It is not often you encounter a living creature that is said to be over 3,000 years old. That is exactly what is waiting for you when you visit the Sugi no Osugi in Yasaka Shrine. Regarded by many as Japan’s oldest living cedar tree, the majestic cedar consists of two separate trees that are fused at the base. The 60m tall trees are carefully maintained. The stillness inside the shrine adds to the mysterious atmosphere that seems to surround this ancient living structure.
Outside the shrine, a cozy restaurant and gift shop offers a set of healthy lunch options based on their famous handmade Tajikawa Soba and clear soy-based broth. The Tajikawa noodles are fatter with a more delicate texture compared to the usual soba noodles you encounter in Japan.
To the east of Kochi City on Route 55, just past the town of Aki and a stone’s throw from Ioki Station, there is one of the most intriguing sites in the whole prefecture. The Iokido Cave simply looks dark and unappealing on the outside. The entrance is overgrown and surrounded by the nondescript buildings, roads and fields you see in rural towns across Japan. However, this is in fact a portal to another world.
Walking through the dark tunnel was almost a Ghibli-esque experience. The noise of the traffic from the busy road outside faded away to be replaced by the sound of the stream underfoot. After a short walk, the cave opened up into a beautiful miniature gorge. The sides were flanked by tall bamboo and trees. It almost made you feel as if you were walking underground. It is not a long trek - 20 minutes at best. Towards the end you are rewarded with a delightful waterfall. At this point you can either turn back or walk above and around the waterfall on a route that leads you back down to the road. It was a wonderful detour into another world. We could experience nature without needing to drive for miles into the mountains. In the dedicated parking space and visitor area, you can borrow rubber boots for free. A necessity if you want to keep your feet dry. Some of the paths can be slippery, so please watch your footing!