[personal profile] cycleboy1957
We are now in the Shimanto River valley. When we first arrived we ate in a canoe rental cafe and were wondering why they labelled everything '40010' until Junko spotted the name written in kanji: Shi=4 - Man=10,000 (used as a multiplier, like we do thousand) and To=10. Hence Shi-Man-To = 40010. Mystery solved.

Shimantogawa (K/gawa means river) is reputed to be the last remaining free flowing river in Japan, in that there are no dams or weirs on it. It is also said to have some of the cleanest water of any Japanese river. It is certainly clear enough in places to watch the fish. It is supposed to have a good variety of species, though we didn't see that many. As I hope you will be able to see from the pictures in the link, it is probably a geologically young river, in that it is steep sided and narrow (ie it's not have enough time to erode and widen). Given the heavily wooded slopes, it is a lovely spot to while away a few days.

One interesting thing to note are the rather odd bridges you see crossing it. They are wafer thin, low and have absolutely no side rails. Consequently, they look as though they'd break every European safety regulation. As you can see in the photos, they are high enough for our little pleasure boat to pass safely under them, but the clearance is not great. The reason for their unusual construction became clear when our boatman pointed out the level of a recent flood event: about 14m above the current water level. I kid you not. The path from jetty to road was pretty steep and the road itself was higher than a willow tree the boatman said often got submerged. Beside the road, again photographed, are some of the high water marks. Any bridge built over the Shimantogawa would have to be so impossibly high it would not only be expensive, but very difficult to access, as the road level is comparitively low. Apparently, until the invention of reinforced concrete, the only way across was by ferry. Any construction of any depth, or one which included side walls or rails on which debris could become entangled, would simply be destroyed in any flood. Only by building bridges with the smallest possible area to the direction of flow will they survive. Hence their name: chin-ka-bashi = sink below bridge. Of course, there are 'proper' bridges over the river, for the trunk roads and railway and they are very high. Consequently, the height of those roads and the railway is way above the low water level of the river. The only thought that then occurs is that the locals most get a fairly regular soaking, which is a high price to pay for living in such a beautiful spot..

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