The Shimanto-gawa (Shimanto River) is one of the last remaining clear rivers in Japan, known for its un-dammed, pristine water and beautiful landscape. After cruising down the mostly empty road along this sparkling river, continue southbound for Cape Ashizuri where the route turns back north along the tranquil inlets of the Uwa Sea.
Many pearl farms are found in lagoons in the south of Uwajima City. The shack on the pier is used for cultivating and harvesting pearls.
The route starts from JR Uwajima Station. First heading inland for about 30 kilometers and, going through Meguro Tunnel under Jizo Pass, you start descending along the Meguro River which flows into the Shimanto River at Tsu Bridge. The water of this tributary adds to the flow of the main river, but the clarity of the water remains unchanged, thanks in part to the fact there are no large dams upstream on the Shimanto.
In Iwama, cross a chinkabashi, or sinking bridge. The decks of these un-railed bridges sit only three meters or so above the water level and are underwater during floods. This less invasive and more economical construction method is common in the area where many small settlements are dotted along the Shimanto River and its tributaries.
People in the Shimanto area live with the river. Boats of river fishermen are moored by the bank and, here and there near a settlement, you’ll inevitably find an old man gazing into the river.
About three kilometers past Sada chinkabashi, the river valley opens, and you see central Nakamura across the red iron Shimanto-gawa Bridge. From Nakamura, direct trains serve Okayama through Kochi Station.
Toward the river mouth of the Shimanto, veer south and head down to Cape Ashizuri.
Turning back north and passing through Tosa-shimizu, you’ll merge with the busier Route 56 in Sukumo. You’ll have to bear with some heavier traffic during one section of this 38-kilometer ride before turning off into the local coastal road from Arashi through Tanohama and Kitanada, winding along serene, picturesque bays and inlets back to Uwajima.