The uppermost reaches of the Meguro River passes through the Nametoko Gorge, whose name means “slippery floor”. The name comes from the fact that almost the entire area is made of granite, and the surface of the rock has become smooth after many years of erosion. There are many scenic spots that have been given fanciful names. At the Yukiwa Falls, water from a tributary slides down a massive single slab of rock.
The road leading up to Nametoko passes through some pleasant but unremarkable Shikoku scenery. Then as the road narrows and driving becomes difficult, you begin to glimpse green valley walls plunging towards an increasingly rock-filled river. After about a kilometer of twisting, narrow road, you come to a car park which gives access to paths on either side of the gorge.
As soon as you set off on any path, you find yourself surrounded by trees of every kind, mottled with mosses that only grow in pristine environments. Below, the river churns and gushes through contorted channels carved through solid rock and fallen boulders. Nametoko is known for its wild monkeys. In addition, you’re likely to encounter deer, snakes, buzzards, and a great variety of insects.
Nametoko has gained a place as one of Ehime’s “power spots”, locations that are notable for their capacity for instilling awe in visitors. Inconceivably huge boulders sit in the river bed, topped with trees whose roots reach down to the soil many meters away. Humans have added their own decorations in the form of Shinto ropes and prayer paper. Cairns of stones stand here and there.
You can choose any length of walk to suit your mood. Even a ten minute stroll is rewarding, but you can spend all day hiking the trails to the top of the gorge and the mountain beyond. Near the car park, there’s a cafeteria selling simple lunch food and a camping site.
In the summer, rainbow trout are released in the lower pools. For a small fee, you can rent a bamboo fishing pole with a lump of bait food and spend several hours fishing. Even beginners will catch one or two of the fish, which are delicious grilled or barbecued later. But watch where you put the bait, or the monkeys will have it as quick as a flash.
Nametoko Gorge is a natural playground, and it’s become home to the relatively new sport of canyoning.
Name in Japanese: 滑床渓谷
Pronunciation: nametoko keikoku
Address: 798-2106 Ehime, Kitauwa District, Matsuno, Meguro