Some of Japan’s most picturesque rivers flow through Kochi. Although everyone has their favorites, the “Big Three” are the Shimanto, Niyodo and Yoshino rivers. Tracing the progress of a river from the sea to its source (or vice versa) is a great way to turn a trip into a journey. It can offer a satisfying sense of completion and connection with nature. A car is almost a must to reach the most remote parts of Kochi’s rivers and certainly helps with hillier sections that are par for the course when traveling through the interior of Shikoku.
The Shimanto River
The Shimanto River
winds its way from the high mountains of central Shikoku almost 200 km to the Pacific Ocean in the west of Kochi Prefecture. It is famously known as Japan’s last free-flowing river, almost completely free of man-made obstructions, and can be divided into three distinct sections (upper, middle and lower Shimanto River), each with its own characteristic scenery. Driving the entire length of the river in one day is entirely possible, but with many great places to stop at and river activities to try along the way, it is well worth breaking up the journey to give yourself the opportunity to take in the grandeur of the Shimanto Valley.
The Niyodo River
At 124 km in length, the Niyodo River
is the 3rd longest of Shikoku’s rivers, but it is regularly recognized as the clearest river in Japan and it has become famous for it stunning blue and green hues, that have come to be known as "Niyodo Blue". The Niyodo River also empties into the Pacific Ocean, but, only 25 km from Kochi Ryoma Airport, you can be at the river mouth just 35 minutes after picking up your rental car.
The road takes you through the quaint town of Ino, famous for its history as a center of Japanese Washi paper manufacture
, to the amazing Niyodo Blue viewing spots at Nikobuchi
Pool and along the hiking trails of the Nakatsu
gorges. This area has become a hub for water sports and adventure activities –– be sure to check out Niyodo Adventure
, Niyodogawa Outdoor Center
and Suggoi Sports
. For a more relaxed experience of the river, try a Yakata-bune
traditional houseboat cruise.
Drop in at Ikegawa Chaen
tea shop to indulge in a spectacular dessert and consider camping or overnighting at Shimona no Sato in Niyodogawa Town so that you can enjoy some local craft beer at Blue Brew.
The Yoshino River
The Yoshino River is the waterway to follow if you are heading to Kochi via the vine bridges of the Iya Valley. Fairly close to the river’s source on the slopes of Ishizuchi mountain range, the wild waters of the Kochi section of the Yoshino River have made it one of western Japan’s top rafting spots. Happy Raft
in Otoyo Town is one of several companies (Lucky Raft
and You Me Rafting
are two others) offering rafting trips from its base which has a chill cafe overlooking the river. In contrast, the lake, created by the massive Sameura Dam
further up river, is beautifully calm and, offering water sports and equipped with a hotel and auto camp site, is the perfect place for a family-friendly lakeside.