A vibrant breath of fresh air
You’ll find picturesque Kochi on Shikoku, one of the four main islands that make up Japan. Kochi is postcard-pretty, sitting on the Kagami River on the island’s south coast, surrounded by stunning natural beauty, from lush forests and charismatic mountains to crystal-clear rivers. It’s a lovely, laidback town with a cosmopolitan feel, an outdoorsy vibe and a spirited history. The birthplace of Meiji Restoration hero, Sakamoto Ryoma, the town is home to the exquisite Kochi Castle. It’s also known for its incredible citrus fruits, ‘Sawachi cuisine’ and its convivial Hirome Market, where street foods and market stalls abound. Every August, Kochi gets its groove on at the Yosakoi Festival, a massive celebration of yosakoi naruko dancing, where dance teams and festive floats crowd the streets for a dance competition which has been happening here since the 1950s, attracting thousands to this innovative and ebullient little town.
Things to do: Kochi
Get your onsen on
Bathing in an onsen in Japan can be a transcendent experience and Kochi, with its natural beauty, makes it a prime onsen destination. There are many in the area, from the traditional onsens to more luxurious resort spas, and you’ll find some elevated to give you views of the ocean or secluded and surrounded by greenery while you soak in the warm, healing waters.
King of the Castles
The impressively preserved Kochi Castle is one of Kochi’s biggest drawcards. It was originally built in 1603 but had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1727. It’s made up of 15 structures, including an 18.5m-tall castle tower which offers sprawling views of Kochi below. The fact that it’s the only castle in Japan where you can capture the Otemon gate and the tower in the one shot makes it a popular photo spot.
Show me the Monet
When you think of the paintings of Claude Monet, your mind floats away on thoughts of impressionistic water lilies. Monet’s garden in Giverny was both his muse and inspiration and you can experience it for yourself here at the Kitagawa Village Monet's Garden Marmotten, the only recreated garden officially permitted to use his name outside of France. Stroll through 100,000 beautiful plants – the popular water lilies bloom between June and November.
Step back in time
If you want to time travel to a serene and preserved patch of Japan, without a dash of neon in sight, wander the streets of Kiragawa. With hypnotic stone walls and pretty traditional houses washed a distinctive white with ‘Tosa plaster’ to protect them from typhoons, the streets of Kiragawa have the distinction of being the first area in Kochi prefecture to be officially designated a national Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings.
To market, to market
Kochi’s Sunday Market has been in operation for the last 300 years. Early every Sunday morning, you’ll find the market setting up just outside the gates of Kochi Castle, and its 500 stores line the street until into the evening. This is where you can get a taste of authentic Kochi, as locals chat together and stock up on fresh produce direct from the local producers themselves.
Kōchi Ryōma Airport (KCZ)
Distance to central Kochi 10km
Bus: Airport buses run frequently between the airport and central Kochi (the JR Kochi Station), take about 35 minutes and cost JPY ¥720.Back to top
When to go
Weather can vary significantly in Kochi – it’s not particularly temperate due to its position. Summers can be very muggy, winters cold and windy, so aim for the mid-points. Look at September to October or early April to mid-June.
The Yosakoi Festival in early August is one of Japan’s 10 largest festivals that attracts thousands of people to watch the dance troupes fill the streets, while the Harvest Festival, from September to November, highlights local cuisine in a range of foodie events.Back to top
One of the easiest ways to get around Kochi is to hop on a colourful, historic tram. They run east to west and north to south and cost JPY ¥200 a trip. Pay when you get off and ask for a transfer ticket if you have to switch lines. There’s also a solid bus network in Kochi and a lot of bike rental options – some for free – as a way of promoting environmentally friendly transport.Back to top