Traveling to Japan with children, but worried about “temple fatigue”? Bring them to Kochi!
From toddlers to teenagers, Kochi has much to keep younger travelers entertained, engaged and active, making Kochi the perfect destination for a trip for the whole family.
Meet the hero created by one of Kochi’s best-loved creators
Japanese animation and characters is now a worldwide phenomenon. Although there are countless Japanese animated characters, if you ask any young Japanese child which is their favorite and there is a good chance that they will say Anpanman.
The superhero with an anpan (fluffy bread filled with sweet azuki bean paste) for a head and his many companions were created by Kochi native Takashi Yanase. First introduced in picture books, Anpanman was adapted into a popular animation and became a character much-loved by children. There are many places throughout Kochi Prefecture with Anpanman themed attractions which delight both young children and their parents who grew up with the characters.
Little kids will surely love to start their journey to Kochi on one of the Anpanman Trains that run from Okayama to Kochi City. The trains, of course, call at Tosa Yamada Station where fans (after snapping a souvenir photo on the Anpanman bench) can jump on an Anpanman bus that takes you to the Yanase Takashi Memorial Hall Anpanman Museum in Kami City. Here, visitors can see drawings of Anpanman and other characters drawn by Takashi Yanase himself that can only be viewed here. If you are heading east towards the Muroto Peninsular, each of the cute characters that represent each of the line’s 21 stations along the scenic Gomen-Nahari train line are also Takashi Yanase creations.
When exploring Kochi City, be sure to look out for the two distinctive Anpanman themed trams that run through the city center. Stone statues of Anpanman and his friends can also be found near Harimaya Bridge and other locations in the city center. Why not snap souvenir photos of you and your children with them?
All of the above attractions will delight young children who love Anpanman and they will certainly help to keep even those meeting these adorable characters for the first time entertained while touring Kochi Prefecture.
Get back to nature
Kochi is a natural paradise and the perfect place to get kids to forget about their devices, providing valuable opportunities to reconnect with outdoor fun and family. There are a huge number of ways to enjoy nature in Kochi, but here are two nature walks that kids will particularly enjoy.
Of the several gorges that feed the Niyodo River, famous for its “Niyodo Blue” crystal-clear, sapphire and emerald colored pools, Nakatsu Gorge is perfect for young adventurers. At only 2.3km, the easy-follow path is highly doable for all ages and short enough to use a baby carrier. Children will feel like explorers of old as they criss-crossing the rushing waters of the Nakatsu River as it makes its way among huge moss-covered rocks. If your little ones need some additional motivation, have them tick off statues of the 7 Lucky Gods that are hidden along the path in a kind of cultural treasure hunt.
The traffic-free camelia tree-lined walking path around Japan's southernmost point, Cape Ashizuri, offers another cultural treasure hunt; this time, 7 mythical points associated with the Buddhist saint Kukai who is closely associated with the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage.
Making a lot of noise is generally frowned upon in Japan, but at the cape observation point visitors are encouraged to scream a message out to the vast Pacific Ocean while standing on the round metal plate. Despite one’s best efforts, sound doesn’t travel very far, as it echoes and sounds like it's coming from another person entirely. It's quite a strange phenomenon.
The huge Hakusan natural arch below the cape is awe inspiring to people of all ages. Challenge your children to find the angle from which the opening appears heart-shaped and make out the face of a young woman in the rock above. Beachcombing and even a spot of litter collection along the rocky beach on the way back to the path can also keep young travelers engaged.
Explore the cave of the Dragon River
Another natural wonder that kids will get a kick out of is Ryugado (which means “dragon river cave”) about 40 minutes by car east of Kochi City. Ryugado Cave is one of Japan's largest limestone caves, approximately 4km long with about 1 kilometer that is open to the general public.
Going into the mazelike cave is like entering a whole new world. Imaginitively-named rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites of all sizes, and even a site of human activity which dates back around 2000 years are sure to keep all ages entranced. Colorful lights, projection mapping, and music further enhance this alreday impressive geological formation. If your little ones have a sense of adventure, exploring some of the narrower sections of the cave not included on the main routes on a guided tour (saftey gear included), is sure to be the subject of family conversations around the dinner table for years to come!
Rock Kochi’s Geoparks
Kochi Prefecture has two designated Geo Parks, the Muroto UNESCO Global Geopark on the Muruto Peninsular in eastern Kochi and the Tosa Shimizu National Geopark in along the Tatsukushi coast in the west. With a vast variety of natural rock formations on display, these coastal parks offer the chance for kids to experience up close what they learn about from their geogrpahy textbooks at school. Visiting these parks is a great way to add a fun, educational component to your Kochi trip. Perhaps they could even write a report to give to their teacher when they get home in return for extra credit.
Both Muroto and Tatsukushi have recently-built visitor centers which offer explanations of how the areas were formed by tectonic forces over millennia and easy-to-follow coastal walks. To get more detailed explanations and for the chance to connect with locals, sign up for one of the guided tours provided by the Geopark Center in Muroto and Tatsukushi Kaichu Tourism, which also offers glass bottom boat coral viewing tours. Local tour guides have been working on their English language guiding skills and how to link the natural wonders of the parks to local culture and interesting stories.
Explore what lies beneath (the deep blue sea)
Kochi has a deep connection with the ocean. It is central to the region’s food culture and has long been an important pillar of its economy. The Kurushio, or Black Current, which carries warm water from the equator, provides the perfect environment for all kinds of fish and diverse sea life. It is not surprising, then, that the prefecture has several aquariums that focus on marine life.
The Tatsukushi Coast, mentioned above, in addition to the glass bottom boat tours that take you over the Geopark’s coral fields, has not one, but two places to view the local marine life up close to visit. The Kochi Prefectural Ashizuri Aquarium (also known as Satoumi) is a modern, well-interpreted aquarium that takes visitors on a journey from the region’s mountaintops to the ocean floor, highlighting how the health of the two environments are intimately connected.
The other is the Ashizuri Underwater Observation Tower (Ashizuri Kaiteikan). This underwater observatory was built in 1972 and has a distinctive, and very cute, retro design. Visitors walk down a spiral staircase that takes them below sea level to a chamber from where they can peer out of portholes to view local sea life going about its daily business. It’s a great opportunity to watch marine animals in their natural habitat. Similarly, there are several places in Kochi that offer whale watching tours on which visitors have a high chance of encountering whales in the wild as well as dolphins, schools of fish, seabirds and other marine life.
To the east, the Muroto Schoolhouse Aquarium is surely one of the world’s most unique aquariums. An interesting example of the repurposing of a school that closed due to rural depopulation, it is a place that can perhaps spark discussions with older children about a variety of issues. Plus, where else can you see hammerhead sharks in a swimming pool!
Blow off some steam!
Facing the Pacific Ocean and with mighty rivers that cut their way through the mountains, Kochi has no shortage of water sports to try, many of which are available to children as well as adults.
Kochi is a favorite destination for Japanese surfers and Hata Surf Dojo in Kuroshio Town offers lessons in English at the beautiful and beginner-friendly Irino Beach. Check out our selection of marine activities that include sea kayaking, stand up paddle, snorkeling and scuba-diving.