Kochi is a small city located on the south coast of Shikoku. It is well known throughout Japan that the people of Kochi drink the most out of any other Japanese area. Due to the location of this city, very few people ever visit this town, and most people are either locals, or Japanese people. Tourists tend to be few and far between. In fact, most cities in the south of Shikoku can be considered difficult for any foreigner who cannot speak Japanese; like any other non-English speaking city, you can always get by with hand signals and gestures.
The first thing you will notice about Kochi is the low skyline, fresh air, and lack of transportation. It is very much a car centric city. Public transportation relies on buses or trams. The downtown core is where most people will want to spend their time. It provides a great place to find good restaurants and do a little shopping. Being well known for drinking, you will probably find more pubs and restaurants than anything else. The downtown core has three main attractions. Going to the main intersection, where the two tram lines meet, you can be entertained every hour by a clock. Every hour, you can watch a special show where figures come out and dance to a tune. Adjacent to the clock is a small park with a man made stream. It is a very nice place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main street. It is also the location of Harimayabashi. It is a wooden bridge that is the title of the 2009 movie of the same name, “The Harimaya Bridge”. This will probably provide a lot of tourism dollars for Kochi itself, and the bridge will also become a major tourist attraction. Unfortunately, it may no longer be the tranquil place it once was.
The main attraction within the downtown area is Kochi-jo. It is Kochi’s white castle, located on the western edge of the downtown core. The grounds of Kochi-jo are not as magnificent as Himeji, but they are still very beautiful. Unfortunately, I visited Kochi in May, and the flowers and shrubs hadn’t started blooming yet. I have heard that it is more beautiful during the summer months than in the spring. Upon reaching the main courtyard, you will be graced with a nice view of the city, but it isn’t the best view of the city. Instead, head for the inner courtyard to see the main building. It looks relatively small and simple. It is a very simple castle that can be explored very quickly. You must pay to enter the castle, but I thought it was worth the entry. It is very cool inside and there aren’t too many people. You can essentially get parts of the castle to yourself. At times, there are volunteers explaining how the castle was used in the past, but do note that they tend to be retired people who probably don’t speak any English. If you have ever visited Himeji, you will remember how boring the inside of the castle was. Kochi realizes that looking at a castle can be boring, so they added several dioramas. These range from depictions of Kochi in past times to how Kochi was a whaling city. They provide an interesting snapshot into the history of the people from Kochi.
Godaisan is a small mountain located within the city, but too far to reach on foot or bicycle. There are some busses that do go up the mountain, but they are infrequent. The easiest way to reach this area of Kochi is to drive. When you reach Godaisan, you will have to drive up a steep and narrow road. This road, thankfully, is only one way. The first place you can stop is the Godaisan Park. It is a very nice hillside park that gives great views of Kochi city. I would highly recommend a quick visit and climb to the lookout point. The lookout point is easy to find. It is atop the main building in the park. You can also look back to the mountain and see the peak of the pagoda of Chikurinji. Walking to Chikurinji from the park is very easy, but the path can be a little difficult to find if you aren’t looking in the right area. You can also walk along the street, but because it’s so narrow, I don’t recommend it. Chikurinji is the 31st temple along the 88 temple pilgrimage of Shikoku. It is a very nice temple that feels very secluded. The entrance near the park is the back entrance. From here, you will be able to see some of the disused areas of the temple, and some of the graves. The main attraction of this temple is the pagoda. It is a typical Japanese style pagoda. The temple and other areas of the temple are not particularly special either, but it is a significant temple in Kochi. Next to the temple is the Makino Botanical Garden. It is a very nice garden, but be aware that many schools in the Kochi area visit this garden on school trips, so it may not be as peaceful as you’d like.
My overall impression of Kochi is of a small city with a small town feel. It is very beautiful and a place I could return to. It is easy to relax, and there is a beach that isn’t too far away. If you ever have a chance, I would recommend heading to Kochi to get away from everything in Japan.