A rewarding drive along the sea, mountains and rivers of Shikoku’s southern Kochi region

Slow Drive Kochi Self-Guided 6 Days

Starting from USD2140 / 6 days

Slow Drive Kochi Self-Guided 6 Days

Drive at your own pace through the region, along the beautiful roads of Kochi to enjoy diverse landscapes and visit the numerous coastal, mountain and riverside villages along the way, through to Cape Ashizuri at the very southernmost tip of Shikoku Island. Sleep in unique Japanese accommodation, small and enchanting, where you feel the spirit of the Kochi region.

 

Highlights

  • Experience four scenic and diverse geographic regions (the Yokonami Kuroshio line, the Shikoku Karst Plateau, the Shimanto River and Cape Ashizuri)
  • Indulge in the healing properties of Japan’s onsen hot spring inns and enjoy fresh regional cuisine
  • Experience ‘walking on water’ with an outdoor SUP water activity on the Niyodo River, and learn about the significance of Japanese washi paper cultivation and uses, with a dedicated local artisan
  • Deepen your spiritual experience with a meditation session in an atmospheric Zen temple
  • See works created by renowned architect Kengo Kuma in Yusuhara
  • Visit a number of optional Buddhist Temples along the ancient Shikoku 88 Temple pilgrimage

With our slow drive tour, experience the full Kochi region, beginning and ending in Kochi city - a historic former castle town with a relaxed ambience, situated immediately beside the Pacific coast. From here, the route.explores the geographical and cultural diversity of this hidden area, while also taking in a wide variety of authentic Japanese inns and experiences with excellent local cuisine.

Kochi Prefecture is situated on the southern side of Shikoku – the fourth largest island in Japan. The region is home to some of Japan’s most unspoiled nature, as well as rural villages with lovingly preserved local customs.  Kochi is a perfect reflection of life in rural Japan: a quiet, self-sufficient cultural landscape of spiritual traditions, where the rhythm of life is directly tied to the movements of the seasons. Combined with its generous geography of rivers, mountains, oceans, and valleys, Kochi is a wonderful destination for those searching for a hidden side of Japan away from the crowds. 

Throughout the tour, you’ll sample unique regional cuisine and enjoy the hospitality of contemporary and traditional Japanese inns on each evening. You’ll learn about the regional culture, taking in the remote villages of Susaki, Nakatosa, Yusuhara and Shimanto, with the option to visit a number of the ancient temples on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage along your journey. Travel in comfort with your own eco-friendly hybrid rental car, with user-friendly sat-nav, and a tailored itinerary featuring our curated stops and suggested eateries, while also making your own unique discoveries and connections with local people throughout your adventure.

 

Hybrid Rental Car

Full use of an eco-friendly, spacious hybrid rental car, with sat-nav, is provided as standard for the duration of your tour from Kochi city. 

We also offer the opportunity to extend the tour with a leisurely 1-night extension to visit the remote Cape Muroto area in Eastern Kochi, with a unique Geopark, traditional seaside villages, and former castle towns, with optional visits to four remote Shingon Buddhist Temples - numbered among the wider Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage route - each featuring its own unique architectural style and Japanese garden designs.


What's Included

  • 5 nights at hotels and Japanese inns, with 5 breakfasts & 3 dinners
  • 6 Days Car Rental – mid-size hybrid car (Toyota Prius or similar, with larger options on request)
  • Niyodo River activity (Stand Up Paddle boarding or Canoeing)
  • Driving route information in GPS
  • Japanese washi paper cultivation experience in English with a local artisan
  • Zazen meditation session and Zen introduction at a countryside Zen temple
  • Detailed day-by-day itinerary and the local support of our Kyoto based team
  • Our ‘Preparing For Your Trip’ and ‘Travelling in Japan’ guidebooks

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Single room supplement(s) if required

Itinerary

Itinerary Map
Day 1 - Arrive in Kochi – Visit the Niyodo River and explore Kochi City

On the first day, you will arrive in Kochi. Your first stop is to receive your arranged rental car - at Kochi Airport or in central Kochi City - for your onward journey to the pristine Niyodo River. We recommend arriving in the morning to make full use of your first day in the region.

Head to the crystal clear Niyodo River area and meet your local water activity guide for the pre-booked experience. Our standard option here is to try SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboarding), with breathtaking Niyodo River and mountain views, which is suitable for both beginnings and seasoned veterans. River kayaking is available upon request as an alternative option.

From the Niyodo River, enjoy a leisurely walk along nearby Nakatsu Gorge, with well-linked walkways among dramatic boulders, rock formations and waterfalls. In the afternoon, explore Kochi castle and the local Hirome Ichiba food market, or drive to nearby Mt. Godai and Chikurinj-ji Temple – Temple 31 along the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage – taking in grand views overlooking the surrounding coastline.

Kochi City is easily accessible from many domestic airports and major train stations in Japan. The closest airport is Kochi Ryoma Airport (KCZ), roughly 1 hour 20 minutes from Haneda airport in Tokyo or 40 minutes from Itami airport in Osaka. Alternatively, Kochi train station is about 3 hours 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka station or Hiroshima station using the JR Train Line.

Accommodation: Japanese Inn or Western Hotel 

Dinner this evening is at your leisure to enable you to explore the Hirome Ichiba Food market or one of our recommended restaurants in the area


Day 2 - Scenic Coastline and Temples, from Kochi to Susaki bay

After breakfast, head south via the Pacific coast, passing the picturesque Katsurahama beach. Further along, is Shōryū-ji Temple - Temple 36 on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage – tucked into the hillside with a beautifully tranquil atmosphere.

You then head along the scenic Yokonami-Kuroshio line with its magnificent views of the Pacific coastline. Pass small fishing villages, local shrines and markets along the way through to Kure bay and the Nakatosa area, your destination for the evening.

The seaside fishing villages dotted throughout this region have a long history where local fisherman chase skipjack tuna in the open sea, which features in much of the local cuisine. The sleepy villages have a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, and have become a designated ‘important cultural landscape’ of Japan.

Accommodation: Ryokan (Travellers inn) or Shukubo (Pilgrims lodging)

It is also possible to overnight at an authentic Japanese Shukubo monastery lodging at a temple along the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage on request when placing your booking).

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


Day 3 - Shikoku Karst Plateau and Yusuhara village

Today the route visits further diverse scenery, this time into the mountains, to learn about the cultivation process of washi traditional Japanese paper, and its many applications, with an immersive experience in English with a local artisan. Washi paper has played a fundamental role in traditional Japanese life-styles over centuries.

After the washi experience, enjoy the scenic Shikoku Karst Plateau area, with its winding lanes and expansive panoramas. Travel down through to the atmospheric mountain village of Yusuhara, where you can explore its cultural sights, unique architectural building designs by Kengo Kuma, and the relaxed rural community atmosphere. Along the way, there are numerous areas to stop off for light exploring on foot, taking in the charms of Japan’s rural mountain villages and landscapes.

After you arrive in Yusuhara, take time to explore Mishima shrine, Miyuki wooden bridge, centuries-old terraced rice fields and the fascinating buildings designed by renowned modern Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. After a day of exploring, you'll receive a warm welcome at your accommodation for this evening in Yusuhara.

Accommodation: Japanese Onsen Hotel designed by Kengo Kuma

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


Day 4 - Scenic Shimanto River to Nakamura town

Today's route follows part of the pristine Shimanto River, the longest river in Shikoku at almost 200km long. Far removed from urban areas and free of man-made structures such as dams, Shimanto River is considered Japan’s last remaining pure river. Here you’ll be able to experience another side of Kochi's diverse landscapes, with a thriving ecosystem that nurtures a way of life where humans and nature have co-existed in harmony for centuries. 

After breakfast this morning, make your way towards the Shimanto River and an atmospheric countryside Soto Zen temple, where you’ll experience a spiritual Zazen meditation session and introduction to Zen. Soto is one of the three major Zen sects in Japan, handed down by Dogen and characterized by the style of meditation, called "shikan-ta-za" or "single-minded sitting." You'll meet a friendly, English-speaking Zen priest who trained at Eihei-ji temple, the main centre of the Soto sect. He'll explain Dogen's philosophy and lead you in a meditation session, followed by a chance to enjoy Japanese green tea and seasonal wagashi sweets.

Re-energized, you'll then continue along the Shimanto River, with frequent scenic river and valley views, and hidden tea villages and hillside rice terraces. Numerous unique miniature bridges and little country villages are dotted along the way. You can stop off and make your own discoveries or visit small café’s and local eateries. The route continues through to Nakamura town and Shimanto city near the Pacific coast – your destination for this evening.

Nakamura town is situated along the river and is a former castle town where visitors can experience traces of its feudal past. The landscape and rivers around Nakamura town in Shimanto still closely resemble Kyoto’s, and the influence of Kyoto culture can be found in the town’s seasonal festivals, local dialect, and artistic sensibilities.

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan or Japanese Onsen Hotel (depending on availability)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


Day 5 - Kashiwa Island, Cape Ashizuri and Kongofuku-ji Temple on the Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage

Make your way to Kashiwa Island, and Cape Ashizuri at Shikoku’s southernmost point - some of the most remote sections of Kochi -  exploring its natural surroundings, untouched primeval forests, cultural sights, and ancient coastal rock formations, before making your way further  along the scenic Tosa bay coastline back to Shimanto. 

Your route will take you further south along panoramic coastline to Kashiwa Island - a paradise for local divers and marine life enthusiasts - and Cape Ashizuri, with time to visit one of Shikoku’s most remote Buddhist temples, Kongofuku-ji - Temple 39 of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Said to have been established in 822, Kongofuku-ji sits atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  While in the area, enjoy a scenic detour; and a short optional walk to reach a set of ancient megalithic rock formations with magnificent panoramic coastal views around Cape Ashizuri. Nearby, you can stop for lunch at one of the local cafes along the coast, and even enjoy visiting a local onsen hot spring foot bath as a nice way to relax. 

Further along the route, you’ll pass through several sleepy seaside fishing villages and take in views of the remote Tosa bay coastline as you enjoy the ride back towards Nakamura town in Shimanto for your second night in the area. Dinner will be at your leisure to explore local restaurant options this evening.

Accommodation: Onsen Ryokan or Japanese Onsen Hotel (depending on availability)

Meals: Breakfast



Day 6 - Return to Kochi city and travel onward

After breakfast, wave goodbye to your hosts and explore the coastal Kuroshio-cho area, before making your way back to Kochi City in the afternoon, where your tour ends.

You are free to explore more of Shimanto and the surrounding area this morning before returning to Kochi City. In Kochi City, you’ll return your rental car before traveling onward to your next destination.

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