Kochi Prefecture is a nature-rich area that offers amazing views thanks to its large rivers and landscape. This article introduces 20 things to do in Kochi, from visiting historical spots like castles to areas that serve up delicious food, such as markets!
Where is Kochi?
The Japanese archipelago consists of four major islands, with Shikoku located to the southwest. Kochi Prefecture is in southern Shikoku, which is about 1 hour and 10 minutes by plane from Tokyo, as well as about 45 minutes by plane from Osaka.
This is the central part of Kochi Prefecture, where Kochi City is located. Filled with historical sites and wonderful food, it is an area that you cannot miss when sightseeing around Kochi.
Take in the History of Kochi Castle!
This famous castle has a history dating back more than 400 years. 15 of its structures, including the majestic Otemon (the main gate), are designated as Important Cultural Properties by the national government. Even now, they retain vestiges of the past. Built during the Edo period (1603 - 1867), the tenshu (castle tower) is a particularly valuable structure, as it is one of the 12 remaining tenshu in the whole country. The castle is especially attractive when lit up in the evening, as well as during fireworks festivals. Its magical visage is what makes it one of Japan's top three castles to view at night.
Entrance fee: 420 JPY/general, Free/people age 18 and younger
*Schedule of the Kochi City Fireworks Festival: August 9 (Thu), 2018. *To be postponed to August 31 if there’s bad weather
*Time of fireworks: 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
See Sakamoto Ryoma's Statue at Katsurahama
Katsurahama is a beautifully curved beach that’s famous as a great place to see the moon. It is known as one of Kochi's top scenic spots. It is also where you’ll find the famous statue of Sakamoto Ryoma (1835 - 1867), who was an imperial loyalist samurai from Kochi. The huge 13.5 m statue faces the Pacific Ocean and is a popular spot for photographs. The nearby Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum, which is run by the prefecture, is a great place to learn about him in English, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.
Explore Ryugado Cave
This limestone cave was created over a period of 175 million years. It contains beautiful stalactites, including the Tenkoseki that’s 11 m in length and the Renseiden that drips water droplets that shine like stars. General admission gives you access to about 1 km of the cave, but if you choose the Adventure Course, you can explore pitch dark portions of the cave wearing headlights.
Prices: 1,100 JPY/adults (high school age and older), 700 JPY/junior high school students, 550 JPY/elementary school students *All the prices include tax
*The Adventure Course requires advance reservation and an additional fee of 1,000 JPY.
Stroll Around the Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden
This is a botanical garden with approximately 3,000 different types of plants. It has beautiful seasonal flowers that anyone can enjoy, such as rhododendrons in May and chrysanthemums between October and November. The Kochi Ecology Garden in the North Garden is especially recommended. It has areas with 1,000 m tall mountains that have been reproduced, so visitors can learn in detail about the plants in the prefecture. The Conservatory in the South Garden, where you can see plants like heliconia and calathea - indigenous to South America - also comes highly recommended by many.
Admission: 720 JPY/adults, Free/people of high school age or younger
See the Niyodo Blue at Nikobuchi
Niyodo River is a river that is said to be miraculously clear. The azure surface offers a fantastic sight that’s unrivaled in beauty. There are many places to see this "Niyodo blue", but Nikobuchi is one particular spot that has been getting a lot of attention as of late. This mystical waterfall basin has a surface that shines like gemstones as the light changes.
*Access to the basin is currently restricted due to fallen rocks. It is scheduled to reopen by August 2018, but be sure to check before going.
Experience the Yosakoi Festival
The Yosakoi Festival in Kochi City is considered to be the original yosakoi, which is a summer event held in nearly 220 locations around Japan. It is a carnival in which dancers perform at various locations around the city and parade through the streets dancing. There are about 18,000 dancers in 200 teams. There are no restrictions on the music or choreography. This means that you’ll be able to watch a wide variety of dances, from traditional ones to samba-style dances and even dances that go with rock music! The unique costumes are also fun to see.
2018 Schedule: August 9 (Thu) - August 12 (Sun)
Enjoy Straw-grilled Katsuo Tataki
Katsuo takaki is a Kochi specialty that should not to be missed. It consists of seared skipjack tuna sashimi. What separates the Kochi version from the rest of Japan is that it’s seared with straw! Straw burns quickly, so it almost immediately reaches a temperature of 800 degrees before burning out. As a result, the skipjack is cooked perfectly - seared on the outside, but raw inside. The aroma of the straw also enhances the flavor of the tuna.
Enjoy Drinking With the Locals at Hirome Market
Hirome Market is a tourist spot in the center of Kochi City. It has more than 60 shops that sell a wide range of Kochi specialties, including gyoza (dumplings) and katsuo tataki. It is designed like a food court, so you can easily savor a variety of foods. Its lively and fun atmosphere, complete with some people even drinking alcohol during the day, makes it a great place to get a drink and strike up a conversation with the locals. Doesn’t that make for a lovely trip?
Close Off the Evening With Yatai Gyoza
In Kochi, there is a custom called “yatai gyoza” where you close off an evening of drinking with some gyoza from a yatai (food stall). Though there are many places where you can do this, the famous Yasube comes highly recommended by many. It operates in a traditional Japanese style, meaning that it is set up and a paper lantern is put out in front every day. Here, you will always have freshly wrapped and freshly cooked gyoza. These gyoza, which are popular for their golden color and crunchy finish, have a unique texture that doesn’t quite show if they’re pan-fried or deep-fried.
(c)2014 MFC Co., Ltd.
(c)2014 MFC Co., Ltd.
Browse Through Regional Products at the Sunday Market
There is a street market in Kochi City where specialties from around the prefecture can be purchased. It is held at Otesuji every Sunday, except during the Yosakoi Festival and New Year’s Day. A variety of items, ranging from vegetables - examples being vegetables like shihochiku (a type of bamboo) and ginger, as well as seafood like whitebait and dried young sardines - to antiques and clothing, are available. This is also the perfect place to try various local foods, such as Inaka-zushi (Kochi vegetables made into sushi) and Imo-ten (cubed yam made into tempura).
The Seibu area is full of places where you can enjoy nature, such as the Shimanto River, Shikoku Karst, and Cape Ashizuri. You’ll also find bullfighting events and dishes that you can only savor at the fishing villages there!
See the Lucky Daruma Sunset at Sukumo Bay
Sukumo Bay is famous for its "daruma sunsets", where the silhouette of the sun setting over the horizon flickers like a mirage, creating a shape like a "daruma" (papier-mâché doll). It only appears for a few seconds on sunny days between mid-November and mid-February, and is sometimes referred to as the "lucky sunset". It can be seen from different locations, such as Kanyoto Park, Katashima Port, and Ikeshima Port, depending on the time of year, so be sure to research it in advance!
Feel the Vastness of the Ocean at Shikoku's Southernmost Tip, Cape Ashizuri
Cape Ashizuri is located at the tip of Ashizuri Peninsula, which juts out into the Pacific Ocean at the southern end of Shikoku. It consists of sea cliffs that are 80 m tall, creating stunning scenery together with the deep blue sea. The view from the observatory, which has a panorama that’s more than 270 degrees, is fantastic. The curve of the horizon confirms that the earth is truly round. The nearby white Cape Ashizuri Lighthouse and Hakusan Domon - Japan's top natural granite tunnel - are also worth seeing.
Treat Yourself to a Fantastic Sight at Shikoku Karust, One of Japan's Three Major Karusts
Shikoku Karust is a limestone plain that crosses over Kochi Prefecture and Ehime Prefecture. It is known as one of Japan's three major karusts. The limestone pillars that almost look like packs of sheep and sinkholes in the verdant grassland create a unique landscape, which looks particularly idyllic from the spring to fall, when the cows are grazing. Many people love coming here for outdoor activities like camping, sightseeing, and driving!
Play with Figurines at Kaiyodo Hobby Museum Shimanto
Kaiyodo is a world-famous figurine maker that makes everything from traditional Buddha statues to figurines of cartoon characters. At Kaiyodo Hobby Museum Shimanto, you can learn about its history and see its collection. In addition, you can attend the Diorama-making Classroom, where you can make your own miniature garden. There is also a museum shop that’s perfect for picking up gifts and souvenirs. This is a museum that everyone, from children to adults, can thoroughly enjoy.
Admission Fee: 800 JPY/adult (high school age and older), 400 JPY/elementary and junior high school age, Free/children below elementary school age
Cross Over Japan's Last Pristine River, Shimanto
At 196 km in length, Shimanto River is the longest river in Shikoku. Surrounded by a diverse natural landscape, it is a beautiful river that is sometimes called “the last pristine river in Japan”. One of its highlights is the 48 "chinkabashi" bridges built over the river at different spots. They were cleverly designed not to be washed away when sunk at high tide, and are still frequently used today. The chinkabashi at Sada, which is closest to the mouth of the river, is particularly famous. The sight of the bridge that seems to blend with its surroundings is an iconic Shimanto River view.
See the Fantastic Ocean View at Kashiwajima
Kashiwajima is a small island surrounded by numerous coral reefs. The ocean surrounding it has about 1,000 different types of fish. It has been attracting attention on social media for the transparency of its ocean water. The sea, which seems to change color gradually from the white sandy beach to the open sea, presents a resort-like view. The water is so transparent that it sometimes seems as if the boats on it are floating in the air! This fabulous view can be seen from a variety of locations, including the Ryugahama Camping Grounds near the shore.
Savor Freshly Caught Fish at Taisho Market in Kure, Nakatosa
This is a popular market in a fishing town that’s filled with shouts and calls from merchants. A variety of products are available here, including seafood caught that day. It is particularly crowded from around noon until the early evening. The market's specialty Kure-don has recently been attracting a lot of attention. The way you order it is by purchasing a ticket at Tanaka Sengyoten and choosing the toppings, such as sashimi and fried fish from the market. What you get in the end is your own original dish!
*You must make an advance reservation for the Kure-don
The Tobu area is full of places to enjoy beautiful scenery, such as Cape Muroto, Muroto UNESCO Global Geopark, and Doikachu - an area of Aki City that retains a retro townscape.
Feel the Vitality in the Land at Muroto UNESCO Global Geopark
Muroto, an area where the earth continues to rise even today, is a valuable area for geological research. It has a spectacular landscape and is designated as a UNESCO Global Geopark. There is so much to see there, such as Cape Muroto with its strangely shaped rocks and Cape Hane, where one can see traces of the ancient seabed. Consider booking a volunteer guide (900 JPY) if you're not sure of the best way to look around the park (reservations must be made at least a day in advance). The guide will reveal what’s great about each spot in both Japanese and English!
Stroll Around Monet's Garden, Marmottan, in Kitagawa Village
This garden was created based on the one that the famous impressionist, Claude Monet, created for his paintings. Let your imagination wander to the landscape that Monet painted as you gaze upon this approx. 30,000 sq.m. garden with around 100,000 plants. The lotus flowers that bloom between late June to late October and come in a plethora of colors - including red, white, pink, yellow, and blue - are particularly beautiful.
Admission: 700 JPY/adult (high school age and older), 300 JPY/elementary and junior high school age, Free/children under elementary school age *All prices include tax
See the Nora Clock Tower and Rural Townscape of Aki City
Aki is a city where you can see the townscape of a traditional samurai town. The city structure and roads have not changed since the time when samurai were active and there are many traditional buildings that remain to this day. This is a wonderful place to experience how rural Japan was like in the past. Aki City is also famous for its Nora Clock Tower that was built more than 120 years ago. The tower is the symbol of the city and looks wonderful against the rural landscape.
If you are planning to visit Shikoku, why not also explore Kochi and savor its unique nature and culture?
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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