Shimanto City: Your Escape to the Southern Islands of Japan

Interested in taking a break from the city? Well, this is your chance to live and travel like a true local to the town of Shimanto. Only a little bit south from Kochi Prefecture, Shimanto City is the escape from the city that you’ve been longing for!

For all our amazing readers, Shimanto City is now easily accessible! If you just so happen to be doing an Asia trip and are flying in from Hong Kong, you’re in luck because Hong Kong Express flights have finally partnered up with Kotobus Airport Express from Hong Kong Airport to Takamatsu Airport, where you’re also able to hop on a bus which takes you directly to Kochi. Just a short bus ride away from Kochi City, head over to Shimanto for some of the freshest seafood (specifically, katsuo), rich history, and incredible natural landscapes, Shimanto City should be your next travel destination.

Shimantoya Unagi

If you’re looking for real traditional Japanese food made to order, then we recommend you visit Shimantoya Unagi. Located right next to Shimanto River, one of Japan’s three largest clear rivers, this restaurant prides itself in one thing: dishing up the best unagi (eel) dishes.

Located right across the Shimanto River, Shimantoya Unagi is known for cultivating, catching and cooking its own eel from the river. The clear, cold spring water flows down into the river from the mountains, creating the best environment for the growth of healthy and of course, delicious eels. With no chemical seasonings, synthetic coloring, anti-oxidation agents, the unagi you’ll be eating at the restaurant are all guaranteed to be well-farmed and freshly grilled in the early hours of the day.

The taste? Incredible. We’re literally salivating thinking back on how utterly indescribable it was, but we’re going to try our best. The boneless eel fillet is firstly steamed to achieve that first round of melt-in-your-mouth softness, while still keeping intact its natural flavor. From then, the eel is broiled over a low grill, all while their special sweet soy sauce is brushed on, ever so lightly to build flavor. Too much sauce at once ruins the unagi, so the broiling and brushing process repeats three or four times, to keep the otherwise tough eel, beautifully glistening with tenderness.

Honestly, if you’re telling us that you don’t want to try their incredible eel after seeing those pictures, then we’re not sure we can be friends.

Shimanto Bicycle Riding

Like any city, the best way to fully explore the local area is to either drive, walk, or cycle, and for Shimanto City, cycling is definitely our most recommended form of travel. At the Shimanto City Tourism Association’s Tourism Information Center, rental bicycles of all sizes were available, ranging from the normal city-cycling bike, mountain bikes, and electric bikes that help you climb up all those hilly areas. A small navigation system with on-screen and in-ear guidance and motor assistance is also available for you to rent if you’re terrible at directions like we were. Depending on your interest (and fitness level), you can choose which type of bike and the duration of rental for as low as ¥1,000 for every five hours.

For our team at Tokyo Creative who decided to tour around via bicycle, their route was through the city, across Shimantogawa Bridge (Red Iron Bridge) and towards the Sada Chinkabashi bridge, cycling for a bit over an hour before hopping on a boat ride down the Shimanto River stream.

After the boat ride, we felt more relaxed than ever and ready to take on the second half of our journey: through the beautiful trees and pines up the mountain. If you also choose to cycle through in Shimanto, one thing that you might find common is the locals waving to you while they’re out working, which was one of the best feelings. The town is very welcoming and open to new faces buzzing past them, so be sure to wave back and say hello!

Shimanto River and a Boat Ride

If you do decide to come here via the bicycle ride, then you’ll eventually end up on a pretty intimidating-looking bridge with no railings. This bridge is another local attraction called “Chinkabashi”, which is a submersible bridge without railings that, dependent on weather conditions, might sink below the water. During the typhoon and mild flooding that occurred in 2018, the water levels of Shimanto River reached record heights, swallowing the entire bridge. So if possible, we don’t recommend going during typhoon season, unless you know, you’re down for drowning. Every other day of the year though, tourists flock to the area to see the bridge, as it offers the best way to enjoy Shimanto River and its surroundings.

Spanning 196kms, the Shimanto River starts on the valleys of Mount Irazu in Tsuno Town and runs through the region as the longest river in Shikoku. As Japan’s last remaining limpid stream, the locals around the area are very much dedicated to making sure the river lives up to its name and reputation.

On the boat ride, you’ll likely be able to see how the river meshes in with the local resident's everyday lives. When the Tokyo Creative team hopped onto the boat, they saw a range of fishermen and were told that in Summer, the majority of the town come to the river and have a good ol’ soak to cool off, jumping from the bridge into the water. Seeing how the river is so embedded into the lives of the local residents was incredibly lovely and made our hearts warm, so we definitely recommend the cruise to anyone who wants an hour away from the big city to clear their head.

If you’re interested in joining a boat ride for yourself, regular tours depart every other hour, but we really advise you to book ahead of time. Tours can be booked in English through the Shimanto City Tourism Association, and depending on where you depart from, make sure to check the seasonal times available as each departure spot varies.

We’re sure there’s more to Shimanto City, but frankly, the people there made our visit. In terms of taking on the Southern Islands like a local, Shimanto City is probably the closest you’ll feel to a local– the city is very welcoming and is the perfect refreshing getaway from the city!

Elise Meng