A night on the town in Kochi City

The people of Kochi are known for their zest for life and have a reputation for enjoying a drink or two. You will find sake breweries all across the prefecture and arrivals at Kochi Station are welcomed by a statue of Bero-bero-no-kamisama (the god of drunkenness) and we even have a traditional drinking game which uses cups that cannot be put down until they have been drained. It will come, as no surprise then, that Kochi City is a great place to enjoy a night out on the town.

Locals are very keen to share this party spirit with all comers. It is a sense of hospitality that likely comes from the region’s long tradition of celebratory gatherings known as okyaku. Relatives and neighbors are often invited to join these parties where people pick at delicacies served on large communal plates called sawachi. Visitors can experience this unique hospitality during the Tosa no Okyaku every March when the streets of Kochi City are taken over by thousands of people eating and drinking at heated tables. During the summer Yosakoi Festival, eating and drinking while watching the dance troupes perform is a given.

This spirit of inclusion is not confined to festival time and visitors from outside Kochi shouldn't be surprised if locals join them at their table to raise a glass, chat and share their recommendations. So, are you ready? Then, let's go!

Getting started at “Kochi’s Kitchen”

Diving into the nightlife scene of any new town can be intimidating, but, thankfully Kochi City has the perfect place to ease you into your evening. Hirome Market is a Kochi institution –– a place where locals and visitors from around Japan and abroad come together to sample the culinary delights of the region. The whole place is set up to encourage people to bond over food and drinks. Similar to a food court, customers purchase food and drinks from a variety of stalls to be consumed at big communal tables. Unusual in Japan, people are by no means shy about joining a table with other people and converstion soon starts to flow as freely as the drinks.

Trying fire-seared bonito (katsuo-tataki) here is a must, but there are all manner of dishes available, as well as some international options too. People grab food from a variety of vendors and eat at communal tables, but don’t let the relaxed atmosphere fool you, the food quality is top notch.

It’s a Hirome Market tradition and extension of the above-mentioned culture of okyaku for strangers to start chatting and toast your health. It's a wonderful example of the warm and welcoming attitude for which Kochi people are known and a great opportunity to get local recommendations for the next stop on your nightlife tour of Kochi.

Obiyamachi: Into the night

One of the great things about Kochi’s nightlife is that it is concentrated in a relatively compact area, especially compared to big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Head south from Kochi Station and take any of the side streets between the Enokuchi River and the tram line that runs along the main thoroughfare of Route 56 to find yourself among a multitude of bars, cafes and restaurants that line the narrow streets.

Many bars and restaurants are located at street level which makes it relatively easy to get a idea of what to expect when you open the door. Wandering the streets until you spot a place that matches your vibe, is great fun in itself. Be warned, however, with izakaya gastropubs, modern and retro cocktail bars, craft beer shops, sake specialists, and even late night patisseries, to choose from you will be spoilt for choice.

Another strategy, if you are finishing up your day’s sightseeing at Kochi Castle around 5pm, is to skip heading back to your hotel and follow the wave of office workers heading to nearby nightspots on their way home from work.

The Kochi way say “goodnight”

As you will have now no doubt realized, food is as central to Japan’s night culture as drinking is. It’s almost unheard of to order drinks without also ordering at least a side dish or two. Nonetheless, the traditional way to end a night out on the town is with, yes you guessed it, more food!

Ramen is perhaps the most common shime, as this final pre-taxi dish is known in Japanese, but Kochi-folk love to wrap up their nights out with a serving of flash-fried gyoza dumplings, usually washed down with a couple more drinks. Head over to Nijyudaimachi’s open-air yatai street restaurants that set up on the road that runs directly north from Central Park or to nearby Yasube.

Those with a sweet tooth and lower tolerance for alcohol might opt for a lesser known Kochi shime, a slice of cake at one of the city’s late night patisseries.

One final tip, to ensure that you make the most of Kochi after a night out on the town is to start the day with a "Kochi Morning" as resonably-priced set breakfasts served until mid-morning at old school Japanese coffee shops. "Morning" sets are quite common around Japan, but, here in Kochi your coffee and toast comes with a bowl of reviving miso soup which the locals swear helps kick a hangover into touch.