Try exploring Kochi, you will find it refreshing!
Hey guys, I’m Yan & I will be your guide for Kochi. Yoroshiku (よろしく, nice to meet you)!
Many people might not know where this place is, but I’d just to remind everyone that Japan has 47 prefectures.
A short introduction to Kochi
Shikoku (四国) is Japan’s fourth largest island, southwest of the main island of Honshu. Kochi (高知) , being the least populated among the four prefectures in Shikoku – Ehime (愛媛), Kagawa (香川) and Tokushima (徳島), means it is still unknown to many people. However, that also means fewer tourists around and makes for a more affordable and relaxing trip.
I planned a 12 days trip to Japan (8 days in Tokyo and 4 days in Kochi/Ehime) during late March this year. My Japanese friend, Daiki, lives in Kochi and I thought I should visit his hometown and travel around there. So we met first in Tokyo and took the night bus (夜行バス, yako basu) from Shinjuku Station to Kochi Station.
I used to travel from Tokyo to Osaka or Kyoto via night bus, as it was supposed to be the cheapest form of transport in Japan, even for the locals. However, more research led me to discover the different rates for peak and non-peak periods, so I was a little unlucky with the price. But it was definitely a good experience. There were at least three pit stops during the journey for toilet and snack breaks. It was also a good time to enjoy the cool night and mountain views.
Upon reaching the JR Kochi Station after an 11 hour highway bus ride from Shinjuku, we were greeted by three huge statues. One of them is Ryoma Sakamoto, who is well known throughout Japan’s history for rivaling the Tokugawa shogunate during the Edo period. If you walk on the streets of Kochi, you might be surprised to see so many shops and souvenirs that display his name.
The map below shows the places that I visited together with Daiki. We covered most of the famous spots in the city. They are pretty close to one another, mostly within walking distance.
From what Daiki told me, while the prefecture is huge compared to the others, there isn’t much tourism promotion in Kochi. And having seen it with my own eyes, yup, Kochi feels a little rural but I love it. Had a good breakfast around the corner at Cafe Restaurant Evans (カフェレストエヴァンス).
Where we’re going
Hirome Ichiba ➡ Obiyamachi Shopping Arcade ➡ Famous attraction Harimayabashi ➡ Kochi Castle ➡ Katsuo dinner
First stop, Hirome Ichiba (ひろめ市場), which is an indoor market. I was told that this market is pretty famous and I should definitely visit it when in Kochi. Daiki says it is a popular place where the locals hang out too. It resembles the second floor of Bugis Street in Singapore, which has clothing, fresh and cheap sashimi, crispy and delicious fried snacks, and of course the famous Katsuo (鰹, Skipjack Tuna) which I will elaborate later.
I was able to try some good sabazushi (鯖寿司, mackerel sushi), which was kinda sour-sweet from the vinegar they used. I really liked it.
The Nigiri sushi is to die for! I talked to the staff and she told me that the fish are freshly prepared on the day and it was really cheap! The texture and the fats in between was really amazing and just writing about this makes me hungry for more.
After a good lunch, it was time to digest the meal by walking around the neighbourhood. By the way, Hirome Ichiba is located in the shopping street called Obiyamachi Shopping Arcade (帯屋町).
It is basically a stretch of shop houses under a roof that covers a few blocks down the street. It has lots of different shops and things you can find, including:
I have to say that it is really big! Well, you can find shopping arcades like this almost anywhere in Japan. Walking down and window shopping was a good experience. There are still a plenty of shops around to explore and restaurants to try, if you guys ever go to Kochi, you have to visit this place.
Walking around the corners, you will find an important landmark, Harimayabashi (はりまや橋), a small red bridge on the west side of the main street. It was featured in a famous Kochi song, featuring the forbidden love of a Buddhist priest. Daiki told me that majority of the locals know about the story and in fact, the bridge is a replica of the original one located on the opposite. Sadly, it was demolished in order to build the road.
Walking a little further, we found ourselves at the entrance of the park which houses one of the twelve original Japanese castles, which have survived for over 400 years. These castles have since been designated as “important cultural properties” and showcase local treasures and historical objects.
Kochi Castle (高知城, Kochijo) was small, compared to Osaka Castle, it is about four to five times smaller but stood tall and mighty like how a castle should be.
The castle’s wooden interior maintains the appearance of Edo Period.
It was really well taken care of and the lookout point from the castle tower’s top floor offered a nice view of the entire town.
Going back to the shopping arcade for an early dinner, we met up with one of Daiki’s close friends, who recommended this izakaya that he frequents. I’m glad for a chance to tag along with the locals who know where to find the best food!
We arrived at the izakaya and waited for our turn. It’s small shop around the alley where a tourist might never notice. It felt really good to have a local to bring me around these areas to see the hidden beauty of Kochi.
I left the food selection Daiki and his friend, because I trust they will pick the best dishes. We tried Kochi’s most famous food, Katsuo no tataki (鰹のタタキ), also known as bonito (Skipjack Tuna). It is lightly broiled and sliced, served alongside spring onions, ginger, garlic and seasoned with salt or soya sauce with vinegar and citrus. It was simply delicious! Katsuo no tataki is always grilled lightly on the outer layer, giving it a half fresh half cooked texture which was heavenly.
We also had other food such as calamari, a set of amazing look sushi, two other types of katsuo dishes and many more!
We ended the day by relaxing and chatting in the shop after a great dinner. All this can be done in a day in the city.
The next day, we took a train ride to Daiki’s hometown near the mountains. We started our journey from Asakura station. This is a sample view of the train ride that Mr Google has provided and it’s really accurate.
The journey is estimated to take 2 hours, but on my trip we actually took about 4-5 hours instead! Reason being, one of the transfer train has a limited schedule, so you have to make sure you know the timing of the train to plan your itinerary.
The countryside view is really refreshing, especially when you’re riding on the train. Looking at the mountains, houses and fields was really a luxury.
Just enjoying the great outdoors, indoors with a sandwich that I got from Family Mart.
When we reached Tosa-Showa Station (土佐昭和駅), well, it is really quiet and peaceful. Truly felt like “the countryside”.
Daiki’s grandpa came to pick us up at the entrance. We headed towards our home stay destination and Daiki took the wheels. Here are some picture I took from the car:
It is amazing how living in the countryside is being surrounded by nature, eating fresh produce and living simply.
It was a pleasure to stay at Daiki’s “old” house. Usually for young Japanese who attend university, they will move out from their home and rent a small unit near their university. It is quite common to stay at your friend’s rented unit in Japan but being able to stay at the place where they grew up is really quite rare.
Managed to have a one night home stay and had a great conversation with his family. Knowing Japanese and being able to communicate with the locals is really great!
Please look out for it when it comes!!! See you then じゃあね～