The 50th largest island by area in the world, Shikoku is smaller than Sardinia and Bananal, but larger than Halmahera and Seram. At 18,000 sq kms, spatially, it really isn’t that big, but being completely mountainous, driving anywhere is particularly time consuming. Breathtaking, but time consuming.
Using a couple of rare days off for us, we decided to see some parts of southern Ehime/western Kochi that we haven’t been to before. Our first stop was Shikoku Karst.
After driving 3 hours down crazy winding roads through dense forest, you come to the surreal mountain”table top” plateau of Shikoku Karst, one of 3 “karst” regions in Japan. With cattle grazing lazily, strange granite rocks protruding out of the ground and the amazing view in all directions, it doesn’t feel like you are in Japan anymore.
We slept in a really nice bungalow, had a bbq at night and woke up at 5 to catch the sunset from the top of tengu no mori peak. We brought our camping stove with us on the 30 min. hike, made some nice coffee and had some pastry while waiting for the inevitable. The sunset was amazing (the picture wasn’t) and on the way down we went through a purpose-built obstacle course - felt like boy scouts all over again.
Coming down off of the plateau, we headed towards Japan’s cleanest river, the Shimanto gawa. This was just an exhausting drive, down 1 lane winding roads for hours past old-growth forests, seldom visited villages and amazing views. Again, just beautiful but quite challenging.
Since the river is remote from major cities and does not have any dams, it has been named one of the “Three Clear-Flowing Rivers in Japan”. Another interesting feature of the river and it’s tributaries are the bridges that span the river called Chinka bashi. Chinka bashi are low water crossings without parapets in order not to be washed away by floods. The prefecture decided to preserve them as cultural heritages.
After driving along the river, visiting random spots, we decided to head for Kochi’s famous pacific coast. Kochi is a different world from the rest of Shikoku, if not Japan. Where the coast of the inland sea is calm and tranquil, Kochi’s coast is wild and untamed - renowned for its surf breaks, whale watching and amazing diving. We stayed a great spot, Ohki Marine on Ohki beach; unfortunately, we couldn’t swim because there was a typhoon somewhere out in the Pacific and the waves were even crazier and bigger than normal! It was an intense day of driving, probably 8 hours in total going only 150kms or so…
Next morning, we headed up the coast back to Matsuyama, passing beautiful spots along the way. Notable places included: Tatsukushi Marine park, Odo coast and Otsuki. We wish we could have spent more time on this coast line-just magical/intersting places abound…we will definitely be back.