Circumnavigating the [inland] sea

In 2018 we were fortunate enough to have a rather long weekend away to what is informally known as the Inland Sea. It is an area which separates three of the four main Japanese islands – Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Our trip also coincided with peak cherry blossom (sakura) madness – something we didn’t plan at all but it certainly made the trip that little bit more magical!

We rented a camper van from Heisei car rentals in Matsuyama after flying in from Tokyo. Our very first night we squatted (I think is the non technical term) in a park in the outskirts of Matsuyama as we arrived in town quite late and didn’t want to drive over an hour to the closest campsites.

The park was magic. It had a large open car park, a publicly available 24 hour toilet and water tap and more sakura blossoms then you could poke a stick at. It also came complete with ambient lighting and many other late night revelers out to enjoy the blossoms!

On our first full day we visited Hōnen’ike Dam en route to our next campsite after we visited a supermarket for supplies. We stopped in at the 90 ish years old dam that is huge and was of course adorned with sakura blossoms!

Our second campsite was a good one, and a free one but it was at the top of a very windy mountain road! Osayama camp ground had, as usual for free campsites and paid, almost everything you needed. No showers, but clean everything else and beautiful vistas to boot!

The next full day we took advantage of the season and visited Marugame Castle were I could be heard complaining that there were possibly too many sakura, before eating lots of the local delicious udon specialty!

After this we left Shikoku and headed for Honshu to visited Kojima – Japan’s land of all things denim! Worth a visit for everyone, but if you are not Japanese sized you need to be prepared to do some research to find the shops better suited to your size and shape. For us, it was the Momotaro Jeans and Japan Blue Jeans.

From Jean town we headed west to Hongoikoinomori Camp Ground. It was free, and therefore a little out of town but once again, perfectly serviceable (and surrounded by sakura).

On our final full day in the region we rode a portion of the Shimano Kodo bike route from Onomichi to Setoda, and then caught the ferry back to the start. We made it over two bridges on bikes much too small for us, and with a large toddler on the back! If you are able to get better bikes then us, I highly recommend it – particularly at this time of year. We went with the bikes we did because they were the only ones we could find to hire with a child seat on the back.

Our final night (post bike ride) was spent in the spectacular Funeorinseto Camp Ground. You need to call ahead to reserve and pay a minimal fee, but the views were magical and definitely our favourite campsite of the trip!

On our final morning we made a chance visit to one last sakura wonderland – Hirakiyama Park. It was this place that possibly overdosed me on sakura! There was also awesome play equipment, beautiful views and a really really long roller slide.

We finished off our trip with a visit to the famous Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama to get ourselves clean prior to our flight back to Tokyo.

There are so many things to be done in this region and I feel we only touched the top. If I was to return to Japan again in any season but winter, this would be top of the list to explore further!

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