No car? No problem! There are plenty of places to explore in Kochi that are within an easy train ride from the capital. All of the locations listed are under 2 hours by train from Kochi Station, making it easy to choose your destination depending on the weather or what you are feeling like on the day.
Kochi Prefecture packs in a surprising amount of diversity in one place, so there is sure to be a day trip (or two) to suit your taste for adventure.
Foodie Adventure in Kure
The winding streets and traditional buildings of this pretty fishing town have earned the distinction of being designated an Important Cultural Landscape. Although it takes under an hour to reach Kure from Kochi Station on the Dosan Line Limited Express, it feels very much like taking a big step back in time.
However, it is not just the retro vibes that make this town a popular destination for a day trip, but the food. Kure is best known for its tradition of catching katsuo (bonito) using the ipponzuri single-line fishing method, instead of using nets.
Visitors who want to sample the ultra-fresh catch of the day should head to Kure Taishomachi Ichiba Market, a shopping street decorated with brightly-colored fishermen’s flags that has been the town’s “kitchen” for over 100 years. One of the top dishes to try is Kure-don, a bowl of rice topped with your choice of fresh seafood. For something a bit more hands on, at Kuroshio Kobo you can sear your own bonito to create the beloved Kochi soul food, katsuo no tataki.
Find out more about what you can see and do in Kure here!
Retro Strolls in Sakawa
Sakawa is one of the easiest destinations for a day trip from Kochi City, as it only takes 30 minutes by train on the Dosan Limited Express. This little retro gem is very walkable and you can stroll easily between the sights, including a marvelous park dedicated to botanist Tomitaro Makino, an attractive sake brewery and a number of traditional buildings.
Makino Park has blooming plants year-round, but is a major cherry blossom spot from early February to mid-April, when over 17 varieties bloom in turn, tingeing the hillsides pink and white. Many of the Edo and Meiji period (1603-1912) buildings are open to visitors, and Seigen-ji Temple is a must-visit for fans of Japanese-style gardens.
Just a little further afield you will find the Naumann Karst, a valley filled with dramatic rocky formations (and completed by two mammoths!) that is particularly pretty when the flowers are in bloom. Sake lovers who want to try a couple varieties of Kochi’s famously dry brew can buy some from the historic Tsukasabotan Brewery, and then take a short 20-minute taxi ride to the Suigei Brewery (Tosa City), housed in a stunning modern structure and offering tasty treats in their cafe’.
This relaxed rural village is the closest to Kochi City, and it only takes about 40 minutes on the Dosan Line train to reach the two closest stations. For visitors who want to experience Kochi’s pristine rivers and forests but have limited time, Hidaka gives you a taste of both without wasting your precious hours on travel.
The Kusaka River Reservoir, Kochi’s largest wetland, is just a short 10 minute walk from Okabana Station. Here you can see a wide variety of water birds and dragonflies in the summer months. For something a little different, outdoor specialists Suggoi Sports offer SUP adventures on the Niyodo River, so you can experience the clarity and glowing blue of this pure waterway firsthand.
If you prefer to stay on land, there is an excellent short hiking course through Mt.Otaki, along with the Sarudado limestone cave to explore. To get around more quickly, there are bikes available for rent at the tourism office at Mura no Eki Hidaka.
This pleasant village also offers a few unique experiences and foods, find out more here.
Nature Walks in Kitagawa
Monet's Garden Marmottan in the village of Kitagawa is the only officially recognized Monet-inspired garden in the world. Open from March to November, the expert gardeners use around 1000 different plants to bring seasonal views of Claude Monet’s paintings to life, including his iconic blue water lilies.
Kitagawa also happens to be one of the major producers of yuzu citrus in Kochi. You can stay overnight at Yuzu no Yado, an onsen hotel, and then take a leisurely walk to the Fudo-no-Taki Waterfall via the quiet country roads lined with yuzu groves and little farming settlements.
There is a limited bus service (about 4 a day) that connects Nahari Station, Monet’s Garden and Yuzu no Yado. Alternatively, staff are happy to assist in calling taxis for the short drives between these three main spots. From Kochi Station it takes under 1.5 hours to reach Nahari on the Tosa Kuroshio railway.
Check out some of the other sights in Kitagawa from this page.
River Valley Explorations in Shimanto
If you have a little more time or want to go a bit deeper into Kochi’s valleys, in under 2 hours the Dosan Line Limited Express can take you to Nakamura Station, the gateway to the Shimanto River.
The Shimanto is Japan’s last free-flowing river, and is crisscrossed by a number of stocky chinkabashi submersible bridges. Rent a bicycle near the station to see the historic sights of this “little Kyoto” in Kochi. Explore the Nyuta Willow Forest (particularly stunning when the canola flowers bloom), check out the flying jewels at the Shimanto Dragonfly Park, or take a leisurely bike ride to the Sada Chinkabashi. There are kayak, canoe and SUP tours of this gorgeous river valley, along with relaxing yakatabune pleasure boat rides.
There are many guesthouses, hotels, camping (and glamping!) grounds in the area, as people come to wade in the gentle river, eat freshly caught and grilled ayu sweetfish, hike to Ishimi-ji Temple to do the “mini” Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage, and enjoy outdoor pursuits. Come discover why we consider this spot to be Japan’s best-kept secret!
You can find tons of information about this beautiful area in this in-depth article.