The Shimanto River is Japan's last free-flowing crystal clear river. The best way to explore this nature-filled region is by bicycle, and the area is well-equipped with rent-a-cycle terminals.
Renting a Bicycle
If you're interested in exploring the Shimanto River area by bike, the Shimanto Rin-Rin Cycle rental service is a convenient option, offering mountain bikes with sturdy 26 inch wheels. There are 9 rental terminals along the 40km stretch between the downstream area near Nakamura Station (on the Tosa Kuroshio Railway) and Ekawasaki Station (on the JR line) in the midstream area. You can rent or drop off the bicycles at any of the terminals, making it easy to keep your travel plans flexible.
There are very few hills on the road running along the Shimanto River, particularly in the section between Nakamura Station and Camp Village Kawarakko, making it a fairly easy course. The river is magnificent, and the tranquil forests, little farmhouses and villages, and the many tea fields between the midstream and upriver area look like they haven’t changed for centuries. Ride through tunnels of trees, take breaks along the riverbank, feel the breeze as you pedal and experience all that the Shimanto River has to offer.
Chinkabashi Bridges: Symbols of the Shimanto River
Biking along the Shimanto River you are sure to spot several chinkabashi, submersible bridges built without balustrades to avoid obstructing the views (and make them more resilient to floods).
Most visitors can’t resist crossing one of these solid little bridges, but as chinkabashi are not very wide and winds can be strong, we highly recommend you dismount from your bicycle and walk across. Looking down at the water flowing beneath your feet, you will quickly understand why the Shimanto is called the “last crystal clear river in Japan.”
Between Nakamura Station and Kawarakko you will come across the Sada Chinkabashi, the longest bridge, recognizable by its blue pillars. There is also the Takase Chinkabashi, which sits on a wide, calm part of the river.
Have Lunch on the River (Literally)
There are several companies near the mouth of the river that offer yakatabune cruises along the Shimanto. Yakatabune are traditional roofed wooden boats that ride low on the water. Rather than chairs, tatami mats cover the floor on the inside of the boats so you can spread out and relax and take in the river view from just above the clear water. Some of the boats pass underneath the chinkabashi , offering yet another interesting view. Book a lunch or dinner cruise, where you can tuck into bento boxes featuring locally-caught fish like eels and sweetfish.
You don’t need to bike far to enjoy the sights along the Shimanto River, as the area close to the mouth of the river (around Nakamura Station) has plenty to keep you busy.
One of the prettiest sights is a 2km stretch of willow trees along the river called the Nyuta Willow Forest (or Nyuta Yanagi-bayashi in Japanese). In spring 10 million canola flowers bloom in a sea of yellow beneath the willows. You can ride your bicycle through this carpet of gold and join in the yearly festival!
Across the red iron bridge will bring you to the center of the Nakamura area. This place is nicknamed "Little Kyoto," and is dotted with historical Shinto shrines like Ichijo Shrine and Fuba Hachimangu Shrine, both of which are open to the public.
After you've finished exploring, just head to the Shimanto City Tourist Information Center across from Nakamura Station to return your bicycle.