By Japan Travel
While downtown Kochi is full of shopping bargains and food delights, to really dig into Kochi’s history you need to hit the outskirts of the city, and these follow three compass points. If you’d like to see the famed pilgrimage trail, the Ohenro, a panoramic view of Kochi city, the classic Chikurinji temple, and the wonderful gardens of The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden, then head east.
- Local city tour, ideal for cruise ship passengers
- Safe, clean public transport
- Panoramic view of Kochi city
- Exquisite temple garden and ancient 5-story cypress pagoda
- Japan’s leading collection of heirloom plants, 12 acres of flower gardens
- Self-arranged, self-guided – Free, but actual costs additional and payable upon use
- Arranged by Japan Travel - ¥10,800~ booking fee (final fee depends on group size)
- Guided tour by Japan Travel – ¥30,800~ (final fee depends on group size)
- '5 sights
- 'avg. 4 hours
- '¥0 - ¥30,800 + transport costs
- 'Families, Solo, Couples
The best way to travel to the eastern and southern parts of Kochi city is by My-Yu bus. It leaves from Kochi Station headed for Katsurahama. The My-Yu Bus allows you to get on and off as many times as you like but please note that on weekdays departures are on the hour from 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning, then move to 40 minutes past the hour from 11:40. In the weekends, buses are more frequent – please see the bus timetable in Transport Options below.
Kochi Prefecture “i “ Information Center Tosa Terrace
Right next to the station is the Kochi Prefecture “i “ Information Center Tosa Terrace, which has a great selection of multilingual brochures and maps to help you get around. Not only do they have Wi-Fi you can access on the premises, but if you don’t mind filling out a form and showing your passport, you can even pick up(borrow) a Wi-Fi Router free of charge – something special Kochi Prefecture offers foreign visitors. Be sure to leave your self plenty of time to look around and to buy your My-Yu Bus pass on time.
Mount Godai (“Godaisan”), was so named by visiting Buddhist priests from China who was reminded of the original Wutaishan mountain and temple complex in Shanxi, is the staging point for all 3 destinations on this hilltop. The first of these is Godaisan Lookout (also known as Godaisan Observatory), which offers a panoramic view of Kochi city below. The bus comes right to the park, and from here you can walk on to the Chikurinji Temple and The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Gardens. There is no entrance charge to the park.
Not more than 10 minutes walk from Godaisan Lookout is the famed Buddhist Chikurinji temple (also known as just “Chikurinji”). Built in 724, this is the 31st of the 88 temples on the Ohenro pilgrimage trail. Most notable at Chikurinji, especially when viewed from a distance, is the impressive 5-story burgundy-colored pagoda made of Japanese cypress. In comparison, the temple itself is modest but features a treasure house, many statues of Buddha, and an exquisite and wonderfully maintained Japanese garden.
The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden
About 5 minutes walk from Chikurinji temple is our final stop for the east Kochi tour, the Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Gardens, named after Dr. Tomitaro Makino who was the father of botany in Japan. He spent most of his life studying then collecting Japan’s native plant species from all over the country and established a world-class specimen library for his collection. By the time he was done, he’d gathered and replanted the best part of 3,000 species in the 12 acres of land he’d secured at the top of Godaisan.
Today the garden complex has the main visitor facility, a study, and storage facility, a large tropical plants conservatory, and acres of gardens with flowers that follow the seasons. It will easily take you 1-2 hours to see everything Makino has to offer. Spring and Autumn are particularly good seasons to visit, although of course, local traffic is heavy on the weekends.
Note also that there are a café and restaurant. Lunch is available from 11:00-15:00, while tea and coffee are available throughout opening hours. You’ll be wanting to return to the Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Gardens Main Gate bus stop by 17:31, since that is the last bus of the day back to Kochi station.
Kochi is built on the Urado Bay, and used to be bounded by the Kagami and Kokubu rivers. To the south, protecting the city from storms is a low mountain range, upon which are built a number of attractive viewing points, including our first destination on this tour – called the Godaisan Look-out. Traveling to Godaisan mountain is a simple matter of hopping on the My-Yu bus line and traveling east.
- Walking – the destinations on this tour are probably too far for reasonable access by walking from downtown Kochi.
- Cycling – Bicycles can be rented at the Kochi Prefecture “i” Information Center Tosa Terrace in front of Kochi Station. English-speaking staff is available. You’ll be asked to write down your Name, Address (your hotel), and Telephone number. Bikes need to be returned each evening so please be back before closing time.
- Taxis – Taxis are widely available but note that few drivers can speak English. Many drivers have, however, taken courtesy courses and are ready and willing to serve non-Japanese customers
- Public Transport - Both the city trams and buses are operated by Tosaden, and both offer 1-day passes for tourists. For the inner-city areas, the tram pass is sufficient, while a bus pass should be used for outer areas. Both passes are hop-on/hop-off and are good for the whole day. You can buy the tram pass from the Kochi "i" Information Center Tosa Terrace or from any tram when first boarding. The pass costs JPY500 for adults, but please note that this discount only applies for stations (from East to West) Kera Dori-Akebonocho Higashimachi and (from North to South) Kochieki Mae and Sanbashidori 5-chome - roughly 9km in circumference. Outside that area, you will be asked to pay an additional fee. Tosaden has arranged some visitor discounts for holders of the tram pass, so be sure to check the site for details.
- Bus - The one-day bus pass for tourists is called a My-Yu Bus pass, and is required for outer areas of Kochi city. The My-Yu Bus pass is JPY1,000 for adults (for overseas travelers, half price of 500 yen if a passport is shown), and can be purchased at the Kochi "i" Information Center Tosa Terrace. This pass covers all the same tram stations as the tram pass (for the flat rate zone).
- Bonus Hints:
- The My-Yu Bus pass will also get you discounts at Kochi castle and other tourist spots.
- Be aware that the schedules change between weekdays and weekends/holidays.
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