Maejima is a finger-shaped island that rests right off the coast of the Setouchi City mainland town of Ushimado. With its relatively large size and small population, it offers a tremendous sense of space and freedom to move. Although there are some groupings of houses that form village-like communities, most of the time you feel as if you were the only person on the island.You might occasionally spot a local in the distance, attending to daily chores.
Many of the year round residential homes are not so far from the port. When you make your way inland just a bit, you will notice that there are quite a number of vacation or retirement-style homes. You might even see a weekend/holiday resident outside working on their golf swing under a palmetto with the lovely Seto Inland Sea as the backdrop. Since it only takes about five minutes to get to Maejima by ferry, the natural question is, why hasn’t a bridge been built? The simplest answer to this question is that if you build a bridge, you lose an island.
It is the island culture and slow-paced lifestyle that the locals want to preserve. The mere fact that you have to take a ferry and that there are only a limited number per day, means that you have to slow down and achieve a measure of self-sufficiency.
The ferry-ride is extremely short yet comfortable. There is hardly time to sit down but you can if you want to maximize the enjoyment of every one of the 300 seconds that the journey takes. While it is possible to bring cars over, the best way to explore the island is by bicycle. In fact, you will most likely encounter many visitors with their bikes and gear making the trip. Whereas the west side of the island is residential and the agricultural, the east side is best characterized by a natural environment that is filled with mountains, forest, rivers and stunning cliffs.
Access: Take the JR Ako Line from JR Okayama Station to JR Saidaiji Station. Take the Ryobi Bus bound for Ushimado (Minami Line) and get off at the Ushimado Town Hall Stop. Take a 6 minute ferry ride from Ushimado Port.
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