The Shimantogawa river begins life in Mount Irazuyama in Higashi-Tsuno, Kochi Prefecture, and for 196 kilometers slowly wends its way downstream. Joined by numerous smaller watercourses, it snakes into Ehime Prefecture at one point, before reaching its goal--the Pacific Ocean at the city of Shimanto.
Divinely, the river is dam-free, preserving much of its natural environment and ecosystem. Fish thrive in this unpolluted habitat, with more than 140 types darting between the rocks and the abundant water plants.
Over the generations, life along the river produced exceptional cultures, and for the modern-day visitor, fascinating sights and delightful activities.
Many of us have tried, with varying degrees of success, to coax fish out of a river using a pole, line and wriggling worms. Local fishermen use a more sensational, if traditional, method--waving flaming torches, they herd "ayu" sweetfish into their nets.
Since before World War II, the river people have spanned the Shimantogawa in many spots with an unusual type of bridge. Cheap to build, convenient for daily living, the bridges disappear under water when the river rises.
When the water level recedes, the bridges--built on short pilings with almost no railings--reappear and neighborly visits with cross-river friends recommence.
There are many excellent restaurants and inns with "onsen" hot spring baths in Shimanto and at selected spots along the Shimantogawa. All offer the visitor a feast of river delicacies, including sweetfish and "aonori" laver.
JR Kubokawa Station, Kochi Prefecture, provides an ideal access to areas around the middle reaches of Shimantogawa river. Take an express train on the JR Dosan Line from JR Kochi Station, a ride of about an hour.
To reach Shimanto, a city near the mouth of the river, take the Tosa Kuroshio Railway express from JR Kochi Station to Nakamura Station, which takes an hour and 40 minutes.
From Kochi Airport, take a bus to JR Kochi Station, about a 40-minute ride.
JR Yodo Line provides transportation in Shimantogawa's midstream areas.
Visit (www.jnto.go.jp) or (attaka.or.jp/foreign/english/index.html).
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