One Week in Kochi, Japan's Hidden Gem
Kochi is a relatively unknown destination which we at Omakase Tours really love. We were lucky enough to go there in both Spring and Autumn this year. I will introduce the spots we visited over the course of one week, and include some bonus spots that we didn't have time to see on the most recent trip.
Chikurinji Temple is the 31st stop along the Shikoku O-henro (88 Temple Pilgrimage). It is famous for its large gardens and colourful 5-story pagoda. The temple is located on top of Mount Godaisan about 5 kilometers southeast of downtown Kochi. The best time of year to visit here is in Autumn as the garden houses many maple trees, however the green moss carpeting the gardens means that it is lovely even in Summer.
Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden
Adjacent to Chikurinji are the Makino Botanical Gardens. Opened to the public in April 1958, the Makino Botanical Garden honors the remarkable achievements of local botanist Tomitaro Makino. They have over 3000 species of plants on display over six hectares of garden. Make sure you visit the conservatory to see giant lily pads and beautiful orchids. The conservatory is also a highlight, even housing an indoor waterfall. You can spend the morning strolling around these gardens and Chikurinji Temple, and then rest for lunch at open-air Restaurant Arbre which is located inside the park.
Ohenro Walking Experience
People usually undertake the 88 Temple Pilgrimage over several days, walking from temple to temple. We just walked for a short time, from Chikurinji to Zenjubuji to Sekkeiji. It was nice to complete a small part of this sacred trek. If you want to do the same, simply choose a few temples on the list and plan your walk.
Hirome Market sits right next to Kochi Castle and has about 65 stalls selling food, drinks and local products. There are many tables set up where people like to gather to eat and drink. It is very bustling because it is popular both with locals and tourists. Due to the Covid situation, everyone is now required to wear a mask inside when not eating.
Constructed at the beginning of the 17th century, Kochi Castle is the only castle in Japan where the original tenshu and honmaru (castle tower and main keep) are still standing. You can view this fairly quickly so don't need to allocate too much time to the castle.
Ino-Chuo Paper Museum
Kochi is famous for its traditional paper making known as 'washi'. At the Ino Paper Museum you can learn how they make washi paper from collecting the branches of the tree all the way until the final product. You can even try your hand at making your own washi postcards.
On day 2 we reached the Niyodo River, known for its stunning blue colour. A short way up the river is the Nakatsu Gorge, a cool green paradise lined with an easily-walkable path which weaves between bright aqua rock pools and past a tremendous waterfall.
Nakatsu Keikoku Yunomori Onsen
Right by the gorge entrance is this hot spring inn. It has a gender separated open air bath which is open to both hotel guests and the public. You can eat lunch on their outdoor veranda here for less than 1000 yen.
Canyoning at Niyodo Adventure
One of the highlights if you love adventure (we do!). A really natural location in crystal clear water, doable even when we went in chilly November (wetsuits provided). Niyodo Adventure offers English language canyoning tours where you will climb through caves, jump into the water, slide down natural waterslides and learn about the river.
Mukai Craft Brewing
Just opened on November 1st 2020, they advertise by saying "Delicious beers, tasty dishes, fun activities, and beautiful nature. Children, pets, designated drivers... everyone is welcome! Enjoy a nature walk with your beer!" They learned their craft in California before moving to Kochi, where they use the fine water of the Niyodo River to make their brews.
Stand up Paddle Boarding at Suggoi Sports Niyodo
This was another highlight. It wasn't just rent the board and mess around, it was a full tour down the river, through some mangroves, down small creeks. This was a great chance to see Autumn colours from the river and to learn about the river's ecosystem. Doable in cold weather too, we fell in and were fine!
Cycling Experience along Shimanto River
The Shimanto area is well-equipped with rent-a-cycle terminals from which you are able to rent or drop off your bike at any of them. There is a road running alongside sections of the river that is perfect for cycling. It has very few hills so is suitable for anyone. We rode past the sparking river, tea fields and country houses. The chinkabashi (submersible bridges) made for some great photo stops too. Chinkabashi are submersible bridges that are designed without side rails to reduce the risk of the bridge being washed away during a flood.
Roman Senba Boat Cruise Experience
To rest our weary legs after the cycling, we took a river tour in a traditional Japanese sail boat known as "senba". They were formerly used to transport and carry a whole range of daily commodities over watershed areas of the Shimanto River from the middle of the Meiji to Taisho and Showa periods. It was lovely and calming as we were blessed with sunny and mild weather.
A knife-making workshop surrounded by green mountains and Shimanto River scenery. We experienced turning iron sand into a knife. This was very memorable and an excellent way to learn about Japanese knife making culture.
Glass Boat Experience at Tatsukushi Beach (Including the Minokoshi Coast)
I was surprised to learn that there were tropical fish and coral reefs in the waters off Kochi, but indeed there are. Not quite Okinawa, however still very beautiful, the Tatsukushi area offers a glass boat tour where one can view the coral and fish below, while taking in the breathtaking scenery of interesting rock formations created by the power of nature.
Cape Ashizuri and Ashizuri Underwater Aquarium
Cape Ashizuri is the Southernmost cape in Shikoku and it offers hiking paths, wonderful seaside views and even onsen. We hiked along a 2km hiking trail through the seaside cliffs, stopping at many mysterious Buddhist monuments and shrines along the way. We stopped at the Ashizuri Underwater Aquarium, where visitors can descend 7 metres below sea level to watch the marine life swimming freely through the underwater windows.
Temple number 38 on Shikoku's 88-temple pilgrimage and one of my personal favourites. Sitting atop a cliff overlooking the sea at Cape Ashizuri, the temple grounds are populated by fascinating bottisatva statues and tributes to the deity Senju Kannon Bosatsu. It has a large and impressive pond in the middle full of carp fish and a different feel to the usual tree and moss setting of a temple.
Sunset at Cape Ashizuri
At the end of the day, we watched the sunset from the cliffs on Cape Ashizuri. It was worth coming here just for this, it was such a clear sunset, absolutely stunning.
Bonito Grilling Experience at Kuroshio Honjin
We went to this bonito fish restaurant which overlooked the Kure fishing town. There we did an interesting experience - bonito searing. We held the fish on giant rake-like things and cooked them over an open flame fuelled by straw. They made a tasty lunch!
Other nice places of interest:
If you are interested in taking a trip to Kochi, we can arrange everything for you according to your wishes. You can receive a Go To Campaign 35% discount on transport, hotels and activities! Click here to see our custom tour page.