There are many short walks in Kochi Prefecture on which nature-lovers can immerse themselves in some stunning landscapes. Here, we introduce four walks worth scheduling an extra few hours in some of Kochi’s top destinations for. They are all generally well-maintained and appropriate for people of all ages and fitness levels, so make sure to pack your walking shoes next time you visit Kochi.
Cape Ashizuri: Walking the edge of Shikoku
The Ashizuri walking trail may only be about 2km meters long, but, taking you through tunnels of camellia trees and a huge variety of subtropical plants, it packs in many natural and historical attractions in its short distance.
Your starting point will most likely be the Cape Ashizuri, the southernmost point of Shikoku. The cape can be accessed across the road from Kongofuku-ji Temple, the 38th temple of Shikoku Pilgrimage. Pick one of the easy to follow maps available at the Tourist Information Center and head to the main viewing deck that looks out over the vast Pacific Ocean. From here you can actually perceive the curvature of the earth.
From the Cape Ashizuri Observation Platform you can join the nature path, either heading east or west. The observation point at Tengu-no-hana promontory, about a 10-minute walk to the east, offers the best views of Cape Ashizuri’s distinctive white lighthouse. Heading west takes you past the lighthouse and along the top of the cliffs where you should look out for the “seven wonders” of Ashizuri, which are said to be connected to the Buddhist monk also known as Kukai who is credited with establishing the Shikoku Pilgrimage. These include a rock shaped like a turtle, a rocking stone and a “hole to hell”.
About 20 minutes walk along the coastal nature path west of the main observation deck, you reach a steep set of steps that takes you down to the base of the huge Hakusan Arch, on top of which stands a small shrine. After walking along the drantic rock-strewn Arodo Beach you can choose to return the way you came or continue along the path back up to the main road.
After your time exploring Ashizuri you might like to give your tired feet a well-deserved foot bath at the Manjiro Ashiyu Footbath which overlooks Hakusan Arch.
Parking: 20 spaces. There is lots of parking at or near Cape Ashizuri Tourist Office
Access: Cape Ashizuri is about 20 minutes drive from Tosa Shimizu City
People from all over Japan head to the Niyodo River for its breathtakingly clear, sapphire blue and emerald green waters. While it is most common (and convenient) to tour the area by car, here are two places where you can park your vehicle and hit the trail in search of the famous “Niyodo Blue”.
The Yasui River is a tributary of the Niyodo River with almost unbelievably clear waters. Over time the river has carved out a narrow gorge with sheer moss-covered cliffs surrounded by primeval forest. Although beautiful throughout the year, people flock here in the autumn to see the colors of the season.
Yasui Gorge is about 1 hour 15 minutes by car from Kochi City to Yasui Gorge and drivers should be aware that the roads get quite narrow in parts. The most visited parts of the gorge start near the Horaiso Lodge, which is the only hotel in the gorge. From here it is possible to drive to parking lots that are located a short distance from the main sights. Those planning to explore the gorge on foot should give themselves about 2 hours for the return journey to and from the gorge's main attractions, Suishobuchi and Sabo Dam, which are said to be two of the best places to appreciate ""Niyodo Blue"". Suishobuchi literaly means crystal pool and, at Sabo Dam, water cascades over a low check dam into another gorgeous pool. Give yourselves extra time if you plan to make side trips to check other beauty spots such as the 25m two-tiered Hiryu-no-Taki waterfall and Seriwari Cave.
Access: About 1 hour 15 minutes drive from Kochi City
The Nakatsu River is another tributary of the Niyodo River and Nakatsu Gorge, a favorite place for locals to go to enjoy the autumn colors, has become something of a hub for adventure sports such as canyoning and packrafting. It is also a great place for a light hike, with a well-maintained 2km trail that carries you back and forth across the bubbling river, among giant rock formations.
Like all the walks in this article, the Naktsu Gorge trail is very family-friendly and young children will get an extra kick out of keeping an eye out for statues of the shichifukujin (Seven Gods of Fortune) that can be found along the way.
From Yu-no-Mori Lodge at the entrance to the gorge it is about a 20-minute walk to the spectacular 20m Uryu-no-Taki waterfall which is the target for most visitors. Those who are up for challenge might consider pushing on further up the gorge to Ishibashira, an awe inspiring rock pillar that shoots up out of the Nakatsu River.
About 1 hr drive from Ino IC on Kochi Expressway
About 10 min walk from Nanokawa bus stop (Kuroiwa Kanko Bus)
Both the Yasui Gorge and the Nakatsu Gorge can become very crowded during the Golden Week holiday from late April to early May, the Obon holiday in mid-August, and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays in November when the autumn colors are at their best.
Tengu Highlands Forest Therapy Road
The Shikoku Karst Natural Park are a whole different side to Kochi, a contrast to the lush, subtropical river valleys and coastal areas of the prefecture. At 1500m above sea level, temperatures are cooler here and, whichever direction you face, mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. Then there are the rolling meadows punctuated by limestone karst rocks and towering windmills among which cattle graze from spring to autumn.
A short distance from the Hoshifuru Village Tengu Hotel, a popular place to stay for stargazers in search of dark skies, is the entrance to a lovely walking path called a “Tengu Highlands Forest Therapy Road”. This therapeutic walk takes you through a forest of enormous zelkova and Japanese horse chestnut trees that are hundreds of years old. Sections of the trail have been covered with wood chips (pick up some chips to add at the trail entrance) which makes it very forgiving on the knees and has a therapeutic calming effect.
There is a signboard at the entrance to the path with a simple map of the trails and which gives you a rough idea of distances. It is in Japanese, but it’s a good idea to take a photo with your phone to refer to along your walk. Exploring all the trails can take most the day, but walking for a set amount of time appropriate for your fitness level and returning the way you came makes for a very pleasant stroll.
The therapy road makes for a great afternoon or early morning stroll if you are staying in the highlands.
Parking: Available at the entrance to the Tengu Highlands Forest Therapy Road
Access: Tengu Highlands is about 1 hr 20 min drive from Susaki-higashi IC on the Kochi Expressway.
Ioki Cave is a real hidden gem, a stone’s throw from Route 55 as it passes through Aki City and is a great place to stretch your legs if traveling between Kochi City and Muroto City.
The 40m-long cave, formed by erosion caused by ocean waves, has been designated as a National Natural Monument. Bats nest in the roof and fossilized shells can be found embedded in the walls. Exiting the cave brings you into a verdant gorge with steep cliffs covered with some 40 different species of fern. It’s a world away from the busy road you left only minutes before.
Walk upstream for a short while and, after crossing a small bridge, indulge your inner jungle explorer by heading up the trail to a pretty waterfall about 400m from the cave entrance.
From here, you can either turn back to return the way you came, or continue on until you meet a small rural road. Follow signs back to route 55 while enjoying views of the ocean and glimpses into the life of the farmers in this area. Near the end of the trail just before you rejoin Route 55, fans of the hugely popular post-war movie series Otoko wa Tsurai Yo (“It's tough being a man"") will be intrigued to see that films’ protagonist Tora-san has been turned into a Jizo statue.
When visiting Ioki Cave please be aware:
● Collecting plants, fossils, etc is prohibited.
● Damaging the walls or other geological formations is prohibited.
● The use of electric lights and flash photography is prohibited in the cave (due to the bat habitat).
● Wearing of boots (or at least closed shoes) is recommended (due to the wet conditions and to protect against pit vipers)*
*Boots can be borrowed from the Ioki Tourist Information Office located in the parking lot of the nearby K-Mart store. (Currently suspended due to Covid-19 prevention measures)
Parking: Free parking is available at Ioki Community Center
About 5 min walk from Ioki Station (Gomen Nahari Line)
About 1 hour drive from Kochi City