you need to be very careful. Fishing while scuba-diving is prohibited in all areas, but you are allowed to dig for clams off almost all beaches.

Bicycling is another activity that many people are getting into. The Seto Inland Sea area really lends itself to cycling. Most islands, have coastal roads with very little traffic, allowing you relax while riding and take in the beautiful scenery. A ride around the smaller islands takes less than one hour. Most of the islands are accessible by ferry, on which you can take your own bicycle. A fair number of places rent bicycles but sometimes their quality is not so good and tall foreigners sometimes have trouble getting a bike with a seat high enough (if you are over 165cm tall it may be a good idea to buy an extra long saddle pole!). The coastal roads offer stunning scenery both of the sea, and also the beautiful mountains. Especially in the mountains the scenery changes with the season. Areas with mandarin oranges are in orange at the end of fall. The smell in the air is wonderful in the spring when they are is harvested. The most famous cycling spot in the Seto Inland Sea is the Shimanami Kaido (See Below). Good cycling can also be found on Shodoshima, Naoshima, Tomonoura, Onomichi, Setoda, Omishima and Mitarai, Bicycles can't be transported on trains unless they have their front wheel removed and are packed snuggly in a special bicycle bag..

Hiking can be done in many places in Seto Inland Sea area. Large parts of the Seto Inland Sea Area are designated as National Park. Stricter development regulations, however, only apply to small areas, mainly island peaks. These specially protected districts are equipped with hiking courses, toilets, rest places and viewing platforms for visitors. And although the peaks are only about 500-600 meters high, the views really are spectacular. Go for a hike in spring, and you will encounter mountain cherry trees, blooming mandarin orchards and other delightful trees and flowers. Autumn has some but limited red and yellow leaves. In winter, the orchards along the lower slopes are full of yellow and orange citrus fruits and clear skies offer the best views of the year. In the summer, you have to watch out for snakes, mosquitoes, hornets and pack a lot of water as it can be quite hot. Mount Misen on Miyajima, is the most climbed mountain. On the other islands, it is sometimes difficult to reach the trail heads as they normally start from parking lots halfway up the mountain. Hiking spots can be fiund around Kiba, Shodoshima, Shiraishi, Tomonoura, Osakikamijima, Miyajima, Gogoshima and Nogutsuna.

Onsens are Japanese hot springs. While the Seto Inland Sea area can't boast a high number of onsens, it does house one of the oldest in Japan — Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama — the setting for 'Bocchan', a famous novel by Soseki Natsume, and Kinoe Onsen on Osakikamijima where you can enjoy a wonderful view of Seto Inland Sea. The old onsens where a lot of locals go give you an opportunity to experience some local atmosphere. Onsen (Hot spring) The rules and culture regarding onsens are fairly strict: everybody is supposed to be naked in onsens and most onsens have separate rooms for men and women. Having said that, some hotels and ryokans have private baths/onsen in the rooms and some have "family baths" that can be reserved for private use. DO NOT wear a bathing suit. If you simply want to enjoy only onsen itself, you either bring your own towels or buy / rent one. You can put your valuables in your locker or you can also deposit your baggage at the front desk. The protocol when you enter the onsen is very important-wash yourself in the shower before you go into the communal bath, don't put your towel in the bath water. Among the places where onsens can be enjoyed are Matsuyama, Omishima, Yuge, Osakikamijima, Tomonoura and Miyajima.

Kayaking, SUPs and Sailing in the Seto Inland Sea

The Seto Inland Sea with its 3000 islands provides an excellent environment for people who enjoy sailing, kayaking yachting and cruising. The area's rich cultural and historical inheritance, along with a year-round mild climate, make navigating the sea an unforgettable experience. Although facing the Pacific, the large Shikoku and Kyushu islands bring calm waves to the sea. The tides change every six hours, which is a point worth considering, but these conditions add to the fun of navigating the area. The sea's currents have determined navigation between all the small ports and harbors in the area, and the culture of each port has developed through this.

The area is also home to a great number of fisheries, active all year round. Sea-goers should take into account the operations of the fishing vessels. It is also worth noting that even though the ports are full of vessels, permission from the port authorities is necessary to use the facilities. However, the recent construction of Sea Stations, which welcome visitors, makes the Seto Inland Sea a great activity spot for yachts and leisure seamen.

Sea kayakers can wind between islands and explore the coastline. It is not a good idea to go to far out into the sea unless you know what you are doing. Tides can also make some places tricky, even dangerous. Of this reason you can’t really find places where visitors can rent kayaks and head out on their own. What you find are kayak places that organize tours for around US$35-50 for a half day and a US$100 for a full day. In recent years stand-up paddleboards (SUPs, surfboards you stand up on and paddle) have become popular and many places that offer kayaking also have SUP boards and offer lessons.

Sea kayaks allow you to get so close to nature and are easy to use. With the tide in the Seto Inland Sea ebbing and flowing by more than three meters, routes are often chosen based on the conditions of the sea and by reading the waves and wind. Current popular sites for sea kayaking include Shodoshima, Ushimado, Shimanami Kaido area, and Miyajima, as well as all around Hiroshima bay, Oshima Island and Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture. Tours and events are held.

Kamagari Sea Kayak (10 kilometers east of Kure) offers sea kayak tour and SUP lessons. Sea kayak experience tour and SUP lessons: general: 4,000 yen (one time, one person); high school students and under: (one time, one person). Location: Kure City Kamari B&G Marine Center, Yubinbango737-0402, Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture Kamagari Oura 8160, Tel: 0823-66-1166 (Weekdays 09:00-17:00), Fax: 0823-66-1173 e-mail: info@kama-bg.net Website: kama-bg.net

Setouchi Seakayak Adventures (near Fukuyama) is run by Murakami Suigun-Shokai. It is open all year and offers camping tours to experience the nature of the Seto Inland Sea as well as day trip. Tours and courses designed to your specifications, beginners courses offered as required, equipment rental available.. Tours are available in the Onomichi, Tomonoura and Shimanami Kaido areas. Location: Utsumicho, Fukuyama, Hiroshima 722-2641, Phone: 090-8718-4141, e-mail:m-yasu@qd5.so-net.ne.jp Website: suigunkayak.com

Paddle Park is run by Mr. Kubota and based in Miyajima. Kayak and SUP tours, beginners courses, improvement courses and rental are available. Tours can be designed according to your specifications. Location: Miyajima area in Hiroshima prefecture., Tel/Fax:0829-50-4340 Website: paddlepark.com

Daiduk Ocean Kayaks and Adventure is based in Eastern Yamaguchi Prefecture area and is run by Mr. Hara. It offers private and regular tours, beginners courses, and equipment rental. Also runs camping and day tours. Contact: Tel/Fax:0834-25-1036; e-mail:kouji-h@sirius.ocn.ne.jp Website: loco-ao.com

Image Sources: 1) 5) 6) 7) 8) 10) Wikipedia 2) Okayama City 3) Reggie.net 4) Hiroshima Prefecture 9) Ehime Prefecture

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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