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Shimanto River

Cycle along Kochi's rugged mountain ranges, take out an old-school sailboat and camp by one of the clearest rivers in Japan.

Running like a ring around the southeastern corner of Kochi Prefecture, the Shimanto River is surreal in its natural beauty and biodiversity.

This widely undiscovered area is a destination where vibrant green mountain peaks are the backdrop to turquoise waters that offer up unique ways to discover local life in Japan. It may take a little legwork to get there, but once you arrive it feels like you’ve been let in on some incredible secret.

The Shimanto River is the longest in Japan’s rustic Shikoku region.

Known for its exceptional quality and clarity of H20, the Shimanto River is more than just a beautiful scene. For fishermen and nori (seaweed) farmers, the river is a source of livelihood. For local children, it’s an enviable naturally crafted playground, and for the population of outdoor-loving locals, it’s a way of life.

Katsuma Low Water Crossing over the Shimanto River.

At 196-kilometers in length, the Shimanto River is the longest in Japan’s rustic Shikoku region of the coast of Japan’s main isle of Honshu.  Still, seeing everything the area has to offer is a very doable feat.

If you have three or four days available, a set of wheels, charged camera batteries and plenty of gusto, it’s an incredibly rewarding way to explore a naturally stunning, untouched pocket of Japan.

By bicycle

Shimanto River Lucy Bike

Photo by: Lucy Dayman Discover Shimanto by bike.

There’s no correct way to “do” the Shimanto River, however, if you want to properly immerse yourself in the scenery and connect with the area’s culture, getting around by bike is an excellent way to go.

Shimanto River Tourism CEnter

Photo by: Lucy Dayman Shimanto Tourist Information Center has bike and motorbike rentals available.

For non-Japanese speakers, the easiest way to get your own set of rental wheels is to pop by the Shimantogawa Bicycle Rental Centre at the Shimanto Tourist Information Center in town. (Accessible by train). Pick up a mountain bike, a map of the river cycling route and chat with the friendly English-speaking staff who are more than happy to let you in on some local tips on where to start the Shimanto River circuit.

Off you go for some incredible photography while cycling across these historic bridges that take you from one side of the pristine river to the next.

By boat

To see Shimanto from a different perspective, consider hopping aboard a local — and quite rare for modern times — sailboat as it makes its leisurely crawl along the Shimanto.

Shimnato River sail boat Lucy photos

Photo by: Lucy Dayman Shimanto local Mr. Matsuhiroya will guide you along the river by this traditional sailboat.

Northwest of Nakamura train station, you’ll find a humble riverside shed occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Matsuhiroya — the husband and wife duo behind Semba Roman Matsuhiroya. The pair have a collection of senba boats, a roofless style of vessel used in the 1930s to transport goods with which they run regular 45-minute-long cruises along the river.

There are also canoe rental and guided tours available at the Shimanto Canoe and Camp Village Kawarakko as well as Canoekan (Japanese). Sign up for a session and paddle down the tame stream weaving underneath the concrete bridges that tower over the river like a conjoined waterlogged Stonehenge. If you’d like to linger a while, they have a campsite, too.

This article was sponsored by Kochi Prefecture.

Things To Know

Bike rental

Mountain bike rental from the Shimanto Tourist Information Center costs ¥1,500 per 24 hours/up to 5 hours is ¥1,000. Motor-assisted bike rental fee: Up to 5 hours for ¥2,000.

Sailboat rides

Semba Roman Matsuhiroya boat ride costs ¥2,500 per person.

Canoe and camp

Canoe and Camp Village Kawarakko rental costs ¥5,200 to ¥9,200 (depending on the canoe). Morning and afternoon experiences available.  

Shimanto Tourist Information Center

Hours: 8:30a.m. – 5:30p.m. | Address: 8-3 Ekimaecho, Shimanto, Kochi 787-0014  |  Phone: 0880-34-1555  | Email: info@shimanto-kankou.com |  Info: http://www.shimanto-kankou.com.e.abs.hp.transer.com

How To Get There


Shimanto, Kochi, Japan

By train

To reach the Shimanto Tourist Information Center from Kochi station, take the JR Dosan Line-Limited Express to Nakamura and get off at Nakamura station. The journey takes an hour and 50 minutes and costs ¥4,870 each way. From there, the area is best explored by bicycle. You can use the All Shikoku Rail Pass for this route.

By bus

There are regular buses that run between Kochi station bus terminal and Nakamuraeki bus stop. The journey takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes each way. (One way: ¥2,900; round-trip: ¥5,200).

By car

From Kochi Airport, the journey to Nakamura station is a little over 2 hours. It’s worth noting that this method of transport is best reserved for confident drivers as the area has many narrow and mountainous roads.

By plane

Fly into Kochi Ryoma Airport serviced by Fuji Dream Airlines, ANA, JAL and Jetstar.

Where To Stay

New Royal Hotel Shimanto
  • 26 Nakamura Koshomachi, Shimanto-shi, Kochi, 787-0029 Japan
  • ¥6,700 - ¥25,800
  • 3.73/5 (899 reviews)
  • 0.3 km
Nakamura Prince Hotel
  • 4-1 Nakamura Yayoicho, Shimanto-shi, Kochi, 787-0034 Japan
  • ¥5,890 - ¥18,000
  • 0.3 km
Shinyasunami Onsen Nagomiyado Anjuan
  • 1815 Ikanikeisaiganaibaai, Shimanto-shi, Kochi, 787-0000 Japan
  • ¥23,700 - ¥29,000
  • 3.7/5 (168 reviews)
  • 0.6 km
Shimanto no Yado
  • 3370 Shimoda, Shimanto-shi, Kochi, 787-0155 Japan
  • ¥26,180 - ¥39,380
  • 7.6 km
  • 431-10 Nashishi, Shimanto-shi, Kochi, 787-0163 Japan
  • ¥30,490 - ¥125,920
  • 4/5 (67 reviews)
  • 8.8 km

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