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Things to do in Kochi City Adventure to Kochi’s top tourist destinations

Kochi City is the capital of Kochi Prefecture and is located towards the center of the Prefecture in the southwest of the island of Shikoku. Easily accessible by rail, bus or air, Kochi City is the largest city in Kochi and is typically the first stop on any tour or trip going through Kochi Prefecture.
Kochi city was once part of the Tosa province and is famous for its local hero Sakamoto Ryoma, perhaps the most famous historical figure in Japanese history. Ryoma was a prominent figure in overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate and worked towards an independent and modern Japan free of the feudal system until he was assassinated at the age of 33.
Kochi is accessible from Tokyo in a little over an hour by airplane into Kochi Ryoma Airport. JR lines are available if you are in the Shikoku or Hiroshima area and highway bus or rental cars have access via the Kochi Expressway.

ARRIVING IN KOCHI CITY

Tourists typically start out from JR’s Kochi Station, which acts as the main hub of Kochi City. The station is quite modern with an interesting whale like roof design called the “Whale Dome”. Outside the station is the Kochi Sightseeing Information Transmission Center, Tosa Terasu, a convenient location with materials and information (in multiple languages) to aid you on your journey.

Nearby the station you will encounter three large statues side-by-side. The statues include Sakamoto Ryoma, Takechi Hanpeita and Nakaoka Shintaro, all important figures from Kochi and members of the ancient Tosa clan who played a key part in Japanese modernization. These figures (especially Sakamoto Ryoma) play an important part in Kochi tourism as evidenced by the Ryoma Holiday tourism campaigns found throughout the city.

Behind the statues is a stage and seating area where several performances take place on weekends and holidays from a local talent group impersonating key figures from Kochi history. The idols include Sakamoto Ryoma and Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of the Mitsubishi Group. Behind the stage is the set of a recently famous NHK television series called Ryoma-den that covered the lives of Ryoma and Yataro. Here visitors may walk through realistic sets of historical Kochi from the show while dressed in traditional clothes. This is fun place for pictures and a nice place to sit down and relax while enjoying a unique light show performance presented entirely on Japanese paper doors (shoji) through shadows (Japanese only).

EXPLORING KOCHI CITY

After touring the station area, hop on the local transportation system known as the Tosaden. These streetcars are a fun way to move around Kochi and come in several brightly colored varieties. If you take the tram from Kochi Station, you will pass Harimaya Bridge, a small bridge famous for being the focus of a forbidden love song of a Buddhist priest. The bridge itself is not large, but is fairly interesting photo spot and a nice inter-city park. If you continue on, the tram will take you to most of the major attractions and shopping areas in the city.

An alternative way to explore Kochi is through a boat cruise. As Kochi is located right on the Urado Bay there is an opportunity to view much of the city and surrounding area via the waterways. The cruises typically last a few hours and guide visitors through the Bay area where you can see many historical landmarks (Sakamoto Ryoma locations) and the nearby Katsurahama beach.

KOCHI CASTLE

Kochi Castle is the key landmark visible throughout Kochi City as stands tall upon a hill in the center of town. Built around 1611, Kochi Castle is one of the few castles in Japan that has survived intact to this day without being rebuilt. The castle is open to the public and covers a large area of ground with moats, grass fields and several statues of historical figures in the area. Visitors may enter inside where miniature displays of Kochi City and several artworks and relics from the past can be found by climbing up several levels. At the top there is the castle tower which acts as a lookout balcony where you can get a full 360 degree view of Kochi City from up high.

THE KOCHI PREFECTURAL MAKINO BOTANICAL GARDEN AND CHIKURIN-JI TEMPLE

The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden is a large botanical garden on Mount Godaisan overlooking Kochi City. It was built in honor of Tomitaro Makino, a very important botanist who created the first botanical garden and was responsible for naming over 1500 new plant species during his lifetime. The grounds expand over a great area, divided into sections featuring different landscaping, and plant varieties. The summer and early autumn are the best seasons to visit but it's worthwhile year-round. A conservatory contains many tropical plants and flowers including a variety of lilies. There is a nice observatory nearby where you can grab lunch and look out over Kochi City and the harbor.

Located right next to the botanical gardens is Chikurin-ji Temple, the most famous temple in Kochi City and temple 31 on the Shikoku 88 pilgrimage path. Built in the early 8th century, the temple mirrors a Chinese temple by the same name and houses many treasures including numerous wooden Buddhist statues. The area is quite peaceful with many stone stairs and a large pagoda shrine. Expect to see several pilgrims passing through in traditional attire with conical hats and walking sticks.

SHOPPING AND EATING IN KOCHI

"Hirome Market, located near Kochi Castle, is the central meeting place for locals and home to over 60 small shops under one roof. While the majority are bars and restaurants, you will also find several produce, souvenir and clothing shops. Large wooden tables are set out in an open food court and it’s a fun place to meet the friendly locals. The recommended fare is seafood, namely the Katsuo no Tataki (seared bonito), lightly seared and seasoned tuna. Other choices include salads and veggies, shrimp, octopus, fried chicken and several varieties of fish.

Weekend travelers are in for a surprise on Sundays as one of the main streets between Kochi station and Kochi Castle is transformed into a huge market. The Sunday Market in Tosa, as it’s called, is the longest open market in Japan stretching around 1.3 kilometers. With a history of over 300 years and countless vendors, expect to find a bit of everything including antiques, produce, food stands, souvenirs, clothes and even pets!

Kochi is famous for its coral jewelry and the unique red coral that can only be found in the waters nearby. There are several places in the city to purchase coral, but at the Japan Coral Center you can find both museum and shop combined into one. The museum has huge coral pieces in the shapes of lions, peacocks and, of course, Sakamoto Ryoma while the shop has souvenirs and jewelry in a variety of options and price categories.

Right next to the coral shop is a very fun eating experience where you can first sear and then eat your own Katsuo no Tataki with several sides and sauce varieties at the Tosa Tataki Dojo. Kochi is famous for Katsuo so it’s really a must eat experience. They also have a great area for souvenir shopping."

(Visited in May 2015)
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