The Iya Valley might be the part of Shikoku most visited by people wanting to see the remote countryside, but the far South of the island, around Cape Ashizuri, feels like the most remote part. It’s rugged, beautiful, hardly touristed and well worth a day of your time – if you can get there.
Arriving and Transport
This area of Shikoku would be hard to fully explore without a car (or, I suppose, a touring bike). The nearest train connection is the private Tosa Kuroshio railway line, which cuts West-East from Sukumo, then heads north up the Eastern coast to rejoin the JR lines at Kubokawa. By car, you can simply follow the coast in from Kochi – a pleasant, longish drive that takes you past huge, sandy beaches, rugged rocky outcrops and dozens of pilgrims walking the route.
Things to See
We decided to head for Cape Ashizuri – the most southerly point of Shikoku, which hangs off the West side of its southern coast. This has a beautiful coastline, dotted with temples and lighthouses – ideal if you like to walk. We drove in from the North East, following the coastal road, then cutting across the peninsular to Shimizu (and stopping to fill up in a local ramen shop – 豚太郎 土佐清水店, link here, try the Stamina Ramen!) before following route 27, which circles the very end of the island, anticlockwise.
As you round the south-western cape, look out for a tiny, five space car park next to a public toilet – for an exact Google map location click here. From there, you can walk down to an absolutely stunning little shrine, with a single Torii gate perched high on the rocks:
Excuse the water on the lens, it was chucking it down. You also get an amazing view around the cape to the lighthouse (spot the lone fisherman in this image):
.. and other walking paths take you up to other viewpoints. Tread carefully! You can just, barely, make out the shrine as a speck of red on the rocks in this Google Map (use Google Earth view).
Further around the cape, another great place to stop and walk is around the Kongofukuji temple – a calling point for pilgrims, and a real beauty:
From near the temple you can walk down to the coast, with paths stretching out to another lighthouse (this one for the south-eastern cape), and down to a beach with a huge rock arch and jagged rocks:
.. even in the gloom and the pouring rain it was a beautiful place. Just, again, watch your step.
From the Kongofuku Ji, we headed back up the East coast to Oki Beach. Oki is another enormous, beautifully clean sand beach:
.. it’s popular with turtles, who like to lay their eggs there – signs advise visitors on how to ensure they are not disturbed – and also with surfers. No turtles to be seen on our visit, but several men in wetsuits were out on the waves.
Staying and Eating
This area isn’t particularly touristy, although there are one or two hotels on Cape Ashizuri. We decided to go somewhere a little different, and with a steer from Lonely Planet arranged to stay at the Kaiyu Inn, which perches just above the beach.
On arriving, we were slightly surprised – expecting a small, probably wooden inn, we found one; but it was sited next to a large concrete building resembling a business hotel. As it turns out, Kaiyu is both: the family who run it bought the old building (which the new Lonely Planet says was a conference centre – my understanding is that it was a kind of timeshare apartment complex built for JR staff), renovated a dozen or so apartments, and built a beautiful new onsen next door.
The effect is utterly unique. Each room is different – ours, above, had tatami but western beds, and 1970s-era kitchen fittings – and the building itself has an unusual feel; many floors are empty, and the corridor lights are out, replaced by tiny LEDs that light as you walk along. Downstairs, on the ground floor, there’s a beautiful kitchen and dining area – and at the other end, the reception for the old building, untouched but mothballed. The effect of walking the building at night like something from a game or movie – people are gone, the building remains.
But apart from the large rooms and the short walk to the beach, Kaiyu’s star attraction is the onsen (don’t know what that is? Click here). This is deliberately back-to-basics, and wood fired – walking back from the beach, we met the owner stoking the boiler, which he’d just started up that day. To get the bath up to temperature involves stirring it with a huge plank of wood, and you can step straight outside into a small garden. It’s right up there on my list of great onsen to visit.
For food, you could drive into a nearby town – there are a few convenience stores dotted around, of course – but I’d recommend eating at Kaiyu. The apartments have fridges and simple cooking gear, but we ate with the owner’s family down in the hotel – absolutely delicious home-cooked food, including seared bonito, a few local beers and some great conversation – that’s me, above, in a photo from the Kaiyu blog.
So, Cape Ashizuri. It’s not particularly easy to get to, but if you have wheels and a day to spare traveling, you’ll be richly rewarded for the effort, with stunning landscapes and a great place to stay. You can book a room at Kaiyu, and arrange to eat there, by email – the owner, Mitsu-san, speaks excellent English.