[Shikoku/Kochi]How to Enjoy Shimanto River, the Last Clear Stream in Japan
Among many rivers all throughout Japan, the Shimanto River that flows through Kochi in the Shikoku region is particularly beautiful. Known as the last clear stream in the country, it has been luring in visitors hoping to get a glimpse of the pristine river as it flows. Here are some of the charms of Shimanto River!
Spanning 196km, Shimanto River is a river that originates from Mt. Irazuyama in Kochi’s Tsuno. It is the largest river in the Shikoku region that flows out to the Pacific Ocean after running through the towns of Nakatosa and Shimanto. At its basin, there spreads the original landscape of valleys where nature, history, climate and culture are beautifully fused together. This area showcases the magnificent view of the river as it slowly flows while repeatedly meandering along the way. Around 200 species of aquatic organisms are said to inhabit this river. Here, the way of life that intertwines people and the river remains alive today, including the traditional methods for catching fish such as ayu (sweet fish), aonori (green seaweed) and gori (common freshwater goby).
What is Shimanto River?
The basin of Shimanto River is divided into the “upstream” that ranges from the headwaters to the Saga intake dam, the “mid-stream” that covers the Saga intake dam up to the Hiromi River junction, and the “downstream” that spans from the junction to the mouth of the river. At the upstream area where the tributary river flows, the river gently flows to the south while increasing in water volume. The meandering mid-stream area is the spot that is blessed with a great volume of water and breadth. Meanwhile, the downstream portion is where the serpentine flow of the river slows down as it gets closer to the mouth of the river.
If you want to enjoy playing in the river, then it would be best to go to the downstream where the water is relatively calmer. It is dotted with spots where you can hop on a yakata-bune (pleasure boat with roof). At the Shimanto no Ao that is near the Misato Chinka Bridge, guests can go on a cruise that lasts about 60 minutes for 2,000 JPY (incl. tax) for adults.
The chinka bridges that blend with the beautiful scenery are one of the must-see spots at Shimanto River. Designed to be submerged when the water rises, these bridges are characterized by their lack of railings. A chinka bridge is built in that unique shape in order to ensure that it does not suffer all that much from significant impact from water resistance, and to avoid poor water flow due to trees and other objects.
Out of the 22 chinka bridges built along the main current of the river, the one that best represents Shimanto River is the Imanari Chinka Bridge that is situated at the most downstream part. Dubbed the Sada Chinka Bridge, it is flocked by a lot of visitors during sightseeing season. Meanwhile, the Iwama Chinka Bridge that often appears in tourism posters and pamphlets is also a spot that is famous for taking photos. It is found a little south of the convergence point with Meguro River.
Marvel at the picturesque view under the bridge
Canoeing is the perfect way to fully enjoy the river, especially at the downstream portion where the water is more tranquil. Visitors can choose between a course that even novices can easily try and a full-fledged touring course. Feel the flow of the magnificent river as you become one with the beautiful nature surrounding the river. At Canoe-kan (Canoe House) that is located near Nishitosa Bridge, you can rent a canoe for as low as 5,400 JPY.
Further, a ride on bicycle is also recommended if you want to explore the area along the river, from the mid-stream up to the downstream. Revel in the grand nature while feeling the pleasant atmosphere in the air. Avail of the Shimantogawa Rinrin Cycle (1,500 JPY for same-day return) plan and you can rent and return the bicycles in any of the seven terminals between Ekawasaki Station and Nakamura Station.
After soaking in the charms of Shimanto River, what better way to end your day than to try the local dishes?! For this, the izakaya (Japanese tavern) Kihachi that is situated at the heart of Shimanto comes highly recommended. This place has been earning a reputation for being a spot where people can taste dishes in season at reasonable prices.
The pride of this izakaya is its variety of dishes that use seafood that its owner purchased at the fishing port early that day. Here, the bestsellers are the Ikejime Shimizu Saba Sashimi (freshwater mackerel) (980 JPY) and the Katsuo Shio Tataki (seared skipjack tuna) (prices start at 780 JPY). Apart from those, there is a wide array of dishes in store for every guest, including dishes that use river shrimp, aosa nori (sea lettuce) and other ingredients caught from the Shimanto River basin, and creative dishes in every season.
Shimanto River is a place where the original landscape of valleys in the outskirts remains intact up to today. Come and visit to enjoy the beautiful contrast between the grand mountain range and the clear streams while being enveloped by lush nature.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.