Sandwiched between the mountains and the river, a classic Japanese house stands next to a road. A slightly smaller baby buggy car is parked beside a signboard with the colorful words “SUP CAFE STAY, SUGGOI SPORTS”. The contrast between the pure blue of the sky and the deep green of the mountains is clear to the eyes and time passes by so peacefully that enables one to hear the calming flow of the nearby Niyodo river.
In Kochi Prefecture, where the four seasons are distinct, many visitors from overseas and other prefectures come to enjoy the holidays every year. One of the companies that is deeply involved in Kochi’s tourism industry, SUGGOI SPORTS offers various activities throughout the year to make their guests “Enjoy the moment”. Mainly based in the west part of Kochi, they provide outdoor activities for a large number of visitors amid the beauty of nature that surrounds them. They also play a significant role to the community by providing a venue for local people to gather. Their guests are not just tourists from other places but also some elderlies from nearby towns who like to have lunch, drink coffee and catch up with each other.
SUGGOI SPORTS offers many water activities on Niyodo and Yoshino River but one water activity that has been trending in recently is the Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) that originated in Hawaii. It is known as an easy sport for people who are experienced in yoga and canoeing.
Due to Covid-19, the number of out-of-town tourists in Kochi Prefecture in 2020 was recorded at 2.66 million, the lowest number since 2003. According to the data from the Kochi Prefectural Government, the most popular area is Kochi City, and among all age groups, Kochi City attracts those of younger ages.
Mr. Sasaki, the president of SUGGOI SPORTS, set up their office in Hidaka Village. He is confident in his choice of location that offers tourist activities in Niyodo River.
“I chose Hidaka Village for their water level, safety, infrastructure, weather, and its proximity to Kochi City.” Mr. Sasaki said, “This is a wonderful place for recreation.”
Most tourists spend their whole vacation in Kochi City only. According to data, this accounts for 34.8% of the total visitors of the prefecture while Niyodo River barely accounts for 6.2%. Hidaka Village, where the café run by SUGGOI SPORTS is located, is approximately 30 minutes from Kochi City and welcomes its guests with a peaceful atmosphere different from that of the bustling city. The data also shows that different types of travelers, such as families, friends, and solo travelers take different routes to visit.
Most of their guests are beginners to outdoor activities. However, SUGGOI SPORTS can take care of activity plans and meet needs for people of all ages, with a minimum age of 3 and a maximum age of 78. As for wintertime in Niyodo river, the water is purely beautiful than summer. Many advanced people who already tried water sports come to Niyodo river and visit SUGGOI SPORTS to form strong basis of their body. Therefore, not only cafes but also outdoor activities can be enjoyed by a wide range of various people.
“I like communicating with guests so much.” Mr. Sasaki said, and “I always learn a lot from them.” He strongly asserts that not only the guests but also the SUGGOI SPORTS staff have fun in the activities to make their guest experience the company motto “Enjoy the moment”.
“I have to make a pizza right now.” Mr. Sasaki suddenly goes to the kitchen and outside, several elderly people are gathering.
“I get calls sometimes; asking to come to this cafe.” Mr. Sasaki said. The café not only welcomes tourists but is also an important place for the community where local people gather to catch up and enjoy their meals.
There might be several ways to enjoy the charm of both the mountains and the river waiting to be discovered just around the corner.
“I want to explore activities in the mountains.” Mr. Sasaki said as for what he would like to try in the future. “I want to make Shikoku well-known and spread the charm of Kochi to more people.”
New adventures await discovery in the beautiful mountains overlooking Niyodo river. “We need to look at the good points of a certain thing and think about what we can do with that, rather than just finding the bad points and improving it. Many things are limited in Kochi, but I want to use Kochi’s good points and let as many people as possible know how wonderful Kochi is.”