Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park is a scenic strip of coast in western Japan in the southwest corner of Shikoku, one of Japan’s four main islands. Several locations here have been designated as marine park zones to preserve the area’s underwater environment. The park is an ideal getaway for snorkeling around coral beds and viewing marine life, and exploring nearby islets. You can also enjoy beautiful green valleys in the summer, stunning foliage colors in the autumn, and mountains dotted with azaleas in the spring.

Don't Miss

  • Clifftop views of the Kuroshio Current's warm, dark waters
  • The mysterious rock formations of Tatsukushi Coast
  • Snorkeling among coral beds and viewing marine life
  • Canyoning in Nametoko Gorge
  • Visiting Kongofukuji Temple, one of the 88 temples on the Shikoku Buddhist pilgrimage trail

Park Overview

Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park stretches along a remote coastline that runs from Kochi Prefecture to Ehime Prefecture. The coast that runs north to Uwajima City faces the Uwakai Sea, with isolated peninsulas and inland mountains decked in old forests. South-facing Cape Ashizuri has a lighthouse that looks out over the Pacific Ocean (though it is not open to the public). There are many ways to enjoy the park’s coastal environment, underwater seascapes, and inland mountains and rivers. The 1,200-year-old Shikoku pilgrimage trail (also known as Shikoku Henro) runs along the coast. The trail takes in 88 temples located throughout Shikoku. The Shimanami Kaido cycling route—which starts in Hiroshima on Japan’s largest island, Honshu—runs through this part of Shikoku.

Around Ashizuri

Cape Ashizuri feels remote and wild. The Kuroshio Current—the warm Pacific stream that moves from the Philippines to Japan, Alaska and south to California—flows past the cape, bringing warm water and schools of bonito. The mild climate gives rise to subtropical greenery and colorful coral beds. 
At Cape Ashizuri, you’ll find Oki Beach, a favorite with surfers. Turtles are also drawn here and lay their eggs on the beach. Cape Ashizuri is a coastal park area. There are beaches with dramatic sandstone forms, and tropical fish and reef-building coral in the waters. To view this underwater world, you can dive or snorkel, ride in a glass-bottom boat, or visit the underwater observatory. There are whale-watching tours, too: you’ll likely spot Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera brydei), dolphins and flying fish.

The Otsuki area, a fisherman’s paradise, has a number of access points to the coast and other recreation options that include camping, kayaking and snorkeling. Kashiwajima Island is a picturesque spot with serene views of the other Uwakai Sea islands. It’s known for scuba diving and surf fishing. Off the coast is Okino Island, which is accessible by ferry from Tsukumo Harbor. The climate is balmy here, and around 1,000 species of fish inhabit the warm waters.

Nametoko Gorge

The Uwakai Area

Along the west coast of Shikoku, the park area between Ainancho and Uwajima City has a ria coastline with peninsulas that jut into the Uwakai Sea. The coastline is rugged, with sea cliffs and caves. Local industries, including fishing, fish-farming and pearl-farming thrive in the area around the Uwakai Sea. 
Inland, you'll find a natural forest with giant trees, including Japanese cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa). As you climb from the coastal lowlands, the vegetation changes from warm-temperate to cold-temperate. Nametoko Gorge, in the upper reaches of the Meguro River (a branch of the famous Shimanto River), flows over smooth granite, making it a popular canyoning spot.  A chain of waterfalls can be found nearby, and you may even see wild monkeys and deer in this natural environment.

Hoketsu Pass


Various long-held traditions still thrive in this region. In small villages, for example, there is a strong festival culture. Shikoku’s 1,200-year-old, 88-temple pilgrimage trail (also known as Shikoku Henro), follows the coastline through much of the park. Kongofukuji pilgrimage temple perches high above the sea near the tip of Cape Ashizuri. Pilgrimage traditions live on, such as people offering osettai gifts—usually food and drink—to pilgrims. These offerings are, in effect, meant for Kobo Daishi (774-835), the Buddhist monk who founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism in Japan and created this pilgrimage.

Hakusan Cave