Facing the Pacific Oceans in the South Shikoku is Kochi Prefecture (高知県). Like its sister prefectures, Kochi boasts of an abundance of natural beauty and rich history. It is also the proud home of Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬), a prominent figure in the restoration of the Meiji Restoration. As Kochi is separated from the rest of Japan by the Shikoku Mountains in the north, locals take enormous pride in being a unique, coastal prefecture.
Kochi City 高知市
Other than the renowned Kochi Castle (高知城), one must definitely visit the Hirome Market (ひろめ市場) in Kochi City. Named after a popular minister during the Tokugawa period, Hirome has over 60 shops selling all sort of things. Large wooden tables with benches are also set out in a sort of food court manner, allowing strangers to mingle with their food. Here, you should also try local delight Katsuo no Tataki (鰹のタタキ), which is lightly broiled bonito served with spring onions, ginger, garlic and seasoned with salt, vinegar and citrus.
ADDRESS: 2-3-1 Obiyamachi, Kochi City OPENING HOURS: 8:00am - 11:00pm
Sitting on Mount Godai is the internationally acclaimed Makino Botanical Gardens (立牧野植物園). Home to over 3000 species of plants, the garden was dedicated to the “Father of Japanese Botany”, Dr Tomitaro Makino. The garden is very happening! In summer, visitors can also take a free guided tour to view nocturnally blooming flowers or enjoy live music in a romantic garden setting. Aroma therapy classes are also available for visitors, and an open al fresco at the Garden’s cafe is available for a still summer night under the stars.
ADDRESS: 4200-6 Godaisan, Kochi City, Kochi 781 8125 OPENING HOURS: 9:00am - 5:00pm ADMISSION FEES: 720Yen (Adults)/ Free admission for high school children & younger *Closed from 27th December to 11th January
If you are a fan of pasar malams or farmer’s market, then you must visit Nichiyouichi (日曜市, Kochi Sunday Market)! A 300-year-old tradition, Otesuji (追手筋) in downtown Kochi transforms into a 1.3km long open air market every Sunday.
Some notable must-tries at the market include yuzu (柚子, small citrus), nukazuke (糠漬け, pickled vegetables) and katsuobushi (鰹節, dried bonito flakes). There are also antique shops and hand crafted items that can be purchased as souvenirs.
Shimanto River 四万十川
Beginning from the west of the Kochi at Mount Irazu (不入山), the 196km long Shimanto River is the longest river in Shikoku. It is also known as “Japan’s last remaining limpid stream” and winds through the southwest of the prefecture, and finally flowing into the Pacific Ocean at Shimanto City.
The pristine river is also renowned for Chinkabashi (沈下橋) – a submersible bridge that sinks below the water, spanning 291.6 metres. Interestingly, it does not have any guardrails. This is to reduce resistance and prevent the bridge from being swept away during floods.
During summer, one can also view the amazing Hiburi-ryo (火振り漁, torchlight fishing), a traditional fishing method where fishermen hit the surface of a river with rods under torchlight to surprise the ayu (鮎, Sweetfish) and chase them into a net set up in the river.
To enjoy the view of the Shimato river and rural Kochi, one can also take the Yodo Line on the affectionately termed “Yodo Line Brothers” (予土線３兄弟) ー Shiman Torocco, Kaiyodo Hobby Train and Tetsudo (Railway) Hobby Train. Each train is uniquely designed. For instance, Shiman Torroco is delightfully designed to be a two-car train, with one carriage having no windows or walls on both sides to let in fresh air.
Yusuhara Town 檮原町
Where better to learn the traditional art of making paper than at Yusuhara, with a kamisuki (traditional paper-making) master! Originally a bookbinder in Netherlands, Rogier Uitenboogaart became so fascinated with traditional Japanese paper-making that he opened the Kamikoya Washi Studio (梼原和紙＆紙漉き体験民宿 かみこや) to share his art.
Kamikoya also grow their own paper, using natural spring water from the mountains and home-grown raw materials. Washi Studio offers two different kinds of Kamisuki experience: a beginner class for tourists and an advanced class for professional artists.
ADDRESS: 1678 Otado, Yusuhara Town, Takaoko County, Kochi 7850603 TEL: +81 0889680355 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://kamikoya-washi.com/english
Cape Ashizuri 足摺岬
The beautiful Cape Ashizuri is the main feature of the Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park (足摺宇和海国立公園), which is located at the tip of the Ashizuri Peninsula. The Cape’s spectacular landscape will remind one of the grandeur and vastness of earth, and an observatory on the cape allows a view of more than 180 degrees.
Notably, this area is very much associated with Kobo Daishi (弘法大師), who was thought to have met Goddess Kannon (観音) over the sea during his stay here. It is no wonder that Temple 38 Kongōfukuji (金剛福寺), “Temple of Indestructible”, of the Shikoku Pilgrimage is found here.
ADDRESS: Cape Ahizuri, Ashizurimisaki, Tosashimizu, Kochi Prefecture 787-0315
Kami City 香美市
Only 10 years old, Kami City is a young town established from the merger of towns and villages in the Kami District. Despite its inaccessibility, it has a notable reputation. For one, the author of Anpanman (アンパンマン) ー a superhero with a red bean paste-stuffed bread for his head, Takashi Yanase, was born in this very city. As such, the Anpanman Museum (香美市立やなせたかし記念館) was enacted to honour him.
ADDRESS: 1224-2 Kahokuchō Birafu, Kami, Kōchi 781-4212 OPENING HOURS: 9:30am - 5:00pm ADMISSION FEE: 700Yen (Adult)/ 500Yen (Students)/ 300Yen (> 3 years) OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://anpanman-museum.net/
A hidden gem in Kami is the Onsen Cafe Kohanyu (温泉カフェ湖畔遊). Overlooking a peaceful lake, one can enjoy the breeze from the Cafe’s terrace while munching on a delicious lunch made from locally grown, organic ingredients. One can also soak in the open-air onsen, with naturally turbid hot spring water. What is more intriguing about the establishment is that it also houses a gallery that showcases the landscapes of the lake in various seasons. It is definitely worth a visit to this retreat!
ADDRESS: 100 Kahokucho Arase, Kami, Kochi 781-4224 CONTACT: 0887594777 OPENING HOURS: 9:00am - 7:00pm (Cafe)/ 11:00am - 7:00pm (Onsen) OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://kohanyu.jp/ *Closed on Fridays