By Nate Hill
Kochi (高知, Kōchi) prefecture is located along the southwest coast of Japan’s island of Shikoku. Beautiful natural surroundings, an abundance of sunshine, and soothing waters in the form of clear rivers and lengthy coastlines make Kochi Prefecture an attractive tourist destination.
Its capital city—also called Kochi—is relatively small, but filled with country charm, hospitality, and iconic streetcars. Before setting out across the greater prefecture we strongly advise visitors to spend a day or two around town to take in the top sightseeing spots. These include Japan's longest standing original castle, quaint outdoor markets, eateries filled with local foods such as the iconic katsuo no tataki (seared tuna), a botanical paradise, and a sacred temple along Japan's most iconic pilgrimage.
1. Kochi Castle (Kōchi-jō)
Kochi Castle stands high atop the downtime area of Kochi City, surrounded by fifteen castle structures, beautiful parks, and a picturesque moat. Originally built in 1603, the castle was burned down in a massive fire in 1727 and fully rebuilt in 1749. This makes Kochi Castle Japan’s only castle where all original structures have been preserved. The tower itself is one of only 12 castle keeps still preserved in Japan. Fully explore the insides of the keep and Kochi Castle Museum for less than 500 yen.
The keep observatory provides great views of the surrounding city making Kochi Castle an excellent first stop. The castle is conveniently located at the start of our next recommendation, the Sunday Market.
- Access: Walk from Kochi Station (20 minutes), Streetcar from Harimaya bashi tram stop to Kochi-jo mae stop
- Address: 1-2-1 Marunouchi, Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture
- Business hours: 9:00-17:00 (no entry permitted after 16:30) / Closed from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1
- More info: Kochi Castle (official prefecture website)
2. Sunday Market
The Sunday Market is an open-air market along the downtown streets of Kochi that has continued for more than 300 years since the Edo period. Take in the atmosphere by watching customers and vendors bargain and interact cheerfully in the Kochi dialect. Every Sunday around 500 stores line the streets offering a variety of Kochi local foods and products. Find anything from unique fruits and vegetables to cutlery and traditional crafts. Whether you are interested in sampling foods and taking in the smells or buying souvenirs, this expansive market will not disappoint.
The market extends from the Otemon main gate of Kochi Castle for over one kilometer. Along the way, be sure to stop by Hirome Ichiba, the next spot on our list for lunch.
- Access: Walk from Kochi Station (10 minutes)
- Address: Otesuji, Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture
- Business hours: Sundays - 5:00-18:00 (5:30-17:00 from October to March)
- More info: Sunday Market (official prefecture website)
3. Hirome Ichiba (Hirome Market) / Katsuo no tataki
Hirome Market is the meeting hub for locals and visitors alike to share stories and sample local and international flavors. More than 65 street stall-style restaurants are contained within the market including fresh fish and meat shops, beer and local alcohols, unique souvenir shops, and clothing boutiques.
Long tables are spaced through the market and ordering takeout from multiple restaurants is encouraged to optimize your selection with a variety of foods. The one must-have is katsuo no tataki, or seared bonito tuna. Prepared in a grand demonstration with large flames over straw pits, katsuo is served sliced and seared with a touch of salt.
The open style of the market encourage communication with locals, a unique aspect for those familiar with the fast-paced Tokyo area. In Kochi, the locals are fond of drinking during all hours of the day so be prepared for friendly surroundings.
Located next to Kochi Castle along the same road as the Sunday Market. When you see the sign pictured above, you will know you are in the right place.
- Access: Walk from Kochi Station (20 minutes)
- Address: 2-3-1 Obiya-machi, Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture
- Business hours: 8:00-23:00 on weekdays, Saturdays & national holidays / 7:00-23:00 on Sundays
- More info: Hirome Market (official prefecture website)
4. The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden
Nestled on Godaisan, a mountain just East of Kochi, The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden is one of the most comprehensive botanical gardens in all of Japan. Get lost in the walking paths of the outdoor garden filled with seasonal plants or head indoors to the expansive greenhouse with over 3,000 types of tropical plants. Unique and enhanced plant species such as a plant with leaves resembling a goldfish can be found (and purchased as a souvenir) for those looking carefully.
Created in honor of world-renowned botanist Dr. Tomitaro Makino (1862-1957) museum halls and displays are available for those interested in learning about his achievements and botanical garden developments across Japan.
- Access: Ride the My Yu Bus from JR Kochi Station (30 minutes) / Makino Shokubutsuen Seimon mae bus stop.
- Address: 4200-6 Godaisan, Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture
- Business hours: 9:00 to 17:00 / Closed from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1
- More info: The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden (official prefecture website)
5. Chikurin-ji (Chikurin Temple)
Established by Buddhist priests visiting from China, Chikurinji Temple sits on Godaisan nearby the Makino Botanical Gardens. The outdoor area surrounding the temple is peaceful and filled with covered forests and serene, moss-covered gardens. The main area holds the temple buildings which include colorful five-story pagoda. An important stop on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, and perhaps the most famous temple in all of Kochi Prefecture, Chikurin-ji is number 31 of the 88 temples.
If coming from Makino Botanical Gardens or the Godaisan observatory, Chikurin-ji is a short walk, less than five minutes. The My Yu Bus day pass can be purchased just outside Kochi Station and is 50% off (around 500 yen) for tourists with a passport.
- Access: Ride the My Yu Bus from JR Kochi Station (30 minutes) / Chikurin-ji bus stop.
- Address: 3577 Godaisan, Kochi, Kōchi Prefecture 781-8125
- Business hours: Open access. The last bus towards Kochi Station departs around 17:30.
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