Gorge hiking along the spectacular crystalline waters of the Niyodo River

The Niyodo River is often referred to as Japan’s most beautiful river. The cobalt blue color of this sparkling crystalline river is nicknamed “Niyodo Blue”, and its beauty is otherworldly. There are hiking trails with spectacular views of the gorge, a café with amazing river views and even hot springs.
Here we’ll introduce some of the best ways to enjoy the Niyodo River and its surrounds.

The charm of the Niyodo River

The Niyodo River is a top class river that runs for 124km from deep in the mountains of Shikoku and out into the Pacific Ocean. The Niyodo River has maintained its top ranking in the country in regards to water purity, which has led to the river being referred to as Japan’s most beautiful river. Springing out from beneath the ground from about 1500m above sea level, the river’s water purity barely changes from its source to its downstream area. The surface glistens with a dazzling cobalt blue hue, which has given rise to its nickname, “Niyodo Blue.”

While this Niyodo Blue color can be enjoyed year round, the color is said to be at its most vibrant between November and March. The most famous spot to see this dazzling color is the plunge pool or basin of a waterfall called “Nikobuchi.” Led down a slope by ropes and a handrail, you’ll find yourself in a place that feels like a hidden secret. Depending on the position of the sun, the color changes from blue to green, and its mysterious beauty will leave you in awe!

Out on the main flow of the river, you’ll come across strange looking bridges without balustrades or side rails, called “chinkabashi”, that have been designed to withstand rising water levels and floods. Terraced tea fields on mountain slopes and traces of the locals’ ties to the river and the regional culture are among the many things you’ll find traveling along the Niyodo River.

Gorge hiking at Yasui Gorge

If you really want to get a sense of the beauty of Niyodo Blue, then we recommend doing a gorge hike. Among the different places to hike, Yasui Gorge on the Yasui River (a tributary of the Niyodo River), is one of the most popular trails. The area is surrounded by 1278ha of unspoiled primeval forest, with rare plants growing along the crystalline river. Taking the trail that runs alongside the gorge, you'll eventually come across a point that's known to have the most transparent waters in the entire Niyodo River system, called “Suishobuchi.” The stones on the riverbed, the water depth, the position of the sun, and even the green of the trees all have an impact on the color of the water, which can go from an emerald green to a cobalt blue.
The contrast of the white curtain of water flowing down into the blue waterfall basin is breathtaking. The check dam further back helps to keep the water pure and to maintain the clarity of the water.

Hiryu Falls, a two-tiered waterfall that resembles a twisting dragon with a combined drop of 25m, and Mikaeri Falls, a waterfall that plunges over a sheer cliff, are two other major viewpoints in the area.

Try joining a guided tour in English!

●Guided Tours
TEL: 0889-20-9511 (Niyodo Blue Tourism Council)
Cost: ¥3000 per group of up to 2 people (for 3 or more people, add ¥1500 per each extra person)
Time required: 1 to 2 hours
Reservation: At least 2 days prior

Gorge hiking at Nakatsu Gorge

The Nakatsu Gorge located along the upstream area of the Niyodo River is another great place to enjoy hiking! The biggest attraction here are the rock formations that have been created by years of erosion from rain and the flow of the Niyodo River. The bedrock is over 17,000 years old and the reddish color you can see in some of the rocks is due to iron deposits.
Walking along the designated trail as it snakes its way alongside the river for about 2km, you’ll pass by rock formation after rock formation; you’ll be amazed by the sculptures Mother Nature has created. The most exciting view can be found at Uryu Falls. The river plunges for 20m, crashing against an interesting rock formation as it falls, and you can get up nice and close for the perfect view.
Little stone statues of the Shichifukujin (Seven Deities of Good Fortune) are placed along the trail, so keep an eye out as you explore!

The Nakatsu Gorge is also a famous place for appreciating the colors of autumn. The stunning contrast between the blue of the Niyodo River and the reds of the autumn foliage make for a really special hiking experience. By taking a guided tour in English, you can find out all sorts of interesting details about the area as you explore.

●Guided Tours
TEL: 0889-20-9511 (Niyodo Blue Tourism Council)
Cost: ¥3000 per group of up to 2 people (for 3 or more people, add ¥1500 per each extra person)
Time required: 1 to 2 hours
Reservation: At least 2 days prior

Make a pit stop before or after your gorge hike

Hot springs and river view cafés are among some of the spots worth visiting when you go for a walk around the Niyodo River area. Hot spring waters well up out of the ground at Yunomori, a hot spring hotel at the entrance to the gorge. Even if you are not staying at the facility you can still use enjoy the hot springs. Their outdoor hot spring bath, surrounded by a tranquil forest, is particularly relaxing.

The Niyodo River is also a tea growing region, and cafés run by tea plantations dot the area. Stopping by at one of the cafés for a moment of relaxation is a standard part of the whole experience. Enjoy cafés that offer great views, or try meals and desserts from the lunch menu that feature fresh tea leaves.

The town of Ino, located at the downstream basin of the Niyodo River, is known as being the home of “Tosa washi.” Tosa washi is Japanese paper from Tosa (the former name of Kochi) made using the pure waters of the Niyodo River. There’s nothing quite like the texture of handmade paper.

You can try making Tosa washi for yourself at both the Ino-Cho Paper Museum and the Michi-no-Eki (rest area) in Ino.

Address: 258-1 Nanokawa, Niyodogawa Town
TEL: 0889-36-0680
Hours: Bath hours for those not staying overnight: 11:00 to 21:00 (Last entry at 20:00)
Closed on Tuesdays (or the following day if Tuesday is a public holiday), two Wednesdays per month, and on New Year’s Day
Cost: 13yrs and up: ¥700, 3yrs to 12yrs: ¥350, 2yrs and under: Free
https://www.yunomori.jp/ (Japanese language only)

●Cha Cafe Asunaro
Address: 224-6 Washinosu, Niyodogawa Town
TEL: 0889-36-0188
Hours: 10:00 to 15:30 (From 11:00 in winter)
Closed on Thursdays (on Thursdays and Fridays during winter)
http://www.asunaro-cafe.com/ (Japanese language only)

●Ino-cho Paper Museum
Address: 110-1 Saiwai-cho, Ino Town, Agawa-gun
TEL: 088-893-0886
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00
Closed on Mondays (Closed the following day if Monday is a public holiday), and between December 27 to January 4
Cost: Adults: ¥500, Students (17 years and under): ¥100, handmade paper-making: ¥400 (color paper x2 or postcards x8)

●Tosa Washi Craft Village
Address: 1226 Kashiki, Ino Town, Agawa-gun
TEL: 088-892-0127
Hours: Washi Experience Workshop: 9:00am to 5:00pm
Closed on Wednesdays
8 postcards or 2 shikishi (message boards): No pattern: ¥400 (approx. 40mins), With flowers: ¥600 (approx. 1hr)
Uchiwa fan: ¥800 (approx. 40mins)
Orizome paper dyeing/tie-dyeing: Small: ¥400 (approx. 40mins), Medium: ¥600 (approx. 40mins)

River Activities

If you're looking for something fun to do along the river, why not try some river activities! The flow of the Niyodo River is relatively calm, making it a fantastic place to try something a little different while relaxing on the river. Feel as if you're one with the sparkling crystal blue river, or gaze at the colorful stones on the riverbed. Canoeing and SUP (stand up paddleboarding) are popular activities as they give you the opportunity to take in the beauty of the Niyodo River.