Kochi Prefecture, located in the Shikoku region, is a place rich in nature with ocean, rivers, and mountains. The prefecture has a horizontal topography, and is often divided into central, eastern, and western areas, with slightly different climates and dialects. And the mild climate, delicious food nurtured by nature, and the cheerful people of the prefecture are its charms. Here are eight places that the locals recommend the visitors to consider taking a trip to.
Classic Destination: Kochi Castle
Kochi Castle is one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Kochi. The castle was built by Kazutoyo Yamauchi, the first lord of the Tosa Clan, and boasts a history of over 400 years. The castle has a high historical value and is one of only twelve remaining castle towers in Japan.
The castle is located in Kochi City, the center of Kochi, and sits as if watching over the city. The interior of the caste remains relatively untouched since the Edo Period, and if you scale the castle to the top floor lookout point, you’ll be gifted with spectacular views of the surrounding Kochi area, making it worth a visit for both history buffs and general tourists alike. Not to mention, the 360-degree view of the Kochi cityscape is a moment must be catched.
【Recommended Season】 Spring and summer
【Access】25 min. walk or 10 min. bus ride from Kochi Station, 5 min. walk from Kochi-jo-mae Streetcar Station, 30 min. drive from Kochi Ryoma Airport.
Most Famous Food Market: Hirome Market
Hirome Market is a food and beverage complex located near Kochi Castle, where you can find all kinds of Kochi delicacies, such as Kochi's famous bonito tataki, moray eel dishes, local dumplings popular among the locals, and fashionable sweets made from local ingredients.
The market is like a food court, so you can sit at any available table and bring your own food to order from each store. The lively voices of the shopkeepers echo in the air, making every day seem like a festival.
【Recommended Season】 Spring and early autumn as it is the season of first bonito and returning bonito for those who want to try this local speciality. However, the market can be enjoyed yearly. (Be careful during the Yosakoi Festival as it is very crowded.)
【Access】 16 min. walk or 10 min. drive from Kochi Station, 2 min. walk from Ohashi-dori Streetcar Station, or 30 min. drive from Kochi Ryoma Airport.
Fresh bonito tataki (seared bonito)
The Sunday market is a Tosa’s specialty with a history of over 300 years. This outdoor market is held every Sunday (except for January 1-2 at the beginning of the year and August 10-12 during the Yosakoi Festival) from early in the morning until late in the evening on a street called Otesuji.
About 400 stores line up along the 1km-long street, selling local vegetables, seafood, specialty country sushi, sweet potato tempura, and other foods and local products unique to Kochi. During the festival, one side of the street is turned into a pedestrian paradise, attracting many people. However, for those who want to focus on food, the smaller, more food oriented Hirome Ichiba Market is better recommended.
Hiyashi Ame (cold ginger juice), a popular speciality drink at the market
Scenic Katsurahama seashore
One of the most beautiful beaches in Kochi is Katsurahama, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is a famous beach with a statue of a samurai, Sakamoto Ryoma who has multiple reputation. The view of the steep cliffs, pine trees, and arch-shaped sandy beach is picturesque and beautifu and worth a trip. Due to strong and untamed currents swimming is prohibited, but there’s still plenty to see, do, and explore along the shoreline. If you have time to spare, pay a visit to the area’s humble, but popular aquarium or pay respects to the small shrine sitting on the point of Katsurahama.
【Recommended Season】 Some contents of the aquarium may be closed during the cold season so going in spring and summer is best advised
【Access】 About 30 min. by bus from Kochi Station / About 30 min. by car from Kochi IC / About 30 min. by car from Kochi Ryoma Airport
Monet's Garden Marmottan in Kitagawa Village
If you are going to the eastern area of Kochi Prefecture for sightseeing, "Kitagawa Village 'Monet's Garden' Marmottan" is a must-see. It is a facility that meticulously recreates the garden of the home that Claude Monet, the painter famous for his painting "Water Lilies," loved and the Mediterranean landscape that he used as a motif for his work.
It is the only place in the world that is allowed to call itself "Monet's Garden," and the beautiful scenery has been created by the craftsmanship of the gardener, Yutaka Kawakami.
The landscape of the facility is composed of three areas: the Water Garden, the Flower Garden, and the Bordighera Garden, based on the concept of "a garden overflowing with simplicity, utilizing nature and skillfully combining light and shadow. Here in Kochi, you can see the blue water lilies that Monet wished to bloom in his original "Monet's Garden" in Giverny, but was unable to do so.
The best time to visit is from spring to early summer, when the flowers are in full bloom. You will surely enjoy the picturesque scenery.
【Recommended Season】 Spring and early summer
【Access】90 min. by car from Kochi Station / 60 min. by car from Kochi Ryoma Airport / 10 min. by bus from Nahari Station to Monet's Garden Station
Icecream and other light meal can be purchased at the store inside the museum
Salt-based Ramen in Kitagawa Village
If you visit Kitagawa Village, visitors should definitely try the "Shio Butter Ramen" at Igosso Ramen Tencho. Even though it is located in a rural town with rice fields, it is so popular that there is a long queue.
Of the four flavors, salt, salt butter based, miso, and soy sauce, the "salt" and "salted butter based" are the most popular.
The soup is so thick that you can barely see the noodles, and the toppings of green onions and bean sprouts are sure to whet your appetite.
The refreshing flavor of the yuzu citrus and the spiciness of the pepper blend into the soup to create an addictive taste.
【Recommended Season】: All year round
【Access】80 min. by car from Kochi Station / 60 min. by car from Kochi Ryoma Airport
Japan's last free-flowing crystal clear river: Shimanto River
If you go to the western area of Kochi Prefecture for sightseeing, you should not miss the Shimanto River, which is known as "the last clear stream in Japan. The Shimanto River is the longest river in Shikoku and is characterized by its meandering, snake-like shape.
There are many ways to enjoy the Shimanto River, such as playing in the river, fishing, houseboats, canoeing, etc., but there is one place of interest that should not be missed.
There are about 50 sinking bridges along the Shimanto River. In Kochi Prefecture, where typhoons are common, these bridges without parapets were designed to sink into the water to reduce water resistance when the river rises. It is loved by both locals and tourists as the most typical scenery of the Shimanto River.
Since the bridge is used by locals in their daily lives, it is best to stop by on foot when sightseeing. Many areas around the Shimanto River are not accessible by train or bus, so if you plan to visit by car, it is important to check parking spaces nearby in advance.
In summer, you can see children jumping into the river from the Chinkabashi Bridge, which makes the scenery even more attractive.
【Recommended Season】: Summer
【Access】depends on whether you are going upstream, midstream, or downstream. (Example) From Kochi Ryoma Airport to Nakamura Station: about 2 hours by car
One of the sinking bridges
Kaiyodo Hobby Museum in Shimanto River
Kaiyodo Hobby Museum Shimanto is a place where you can enjoy the unexpected gap between the town and the deep mountains. Located in Utsuigawa, Shimanto Town where the Shimanto River flows through, it is a popular tourist spot where you can enjoy the history and collection of Kaiyodo.
Mr. Osamu Miyawaki, the founder of the world-famous Kaiyodo model and figure maker, was born in Kochi Prefecture, and the entire gymnasium of the abandoned Uchiigawa Elementary School was renovated to create this museum.