Kochi Prefecture is the largest, yet least populated prefecture in Shikoku. Most of the prefecture is mountainous which makes it perfect for outdoor activities, especially those that take advantage of its numerous rivers. Even better, the rivers can be accessed within an hour or so of Kochi City. Two famous rivers in Shikoku both lie in Kochi and these are the focus of our experiences and adventures.
Our first day to experience Kochi’s outdoors started on the Shimanto River, around two hours from Kochi City. This river is Shikoku’s longest at nearly 200 kilometers and is famous for being completely natural with clear, free-flowing waters.
As we arrived at the river, we first met a guide from the Shimanto Canoe and Camp-no-sato “Kawarakko”. Our guide took us down to the river bed and taught us how to fish for river shrimp, a popular activity for groups and families. After a brief training session, our group set out to catch the freshwater shrimp with nets and small hand harpoons. The activity is quite fun and is done by getting in the water with masks and nets and moving the rocks around to uncover and catch the river shrimp. The water is clear and beautiful and we were able to enjoy swimming together and having fun in the slow moving waters. We even caught a few shrimp and fish which was great as we got to fry and eat our catch right next to the river! The shrimp are absolutely delicious and can be eaten fried (Tempura) or boiled with salt. Grouping up with a few friends to catch and eat your own lunch along the river is truly a memorable and unique experience.
After our swim, we moved on to explore more of the Shimanto River, this time choosing to go by boat. With the company Shimanto-no-AO, we embarked on a traditional sighting houseboat to relax and enjoy the sights along the river. The houseboat itself is quite unique and comes with tatami flooring, windows and a roof to protect the passengers from weather. Inside the boat, there is a table where you can relax and taste some of the local catch, a char-grilled sweetfish. As we cruised along the river we occasionally opened the windows or even sat outside on the deck so we could fully appreciate the beauty of the area. Aside from the stunning green water and the surrounding hills and forests, one interesting thing to look out for are the distinct water crossings called Chinkabashi, low water crossings with no rails or parapets so they are not washed away by floods, that are used by both people and cars to cross the river. I highly recommend the houseboat sightseeing tour as a way to spend a few peaceful hours along the river.