Shikoku Karst is one of Japan’s three largest karst landforms, an area of limestone that has been carved by erosion to create cone-shaped sinkholes (found along the Tengu Plateau and Jiyoshi Pass) and other geological formations.
Explore these great things to see and do in Kochi, from historical Kochi Castle to whitewater rafting on the Yoshino River.
Located on the tip of the Muroto Peninsula in eastern Kochi Prefecture, the Muroto UNESCO Global Geopark was established as a place of international geological significance, with numerous features that tell the story of the area’s earthquake-filled past, when subduction of the oceanic plate caused uplifting of the peninsula over the course of thousands of years.
One of the most comprehensive botanical gardens in Japan, Makino Botanical Garden opened in 1958 to honor the achievements of the world renowned botanist from Kochi, Dr. Tomitaro Makino (1862-1957).
Bonito are a staple part of Kochi food culture. The most famous dish is called katsuo no tataki. Freshly sliced bonito is placed on skewers, the skin is seared over a fire, and then cooled with ice. The sliced fish is commonly eaten with sauce and garnishes such as garlic and onion, but even in Kochi this varies greatly by area.
This open-air market in Kochi City has been held continuously for more than 300 years, since the Edo Period. Open from early morning to evening of every Sunday, the market is held on one lane of the main street extending from Kochi Castle’s Otemon main gate.
Formed over the course of 175 million years, Ryugado Cave (also known as “Ryuga Cave”) is one of Japan’s best-known limestone caves and has been designated a natural monument and historical site. Of the cave’s 4km length about one kilometer is open to the public.
Mt. Godai, or Godaisan, is home to Chikurin-ji Temple and Makino Botanical Garden, and is also known as one of the best spots in Kochi City to enjoy cherry blossoms and azaleas in spring, and fall colors in fall.
Known since ancient times as a beautiful place to view the moon, Katsurahama Beach is one of Kochi Prefecture’s most picturesque spots. It stretches in an arc between Cape Ryuzu and Cape Ryuo at the entrance to Urado Bay, and the colorful beach gravel, pine grove, and azure ocean compliment each other perfectly to create a stunning landscape.
Located next to Kochi Castle, Hirome Market is packed with about 65 street stall-style restaurants, busy fresh fish and meat shops, unique knickknack shops, and clothing boutiques. It’s a place for locals and visitors alike to fill their stomachs with not only Kochi”s local cuisine, but also more international flavors.
The Tosa brand of high-quality washi (Japanese paper) handmade in Kochi Prefecture has a history of more than 1,000 years. Production of this traditional craft is particularly strong in Tosa City and Ino Town, located in central Kochi.
Kochi City’s energetic Yosakoi Festival is one of Japan’s ten largest festivals, held every August since 1954. The festival starts with a fireworks display, putting the entire city in a festive mood. Thousands of dancers perform, including visiting dance teams from around the country.
Recognized for their bright red color, kinmedai (splendid alfonsino) are fished in the deep waters off the coast of Muroto, and have peak flavor in the winter months, when the fish has the most fat. Kinmedai, a white fish, is often served over rice as “kinme-don,” prepared teriyaki style (broiled with soy sauce), or served raw as sashimi over rice.
Ekin’s famous folding screens, on which he depicted mainly dynamic, theatrical (and sometimes gruesome) scenes well over a hundred years ago, are displayed along the streets of Akaoka, each lit from behind by a single candle for maximum atmospheric effect.
Forested Yasui Gorge is found at the upper end of the Yasui River, a tributary of Kochi’s famous Niyodo River. The clarity of the turquoise water running through it, along with mossy cliffs and odd-shaped stones and boulders scattered about, make for scenery so beautiful it will take your breath away.
Kochi Castle was originally built in 1603 on the order of Yamauchi Katsutoyo, lord of the Tosa domain. Although it burned down in a massive fire in 1727, the current castle tower was rebuilt in 1749, and is one of Japan’s only 12 surviving castle keeps that date back to the Edo Period or earlier.
Chikurin-ji Temple is located at the summit of Mt. Godai (“Godaisan”) in Kochi City, and is home to a magnificent five-story pagoda as well as numerous important cultural artifacts. Established in the eighth century, Chikurin-ji has a long history and is one of Japan’s top three temples dedicated to the Manjusri bodhisattva, called Monju in Japanese.
Part of Muroto City, Kiragawa prospered in the Meiji Period through demand for its high-quality charcoal by cities such as Kyoto, Kobe, and Osaka. As an area frequently hit by typhoons, Kiragawa earned the nickname “Typhoon Street,” and a number of clever techniques were used to protect the houses and buildings from inclement weather.
Sugi-no-Osugi is famous as the tallest Japanese cedar tree and estimated to be 3,000 years old. Sugi-no-Osugi is actually a pair of trees called Minami Osugi (“South Giant Cedar”) and Kita Osugi (“North Giant Cedar”).
Known for their high quality and durability, Tosa forged blades have been produced in Kochi Prefecture for close to 400 years, their demand spurred by the thriving forestry industry in a prefecture where forests account for over 80% of the land area.
Mountainous Kochi Prefecture has some of the most beautiful rivers in Japan, including the Shimanto River (famous for being free of dams), the Niyodo River (famous for its crystal-clear turquoise water) and the Yoshino River (the second-longest river in Shikoku, after the Shimanto).
The Shimanto River is famous for being free of dams and for its bridges, called chinkabashi, that have no side railings. The bridges were designed thus to prevent damage by flooding, and the word chinkabashi means “submersible bridge.”
Cape Ashizuri, located at the tip of the Ashizuri Peninsula, is Shikoku’s southernmost point. An observatory on the cape commands a view of more than 180 degrees, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the crash of waves on the rocks below, and the steps up are well worth the climb.
The high biodiversity, including a large coral reef and over a thousand species of fish, is a result of the warmer waters brought by the Kuroshio current, and means there is plenty of opportunity for making marine discoveries.