Born on Mount Ishizuchi in Ehime Prefecture, the Niyodo River takes its time meandering through mountains that form an east-west spine across the middle of the island of Shikoku. The river drains an area of 1,560 km2 in Kochi Prefecture, flowing 124 kilometers until it empties into the Pacific Ocean.
During the entire distance, its waters remain crystal clear. So clear, in fact, that the quality is considered to be something of a miracle. Trickling down through forests and ancient rock layers, the water is filtered and becomes more and more transparent, taking on a mysterious blue. In some years it has garnered a number 1 rating in Japan’s River Water Quality Index.
People living in the river basin have long shown their appreciation for the river’s water and still enjoy its benefits. You too will fall for its charms along any part of its more than 100-kilometer stretch. One easy and exciting way to begin is by taking a cruise on a yakata-bune boat. One of the guides, Tanaka Satoru, says he is keen to have people learn more about the river he has loved since childhood. He started his own yakata-bune company, and takes tourists for 50 minutes on a gentle, luxurious ride through the mystical world of nature, with fantastic views of azaleas in spring and gloriously colored foliage on the mountain slopes in the fall. If you are lucky you will see kingfishers, known here as the jewel of the crystal clear waters.