Head to where the scent of yuzu perfumes the country air - journey on Yuzu Road

Shikoku is a major producer of citrus fruits like yuzu, mandarins, and sudachi. Kochi Prefecture boasts the biggest production of yuzu in the country, and in recent years, has even started exporting yuzu to Europe.
Take the tour to yuzu country and find out for yourself just what makes this fruit so popular.

The shift from logging railroad to Yuzu Road

The townships of Nahari, Tano, Yasuda, Kitagawa and Umaji, located in the Chugei area in eastern Kochi, where once the epicentre of Kochi's booming logging industry. The logging railroad was a link between these towns and transported timber that would be shipped across the country. However, in the 1960s, the logging industry fell into decline. To replace the dying logging industry, locals began to pour their efforts into the cultivation of yuzu. Logged mountain sides were replaced with tiered yuzu orchards, and as a result, the region became the biggest producer of yuzu in the country.

With an abundance of this citrus fruit now available, products made from yuzu began to hit the shelves and people all over Japan were able to enjoy Kochi yuzu.
Thanks to the efforts of those who turned from logging to the cultivation of yuzu, this region, with its picture-perfect views of tiered yuzu orchards, has been recognized as *National Heritage, and the yuzu themselves are becoming highly valued around the world.

*The story of Japanese culture and tradition through the region's historical charm and distinct features have been recognised by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

Visiting Yuzu Village and country views from long ago

The Chugei area of Kochi is counted as one of Japan's top 3 locations for beautiful Japanese cedar trees.
Japanese cedar forests, standing in an almost orderly fashion, contrast with the 213 hectares of cultivated yuzu orchards, and give off an almost unexplored feeling.
The yuzu trees are blanketed in small white flowers in the early summer, and by mid-summer glitter with bright green leaves and small green fruit. Once autumn arrives, the fruits ripen becoming a yellow colour, and the air is filled with the scent of yuzu. The face of the orchards changes with each season, offering something a little different each time you visit.

The villages of Umaji and Kitagawa, known as the Villages of Yuzu, are blessed with virgin Japanese cedar forests and over 300 year old yuzu trees. Here, the lives of the locals have their roots in logging and the cultivation of yuzu. Both villages have ryokan (traditional Japanese accommodation) and hot springs, so you can kick back and relax after exploring the area.

Exploring the ruins of the old Yanase Logging Railroad

If you're going to take the journey along Yuzu Road, you can't miss checking out the Yanase Logging Railroad.
Construction of the railway started around 110 years ago, and linked the Chugei area of Kochi Prefecture. While used as a method of transporting timber harvested from the mountains, the railway supported the villages living in its vicinity. The railway was abandoned in 1964, but still remains in tact in the Chugei area.
You can still find the stone-built Bandajima and Omukae Tunnels, and Myojinguchi truss bridge in Yasuda; the stone-built Gomi Tunnel in Umaji; and the steel Kojima Bridge in Kitagawa. These places are designated as important cultural treasures, and are well-preserved. Located alongside rivers and in the mountains, the structural remains of the old railroad almost seem to be one with their natural surroundings.

By exploring along the old logging railway, you can get a glimpse into the history of the once booming logging industry and gain some insight into the strength of workers of that time. In Kitagawa Village, you can find the house of famous samurai Nakaoka Shintaro, who recommended the cultivation of yuzu back in his day. There's also a museum and statue dedicated to the samurai here, making it an interesting spot to add to your itinerary.
List of facilities of the old Yanase Logging Railroad (National designated Important Cultural Treasure)
 
1 Eya Tunnel エヤ隧道 291-2 Bessho Eyashima, Yasuda Town, Aki-gun
2 Banda Island Tunnel バンダ島隧道 272 Yodoko Bandajima, Yasuda Town, Aki-gun
3 Omukae Tunnel オオムカエ隧道 3-2 Ogawa Omukae, Yasuda Town, Aki-gun
4 Myojinguchi Bridge 明神口橋 3-2 Ogawa Omukae, Yasuda Town, Aki-gun
5 Kamagatani Plank Path 釜ヶ谷桟道 263-3 Segiri Shimanoune, Yasuda Town, Aki-gun
6 Kamagatani Bridge 釜ヶ谷橋 263-3 Segiri Shimanoune, Yasuda Town, Aki-gun
7 Hirase Tunnel 平瀬隧道 4198-21 Umaji Karatani, Umaji Village, Aki-gun
8 Gomi Tunnel 五味隧道 4146-7 Umaji Takao, Umaji Village, Aki-gun
9 Ochiai Bridge 落合橋 3546-1 Umaji Nagase, Umaji Village, Aki-gun
10 Koguchi Tunnel 河口隧道 1551-6 Umaji Kawaguchi, Umaji Village, Aki-gun
11 Inubo Bridge 犬吠橋 921-1 Kuki Kukiyama, Kitagawa Village, Aki-gun
12 Inotani Bridge 井ノ谷橋 922-3 Kuki Inotani, Kitagawa Village, Aki-gun
13 Horigao Bridge 堀ヶ生橋 33-1-7 Futamata Kamihorigao, Kitagawa Village, Aki-gun
14 Futamata Bridge 二股橋 357-1 Futamata Ochiai Nakauneyama, Kitagawa Village, Aki-gun
15 Koshima Bridge 小島橋 548 Koshima Kageuishiri, Kitagawa Village, Aki-gun
16 Tachioka No. 2 Plank Path 立岡二号桟道 Machii-higashi, Tano Town, Aki-gun
17 Hachimanyama Overpass 八幡山跨線橋 2851 Yahatayama, Tano Town, Aki-gun
18 Hoonji Overpass 法恩寺跨線橋 254-3 Otsu, Nahari Town, Aki-gun

Events and activities along Yuzu Road

The Yanase Logging Railroad in Umaji Village gives visitors the chance to ride a train that was once used to haul felled Japanese cedar. A 50m long incline rail (a type of cable car utilizing the weight of water) can still be found in the center of the village today, offering visitors a rare experience.
The Yuzu Hajimaru Festival is held in autumn to celebrate the start of the yuzu harvest. Various events are held during this time, with rare food and drink items made with yuzu on offer.

●Yanase Logging Railroad (Yanase Shinrin Tetsudo) - Train ride/Train driving experience
Address: Inside Maruyama Park (Yanase Maruyama, Umaji Village, Aki-gun)
TEL: 0887-43-2240 (Mori-no-Onsen Yanase-no-Yu)
Hours: 10:00~15:30 (closed between 12:00pm to 1:00pm)
Operating days: Sundays & Public Holidays
Cost:
Train ride: ¥400 (3yrs to elementary school age: ¥200)
Train driving experience: Elementary school age children and up: ¥1,000

●Shinrin Tetsudo (Logging Railroad) Incline Railway
Address: 3564-1 Umaji, Umaji Village, Aki-gun
TEL: 0887-44-2026 (Umaji Onsen)
Hours: 8:30am to 4:30pm
Operating days: Sunday, public holidays, and every day in August
Cost: Train ride: ¥400 (3yrs to elementary school age: ¥300)

●Yuzu Hajimaru (Beginning of Yuzu Season) Festival - Early November
Where: Umaji-mura Nokyo - Yuzu-no-Mori/ around the village
Address: 3888-4 Umaji, Umaji Village, Aki-gun
TEL: 0120-559-659(Umaji-mura Nogyo Kyodo Kumiai - Umaji Village Farmers' Association)

Yuzu food culture

By exploring the Yuzu Road, you'll encounter the effects that yuzu has had on local food culture. One of the most famous of these being inaka-zushi. Yuzu juice is used in place of vinegar to coat the rice, and topped with vegetables instead of fish. There's a huge variety of ways to enjoy yuzu like yuzusu, yuzu juice, yuzu-kosho etc.