Beginners Guide to Kochi

Despite still being relatively unknown, Kochi Prefecture is one of Japan’s great destinations. Taking up most of the southern part of the island of Shikoku, Kochi boasts a huge variety of natural attractions, unique culture and a population known for its easygoing, welcoming character. With so much to choose from, however, it can be difficult to know where to begin. This primer, aimed at the first time visitor to Kochi, will provide you with all you need to get acquainted with this amazing part of Japan.

How to get to and around Kochi

Kochi Prefecture is located in the south of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands and home of the famous 88 Temple Pilgrimage. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the south and the mountains of central Shikoku to the north. The capital city of Kochi Prefecture is Kochi City. Located in the center of the prefecture and with
good transportation links
and many visitor attractions, Kochi City is where most people begin their exploration of the region.

By air
Kochi is served by Kochi Ryoma Airport (named after its favorite son, the samurai revolutionary Ryoma Sakamoto). Flights from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport take between 1 hour 20 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes. Kochi Ryoma Airport also has flight connections with Narita, Komaki, Chubu Centrair International, Osaka International, Kobe and Fukuoka airports.

Tosaden Traffic’s airport limousine bus service runs throughout the day, making the approximately 15-kilometer journey to the center of Kochi City in 20-25 minutes. Many rental car services also have offices at Kochi Ryoma Airport.

By train
The most convenient way to travel to Kochi by train is on the Limited Express Nanpu which makes the journey from Okayama Station (accessible by Bullet Train on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line) to Kochi Station in approximately 2 hours 35 minutes. Crossing the Seto Inland Sea from over the Great Seto Bridge and passing through Oboke Gorge, the train offers some fantastic views on the journey. You may even find yourself on a cute Anpanman-themed train!

By bus
There are overnight bus services from both Tokyo (approx 11-12 hours) and Osaka (approx 7-8 hours).

Getting around Kochi
Once you have checked into your hotel in Kochi City, getting around the city is easy, using the comprehensive
tram system
. The Tosaden tram system has its own “Desuka” IC Card, but does not accept other IC Cards such as Suica and Icoca. One-day tram passes that allow you hop on and off the trams as you like are, however, available –– one which covers the center of the city and another that covers the entire network. These passes can be bought at Kochi Station Bus Information, Tosaden Kotsu Harimayabashi Service Center, Kochi prefecture "i" information center in Tosa Terrace, as well as on the streetcars.

Those who have the Japan Transit Planner app can also easily purchase a range of tram and bus passes that are valid for 24 hours with their smartphone. Please click here for details.

Many of Kochi City’s popular visitor attractions can be reached on the city’s MY-YU BUS sightseeing bus. MY-YU BUS tickets can be purchased at Kochi Prefecture "i" information center in Tosa Terrace, Kochi Tourist Information Center, Kochi Station Bus Information , Tosaden Kotsu Harimayabashi Service Center and Kochi Ryoma Airport, as well as on the bus itself. The MY-YU BUS ticket holders can also ride the tram within the city center ¥200/ride fare zone, free of charge, and qualify for discounts at a number of vsitor attractions.

Kochi City by bicycle
A limited number of bicycles (electric assist, city cycles and cross bikes) are available to visitors aged 18 years and older, free of charge, from Tosa Terrace in front of Kochi Station.

Train lover’s paradise, Kochi
When planning on traveling further afield, we highly recommend considering a trip on one of Kochi's many unique train services to make your journey even more memorable.

Kochi City Highlights

Whether it's your first time in Kochi or you are on a return visit, here are the top six places to check out in Kochi City.

Kochi Castle
Kochi Castle has stood for over 400 years and is unique in Japan for how many of the fortress’ original structures remain. The views from the top floor of the keep, from the intricate details of the roofs that fan out below to the surrounding city are not to be missed.

Chikurinji Temple
1300-year-old Chikurinji Temple is the 31st stop on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Wandering its serene grounds, taking in views of the beautiful maple trees (which turn glorious shades of red in the autumn) which frame its impressive vermillion pagoda and exploring its moss-covered paths is a wonderful experience. Don’t miss the 14th-century garden which can be viewed for a small fee.

The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden
Located right next to Chikurin-ji Temple, the Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden honors the late Kochi-born botanist Dr. Tomitaro Makino, known as the father of Japanese botany. The expansive grounds feature a huge variety of plants and flowers, making it a must-visit for nature lovers.

Katsurahama Beach
Katsurahama Beach is a picturesque, crescent-shaped beach about 13 kilometers from Kochi city center, has been known as a popular place to view the moon since ancient times and is a location much-loved by locals.

Hirome Market
Hirome Market is the place to experience the variety of Kochi’s renowned cuisine and the welcoming nature of its people. Eating (and drinking) at Hirome Market is a great way to meet the locals and make lasting memories of your time in Kochi City.

Kochi Sunday Market
Known as “Kochi’s Kitchen”, the Kochi Sunday Market has been the place for locals to go and do the weekly shop for around 300 years. Early in the morning every Sunday, around 300 stalls open up along 1.3 kilometers of the palm tree-lined boulevard that ends at the foot of Kochi Castle. Always lively, with a festive atmosphere, planning your visit to coincide with this market is highly recommended.

2 great day trips from Kochi City by train

There are countless places to explore throughout Kochi Prefecture, but here are two great ideas for day trips that can be easily done by public transport from Kochi City.

Ino Town
Just 50 minutes by train from Kochi City, the quiet town of Ino is a lovely place to visit and an excellent place to learn about the long a fascinating history of washi paper making in this area. Tosa (the historical name of Kochi) is considered to be one of Japan’s top three traditional washi paper production regions. At the excellent Ino-cho Paper Museum, you can learn about how Tosa Washi is made and the history of how this area became one of Japan’s leading producers of paper. You can even try making your own washi paper souvenirs using traditional Japanese paper making techniques.

Gomen-Nahari Pacific Coast Train Line to Aki
The Gomen-Nahari Line connects 21 stations along the Pacific coast between Nankoku City and Nahari. The views are amazing and you can really appreciate them from the special “Shintaro-Go” and “Yataro-Go” trains which have open-window observation decks. The special trains run three times a day, for the same price as the regular train fare. One-day passes are also available which allow you to hop on and off the train along the approximately 43-kilometer long line. We highly recommend visiting the atmospheric Ioki Cave, located just 5 minutes from Ioki Station, and the old town of Aki, which is famous for its samurai residences and the Nora Dokei (field clock) that was built over 130 years ago.

Where to go to get more great info about what to do in Kochi

Drop in at one of Kochi's information offices to get the latest local information and to ask local experts about anything you might need to make your trip to Kochi a memorable one.

Kochi prefecture “i” Information Center (in Tosa Terrace)
As well as a place to leave your luggage while you explore the city, borrow bicycles and reserve activities, the Kochi prefecture “i” Information Center (in Tosa Terrace) in front of Kochi Station has helpful staff on hand to provide information about places to go and things to do all around Kochi Prefecture. MY-YU BUS tickets and prepaid SIM cards are also available here.

Kochi Tourist Information Center (Obiyamachi Arcade)
The Kochi Tourist Information Center, near Hirome Market, on the covered Obiyamachi shopping arcade also has friendly staff who will help you make the most out of your time in Kochi, including filling you in on local events. As well as selling MY-YU BUS tickets, prepaid SIM cards, and offering a left luggage service, Kochi Tourist Information Center also has several wheelchairs and strollers that can be borrowed free-of-charge.

The tastes of Kochi

Kochi’s varied environment and favorable climatic conditions make it one of Japan’s most mouth-watering destinations. Let’s take a look at what’s on the menu during your trip to Kochi!

Katsuo no Tataki
Katsuo no Tataki (seared bonito) is the undisputed favorite dish of Kochi. Thick slices of bonito, seared straw fires like rare steak and topped with garlic, shiso leaves, onions is known as the Kochi’s soul food and can be eaten throughout the prefecture. You may have tried this dish elsewhere in Japan, but, we can assure you that there is nothing like locally prepared Katsuo no Tataki.

Plenty more fish in the sea
700 kilometers of coastline facing Pacific waters warmed by the nutrient-rich Kuroshio Current, provides the kitchens of Kochi with a wealth of delicious seafood beyond Katsuo no Tataki.

Katsuo (bonito) is also eaten raw as sashimi, particularly in the spring and autumn when the Kuroshio current brings schools of bonito close to shore as they make their annual journeys north and south. Whether you are in Kochi for the leaner bonito of the spring or the fattier cuts of autumn, head to the retro fishing port of Kure in Nakatosa Town to sample the freshest katsuo sashimi caught by pole and line.

Tosashimizu in the southwest of the prefecture is one of the few places in Japan where you can eat mackerel, known as Shimizu-saba, that is so fresh it can be eaten as sashimi. Utsubo moray eels, found along Kochi's rocky coastlines, are eaten seared, deep fried like karaage chicken and collagen-packed broth. Although the auspicious kinmedai is known as a fish that is eaten on special occasions, caught just off the coast of Muroto it can be eaten every day during the season in this part of Eastern Kochi.

The bounty of Kochi’s pristine rivers
Kochi’s remarkably clean, mineral-rich rivers also provide their share of culinary delights. The Shimanto River attracts food tourists looking to enjoy unagi freshwater eels from the beginning of April to the end of September. Another Shimanto River speciality is aosa river laver which grows near the mouth of the river, often served as tempura. Ayu sweetfish caught in the Shimanto and Niyodo Rivers, freshly-caught and grilled are a firm favorite further upriver.

A cornucopia of produce from the fields and mountains
Kochi is also blessed with lands as fertile as its rivers and seas. It is particularly well known for its deliciously sweet tomatoes, aromatic ginger, and organic yuzu citrus that has caught the eyes of chefs around the world. Another, lesser known citrus fruit to look out for in winter and spring is buntan, a large variety of pomelo with a pleasing balance of sweetness and sourness.

Meat lovers should seek out Tosa Akaushi beef, sourced from a mere 400 head of cattle each year. This ”miracle wagyu” is said to have 2 to 4 times the umami and sweetness of more commonly available wagyu beef and is almost impossible to find outside of Kochi.

Tosa Sake
Kochi Prefecture is home to no less than 18 local sake breweries, which produce excellent sake that pairs well with the foods produced in the areas in which they are located.

Learn more about the amazing food adventures that await you in Kochi:

Take a little bit Kochi home with you

Whether you are looking for something that you wished you had picked up on your travels around Kochi, or for something from a part of the prefecture you didn’t manage to get to, there are many great places to pick up local Kochi products in Kochi City before you move onto your next destination.

Popular souvenirs and gifts include
・Tosa Sake
・Yuzu Products
・Imo-kenpi sugar coated sweet potato snack
・Tosa tea
・Tosa sun-dried salt
・Tosa washi Japanese traditional paper products
・Tosa hamono kitchen knives
・Bamboo and wooden crafts

The souvenir shop in Kochi Station has a great selection of local sake and other drinks, as well as food products. Tosa Select Shop Tenkosu also has many local food products as well as a nice selection of crafts. At the Umaji Village Antenna Shop you can pick up a variety of popular products, such as yuzu soft-serve ice cream and yuzu drinks made with yuzu from Umaji Village, one of the leading production areas of yuzu citrus in Japan. Hirome Market, also has some stores that sell local crafts and gifts too, so be sure to take a look before or after your meal.