Welcome to the land of crystal-blue waters. Welcome to the beauty of “Niyodo Blue.”
Discovering spots along the mighty blue river in Kochi, a prefecture spanning the bottom half of Shikoku, Japan’s smallest and most untouched of its main islands, is the perfect way to get acquainted with this region.
Deemed “a miracle of clarity,” the Niyodo River’s streams are among the purest in Japan, contributing to blessed scenery and high-quality green tea and citrus fruits. Niyodo River and its tributaries’ mystical waters offer waterfalls in turquoise, lava-formed rock formations and ample hiking and camping.
Things to do along the Niyodo River in Kochi
Witness Niyodo Blue at Nikobuchi
Nikobuchi is the No. 1 nature spot to witness the “Niyodo Blue” phenomenon, a phrase popularized by an NHK photographer over a decade ago. This stout but voluminous waterfall rushes into a deep pool of blue enshrouded by forest with colors so vibrant it’s more anime than real life.
Many Japanese take the short but very steep hike down into the secluded ravine to experience Nikobuchi, considered sacred by locals. All visitors are asked to respect the rules here — no swimming and to refrain from boisterous activity.
Located in Nikobuchi Basin, about an hours’ drive from Kochi City, it’s hidden along the side of the highway but definitely worth a glimpse. On a clear day, at midday in direct sunlight, you can witness Niyodo Blue at its very best.
Hiking along Nakatsu Gorge
A sacred Shinto area, Nakatsu Gorge was formed over 300 million years ago as a result of the shifting tectonic plates. Because of this, it is regarded as a “power spot.” The best way to discover its beauty is through the light 2.3-kilometer hiking course along Nakatsu River, a tributary of Niyodo, that runs through the gorge.
Nakatsu Gorge was formed over 300 million years ago.
Along the way are a few surprises. See if you can spot all seven of the statues dedicated to different gods of good luck leading you through a slightly rocky, but well developed, path. Massive boulders, seen in shades of greys, reds, and greens, dot the hike toward your destination: a waterfall called Uryu-no-Taki.
At 20 meters high, it’s anointed with a hanging rope above the falls — a mark of hallowed grounds in Shinto tradition. The rope is a divider between the sacred space where gods are enshrined and our world, the outside world.
Other activities along the Niyodo River
In the warmer months, you can canoe and swim in the river. In the fall, the surrounding nature erupts into reds, yellows, and oranges. Nearby is an onsen (hot spring) inn, called Yu-no-Mori, where daytrippers can also bathe in the natural hot spring.
Camping, glamping, kayaking, swimming and other river activities are also on offer along the Niyodo River, a sacred and beautiful part of this unforgettable region of Japan.