Must-see Sightseeing Spots within Kochi City
(*courtesy of the Kochi International Association)
#1 KOCHI CASTLE:
Taking in the view from the top of Kochi Castle one appreciates for the first time how Kochi Prefecture's capital is indeed a joka-machi, a town that thrives about the foot of its castle.
Walking along this alley of commerce, one eventually arrives at the huge wooden beams of the Otemon Gate. The gate stands as it was originally built in 1603 by Kazutoyo Yamanouchi. Kochi Castle was ruled by the Yamanouchi family for sixteen generations until 1869 when the province of Tosa was handed over to the Emperor Meiji.
The castle was originally named after the hill upon which it was built, Otakasaka. Down to the width of the citadel steps, every element of the castle was designed with a shrewd eye for defense. It seems almost unfortunate that this defensive strength was never tested by an attack.
Rising out of the thick foliage of the castle grounds, the tower of Kochi Castle is a faithful presence, truly the heart of Kochi Prefecture's capital city.
The castle is hard to miss, being at the centre of Kochi and visible from most places in the city. Take the tram to Kochijo-mae, and head north to the castle.
#2 Sunday Market:
A particularly festive approach to the castle is from the east, on Sunday. For over a kilometer, small stands line the road and people from all parts of Kochi sell their fresh produce and home crafts in a weekly festivity that is known as Sunday Market (Japan’s oldest open-air market: over 300 year-old history).
"At Harimayabashi, I saw a monk buy a hairpin!" As written in the Yosakoi song, Kochi's Harimayabashi served as the stage for the love story of Junshin and Ouma.
It was the end of the Tokugawa shogunate when the story of Junshin, a Buddhist monk from Godaisan's Chikurinji Temple, and Ouma, the daughter of a pot welder took place. The story began with Junshin purchasing a hairpin for Ouma at a Harimayabashi variety store, thus breaking the strict celibacy rules of his order. Junshin's small investment soon became the talk of the town and although he fled his home, he was promptly forced to return, only to suffer the cruel fate of exile and permanent separation from his love. Harimayabashi has recently been rebuilt and is surrounded by willow trees in the Shinsui Park, now recognized as a sightseeing landmark in Kochi.
Take the tram to Harimayabashi, and the bridge itself is on the north-western corner of the crossroads.
Godaisan, a hill overlooking the south-east of Kochi City is host to the Chikurinji Temple and the Makino Botanical Gardens. The temple is one of the 88 Shikoku pilgrimage temples, and has an interesting collection of old Buddhist statues. Overlooking Chikurinji is a five storied pagoda.
Take the Godaisan bus from the Dentetsu Bus Terminal (Harimayabashi tram stop). It takes approximately 20 minutes and stops outside the temple steps.
#5 Makino Botanical Gardens:
Since 1958, the Makino Botanical Gardens have displayed the work of Dr. Tomitaro Makino, the world-renowned botanist born in Kochi. The garden shows the best of every season, housing approximately 1500 varieties of plant life. Adding to the atmosphere is the Tomitaro Makino Anniversary Hall, added in November, 1999. The hall holds an exhibition of the life and work of Makino as well as various seasonal exhibitions.
Take the Godaisan bus from the Dentetsu Bus Terminal (Harimayabashi tram stop). It takes approximately 20 minutes and stops outside the gardens.
13 kilometers from Kochi City is the famous Katsurahama beach. This is a beautiful gravel beach that is renowned for moon-viewing. It is also home to a famous statue of Sakamoto Ryoma, a progressive samurai who played a key role in the uprising against the shogunate resulting in the Meiji Restoration and the birth of modern Japan.
There is also an aquarium with dolphin and sea lion shows, an exhibition of the traditional Tosa mastiff dog-fighting, and a new hotel overlooking the beach offering Onsen (hot spa) and traditional style lodgings.
Take the Katsurahama bus from the Dentetsu Bus Terminal (Harimayabashi tram stop. It takes approximately 35 minutes.
Must-see Sightseeing Spots outside of Kochi City
(*courtesy of the Japan National Tourism Organization and Kochi Prefecture)
#1 Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum
Kochi is justly proud of its most famous son, Sakamoto Ryoma. A bold political reformer on the late 19th century, Sakamoto was an instrumental figure in the political revolution that led to the Meiji Restoration of 1868. His life and work are commemorated in this museum located on a bluff overlooking the boundless Pacific Ocean.
From Kochi Station take a tram to Harimaya-bashi (3rd stop). Walk a little further south to the Minami Harimaya Bus Stop, which is on the left. Take a bus bound for Katsura-hama. Ride for about 40mins and get off at Ryoma Kinen-kan Mae (2nd last stop). The museum is on top of the hill in front of you. Walk up the slope and follow the road on the left.
On weekends and public holidays, a direct bus service from Kochi Station is in operation. Take the My-Yu Bus, and get off at Ryoma Kinen-kan Mae.
#2 Ino Paper Museum
The art of papermaking has been perfected here in Kochi over the past 1000 years. Today, Kochi is proud of this long tradition, and continues to produce a significant amount of paper. Present-day paper making is centred on Ino Town, right beside Kochi City, with a large variety of paper produced. Not only does the traditional method of making paper by hand continue, but Kochi also has an important industrial paper industry.
The Japanese Paper Museum in Ino is devoted to documenting this artform, and also sells an array of beautiful paper products.
From Kochi Station, take a tram to Harimaya-bashi (3rd stop). Transfer to the east-west line. Head west on a tram bound for Ino. Take the tram to Ino, the final stop (beware that some trams terminate before the final station). Keep walking in the same direction along a small road, until you come to a T-intersection with the main road. Turn right, and walk 100m. The museum is on the right.
# 3 Anpanman Museum
One of Japan’s most famous children’s characters was born right here. Created by Takashi Yanase, Anpanman is - from an outsider’s perspective - a most unlikely hero. For anpanman is made of bread! And what’s more, he is filled with tasty sweet bean paste. This delicious hero fights the evil Baikin-man (Bacteria Man) and saves unfortunate souls from starvation by offering them a piece of his head! All he need do it fly back home and Uncle Jam will bake him a new one.
You can visit Anpanman and all his friends at this unique museum in Kami City.
Take the JR train from Kochi Station to Tosa-Yamada. Transfer to a bus bound for Odochi. Get off at Anpanman Myujiamu Mae (about 25 mins).
#4 The 88-Temple Pilgrimage
Shikoku Island is home to one of the great pilgrimages of the world. Each year, thousands of Buddhists from the Shingon Sect walk 1450km around the entire island, stopping at each of the designated 88 temples dotted along the path. On average it takes 40-60 days to complete the circuit, and devotees believe that walking the entire route brings you one step closer to enlightenment.
It is believed the pilgrimage was founded by the monk Kobodaishi over 1000 years ago, however its true origins remain unclear. Kobodaishi, also known as Kukai, is said to have reached enlightenment after spending many days and nights in a cave on Cape Muroto, in modern-day Muroto City.
Kochi is home to 16 of the 88 temples, beginning with number 24 (Hotsumisaki-ji, in Muroto) and ending with number 39 (Enko-ji, in Sukumo). While there are only a small number of temples in Kochi, the distance that must be traveled is proportionally long. This has led to some calling the Kochi leg of the pilgrimage the ‘Training Ground for Ascetics.’
These days, there are many transport options for completing the route. Of course, walking is by far the best way to experience the pilgrimage, but those with less time can easily visit the temples by car or public transport over a week or so
#5 Shimanto River
The Shimanto-gawa River is famous as Japan's last pristine river. Beginning its 196-kilometer journey in the western Shikoku mountains around Mt. Irazu-yama, the river winds its way through the southwest of the prefecture, finally flowing into the Pacific Ocean at Shimoda, Shimanto City. Because rich forests cover the river's headwaters, and as there are no dams, pure water flows along the entire length of the river. One of the characteristics of the bridges spanning the Shimanto-gawa River is that they have no guardrails. This is to reduce resistance and to prevent the bridge from being washed away during the times of flood.
Around Nakamura, where the river broadens and slows, you can view ancient fishing techniques, which have been passed down from generation to generation. One such technique seen in spring and summer is "to-ami"—where nets are strung between 10 or more boats that form two lines and sail down the river catching fish. Another is called "hiburi"—a night-fishing technique where flaming torches carried on fishing boats are waved above the water to scare the fish into nets. This technique is used only during fall.
1h 45 min from Kochi to Nakamura Station by JR Tosa Kuroshio Line, and 10 min from Nakamura Station to the Shimanto River by bus.
#6 Cape Ashizuri
The cliffs of Cape Ashizuri are covered with subtropical plants. It is an area famous for surf-fishing in the nearby Japan Current.
Cape Ashizuri is the southernmost point of Shikoku and is part of Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park. The cape is covered by subtropical plants and boasts imposing 80-meter-high cliffs. Overlooking the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean is the symbol of the cape the Ashizuri lighthouse, which was built in 1914.
A 2-kilometer walking path follows the coastline around the lighthouse, with the Ashizuri Observatory and the Tengu-Nose Observatory, two recommended stop-offs. These vantage points offer a view of not only the lighthouse and the Pacific Ocean but also of the arc of the horizon and the waters of the Japan Current, as they make their closest approach to the land, crashing onto the rocks below. Nearby is the Hakusan Do-mon, which is a 16-meter-high, 17-meter-wide rock arch. The pounding waves of the Pacific have carved out of this gorgeous natural landscape.
To the west of Cape Ashizuri at the end of the Matsuo-kaigan Coast is a steep granite promontory, which is one of the few places where land juts out into the north-flowing Japan Current. It is a well-known fishing spot, popular among aficionados of surf-fishing.
1h 45 min from Kochi to Nakamura Station by JR Tosa Kuroshio Line, and 1h from Nakamura Station to Cape Ashizuri by bus.
“Nightcap” in Kochi
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