Kochi Prefecture located in southwest Japan is filled with endless outdoor activities, glorious towns, warm people and interesting cultures. This was my fourth visit to Kochi and I felt like I’m still a beginner to explore the new areas there. Here are 5 must see sites in Kochi that you cannot afford to miss:
1. Take a River Boat in Shimanto River
The Shimanto River (196 km) flows from its source on Mount Irazu to the Tosa Bay on the Pacific coast and is the longest river in Shikoku. Near the mouth of the river, licensed fisheries try to catch eel fry during winter. Shimanto River is called the last remaining limpid pristine river in Japan, but if your schedule is tight, Niyodo River offers the same quality of water and picturesque countryside scenery.
One of the representative landscapes of the Shimanto River is “Chinka-bridge”. It is constructed without rails to better resist river floods and it sinks below the water with the wisdom of residents who choose to live near the Shimanto River. You can feel the surface of the water very close.
Shimanto Gakusha allows visitors to stay and to experience the Shimanto River. The building itself used to be an old school and it was renovated to an accommodation. The road to Shimanto Gakusha is narrow with twists and turns, so it’s better to put some leeway into your schedule.
Rafting Boat or Log rafts
The Shimanto River has a wide range of adventurous things for you to do, such as cycling, canoeing and rafting. I was longing to float down the Shimanto River on log rafts, but the experience was the worst memory for my kids. There hadn’t been much rain that year and the river was running low, so our rafts bumped into the bottom of the river and my kids were thrown out of the rafts.
After that near drowning experience, we took the Shimanto Trolly from Kubogawa Station to Uwajima Station to feel more protected while still enjoying the Shimanto River.
2. Walk along Katsurahama Beach but no swimming
A 30-minute bus ride from Kochi City, Katsurahama Beach is a beautiful place to walk along and take a little break from the city. Sadly, swimming is prohibited at Katsurahama Beach due to the strong currents.
Statue of Sakamoto Ryoma – One of my heroes of the Meiji Restoration (1853) is Sakamoto Ryoma, who was born near the Kochi Castle in 1835. He negotiated with several clans to form an alliance to begin a new era of Meiji. Shiba Ryotaro, a popular novelist in Japan, wrote Meiji Restoration stories and built hero images of Sakamoto Ryoma in the 1960’s. His novels cheered up Japan’s working-aged people during its rapid economic growth of that time. I grew up repeatedly hearing of Sakamoto Ryoma’s heroism from novels and TV shows and I developed a passion to visit Kochi to see Sakamoto’s statue. The Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum stands on the hill above the beach.
Katsurahama Aquarium – Katsurahama Aquarium, built in 1931, is able to cope with large irrelevant is not a good meaning but I’m not quite sure what you were trying to say, so I had a guess. crowds at any time and you can fully enjoy the experience of petting and feeding marine wildlife to your heart’s content.
3. Meet with the most popular picture book writer in Japan
Kochi is famous for producing popular Manga comic artists and it is also the birthplace of Yanase Takashi, the most popular author of picture books in Japan. Kids can’t escape from charming ‘Anpanman’ whose face is a round shaped bread filled with sweet beans as Sesame Street’s attractive characters.
Kami City Yanase Takashi Memorial Museum – Yanase Takashi was born in 1919 and started to write ‘Anpanman’ in 1973. Anpanman and his companions have become extremely popular and character merchandise is available everywhere while five amusement parks are open to visitors in Japan.
Kami City Yanase Takashi Memorial Museum makes a clear distinction from other commercial galleries. Firstly, it’s pretty far from Kochi City and really inconvenient to visit. Secondly, it is an art gallery with Yanase’s original artworks and the theme and concept seemed to be aimed at adults. My kids didn’t have much interest in round shaped heroes and they showed no attention to Anpanman and his companions at the museum, however we enjoyed Yanase’s large tableaus, dioramas and other non-Anpanman works.
Tosa Kuroshio Line: Gomen Nahari Train – I couldn’t get the reaction from my kids at Kami City Yanase Takashi Memorial Museum as I had expected, so we took the Gomen Nahari Train. Gomen Nahari Train is running from Gomen Station to Nahari Station (42.7 km) and each station has an original character statue by Yanase Takashi. It takes 55 minutes one way and my kids were excited by the local train trip.
4. Enjoy greenery by the longest daylight hours
Kochi’s climate is influenced by long daylight hours and a warm Kuroshio current and you can enjoy a calm and mild climate throughout the year. It has a favorable impact on the operation of beautiful courtyard botanical gardens and parks where people can relax and read a book.
Monet’s Garden Marmottan in Kitagawa Village – This is my favorite spot to sit and see planted greenery. Gilbert Vahe, head of Monet’s Garden in Giverny France, supported the creation of Monet’s Garden in Japan. While you’re here, be sure to wander around the three gardens of Flower Garden, Water Garden and Light Garden and appreciate the well designed greens and nature.
The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden – Potentially one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Japan, The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden was built in 1958 in memory of botanist Makino Tomitaro who contributed plant ecology in Japan. The site is huge to potter round so be sure to check the timetable for the bus to Kochi Station from the Botanical Garden.
Noichi Zoological Park of Kochi Prefecture – If you enjoy observing wildlife, even in enclosures, the Noichi Zoological Park is pretty impressive and spectacular. Again the site is huge and all of its exhibitions are well considered. If you’re travelling with kids, this is a great way to entertain them and learn about nature conservation methods.
5. Wander around Kochi castle town
The city of Kochi is the heart of the region and it is here where you’ll find the best atmosphere, local meals and shops. Below are my best recommendations from our couple of days spent in Kochi City.
Kochi Castle – One of the biggest draw cards to the city of Kochi is the Kochi Castle. Its size is small but the castle tower, rebuilt in 1753, has been beautifully designed and well maintained in the style and appearance of its Edo Period origins. It offers nice view of downtown from the castle tower lookout. You can walk all the way from Kochi Station past Enoguchi River and down to the Kochi Castle.
Hirome Market – The famous landmark of Kochi’s downtown is Hirome Market located next to the Kochi Castle. You’ll find a series of food stalls, all relatively cheap and all equally delicious and this was our preferred lunch spot to enjoy great sushi, fried vegetables and fried moray eel.
Sunday Market – During our several stays, we had chances to wander through fresh local produce stalls at the Sunday Market. While fresh oranges and vegetables were the primary offerings, there were also great fried sweet potato shops. The origin of Sunday Market comes from one of the street markets and it has intermittently continued over the last 300 years. Nearly 500 shops line up along the 1.3 km street. It is open from 5:00 to 17:00.
Saturday Organic Market – If you can’t visit the Sunday Market, you’d find the organic market thriving on Saturday only from 8:00 to 14:00 at Ike Park. You don’t have to buy anything but if you want a basket full of vegetables or dried fish you’ll be paying a very reasonable amount.
7 days Hotel Plus at Harimaya area – We stayed at 7 days Hotel Plus located in the Harimaya area which is my absolute favorite. It has a certain appeal of a wholesale merchant area containing variety select shops, boutiques and bars.
Picture Book Cocosum – A bookstore for kids offering a good amount of space for crawling tots. I read Charlotte Zolotow picture books here for the first time. There was also a great selection of wooden toys.