The Monobe River
This beautiful, placid river flows through some of Shikoku’s most pristine nature. Narrow roads with very light traffic run alongside the river, making it ideal for cyclists. Another attraction are the many cafés dotted along the route. These tend to be thoughtfully designed, with terraces, gardens, arbours, and even rotenburo onsens. Some welcome guests accompanied by pets.
The Ryugado Caves
Located a short distance from Kochi city, Ryugado is one of the three most extensive limestone cave complexes in Japan. It’s thought to have been formed around 150,000,000 years ago. After driving through valleys of rice fields and bamboo groves, you come to the foot of a small mountain. There’s a bus stop, a visitor’s centre, a street of souvenir shops, and an escalator beside a pretty stream flowing down the steep hillside. The entrance to the cave is under an overhanging cliff with a small Shinto shrine.
Inside, the temperature is a comfortable fourteen degrees year round. You walk on rock paths and steel platforms through narrow tunnels which open out into chambers, some of them vast from floor to ceiling. Streams of clear water flow through the entire complex, with impressive waterfalls. Everywhere there are spectacular stalactite formations in a wide variety of evocative shapes. The path moves upward, sometimes at a very steep angle, passing through some extremely narrow and low gaps.
Occasionally bats flit around above your head. The cave is home to five species of bat. The chambers that they favour are marked on the ceiling by traces of their feet, and on the floor by mounds of excrement. There are around one hundred species of animal living in the caves, including shrimp and crabs.
The caves were first discovered in 1931, and the first modern visitors were greeted by the remains of almost-intact earthenware vessels, dishes and hearths full of charcoal and animal bones. These were found near what’s now the exit. These artifacts date back to the Yayoi Period between 300 B.C. and 300 A.D. In the cave you can still see an earthenware vessel encased in stalactite.
The regular course takes about an hour. Explorers wanting more can book in advance for a two-hour adventure course, crawling through narrow passageways and climbing wooden ladders, deep in the recesses of the cave. After you leave the caves, be sure to visit the Ryugado Rare Bird Centre with its exotic chickens, and the Ryugado Museum which explains the history and formation of the caves with charmingly dated exhibits.
To plan a tour of the area, use our handy enquiry form.