[From August Issue 2013]
Kochi Prefecture is located in southern Shikoku, facing the Pacific Ocean. Although there are a number of famous people from Kochi, the best-known is SAKAMOTO Ryoma. A samurai who worked to modernize Japan in the 19th century, Ryoma is considered to be a historical figure admired by many Japanese. Standing at the square in front of JR Kochi Station, the gateway to the prefecture, are statues of “san shishi” (three samurai who devoted themselves to the same cause): Sakamoto Ryoma and his two contemporaries, TAKECHI Hanpeita and NAKAOKA Shintaro. Kochi is also the location for “Kencho Omotenashi-ka” (The Prefectural Government’s Entertainment Section), a movie released in May. In a corridor at the prefectural office, the actual film set has been reproduced and is open to the public free of charge till September 23.
Kochi Castle, standing right beside the prefectural office, was built by YAMANOUCHI Kazutoyo in the 17th century. Kazutoyo’s wife, Chiyo, is known among Japanese for having been a good wife dedicated to the success of her husband, and many TV dramas about her have been produced. Kochi Castle is the only castle in the country that retains its entire keep (the central tower). Depending on the day of the week, there are volunteer guides available who speak English, Chinese or Korean.
The “Yosakoi” is hugely popular in many parts of Japan, but it originates in Kochi. The Yosakoi Naruko dance consists of a team of performers dancing to music while marching in lines. The Yosakoi Festival in Kochi is held from August 9 through August 12 every year, with this year marking its 60th anniversary. During the event, you can see dynamic dances at 16 locations in Kochi City.
Facing the Pacific Ocean, Kochi offers opportunities to enjoy whale watching and dolphin watching. From April to October, cruise ships depart from eight ports in the prefecture to allow tourists to watch schools of dolphins and over-10-meter-long whales swimming about. The Shimanto River, the most famous river in Kochi Prefecture, is the longest in Shikoku. You can try canoeing and rafting on it, and a cruise on a pleasure boat is another tourist attraction.
Forty seven chinkabashi (low water crossings) across the Shimanto River are popular locations for taking photographs or for shooting scenes for TV dramas. Chinkabashi are bridges without parapets, designed to go under water; preventing them from collapsing during floods. One of these bridges is used as a “virgin road” (an aisle for a bride to walk down) and some couples have their weddings on it. Called “a miracle of clear streams,” the Niyodo River also attracts the attention of many photographers. Highly translucent, between August and October the river takes on a particularly beautiful blue color named “Niyodo blue.”
Muroto Geopark in Muroto City was designated as a Global Geopark in 2011. It was created after earth and sand flowing from the continent into the ocean accumulated at the bottom of the sea and then rose up due to the subduction of the oceanic plates caused by earthquakes and so forth. There is a boardwalk in place so that visitors can closely observe this geological heritage produced by dynamic changes in nature. At Muroto Dolphin Center, also in Muroto City, you can put on a wet suit and swim with dolphins.
Cape Ashizuri in Tosashimizu City offers a 270-degree panoramic view. If you stand in the middle of the houiban (a metal plate showing directions) at the observatory and shout, your voice echoes and sounds like that of another person, which is quite a mysterious phenomenon. You can occasionally spot green turtles swimming below the lighthouse. Tatsukushi Marine Park, located nearby, is the first marine park in Japan, allowing visitors to see coral reefs and oddly-shaped rocks.
Kochi is not only blessed with rivers and the sea. Forests cover 84 percent of its landmass and the prefecture also has a number of mountains suitable for hiking and forest therapy. A popular spot for paragliding, it holds large competitions, attracting visitors from across the country.
Allowing tourists to have various experiences at one place is Tosawashi Kogeimura Qraud in Agawa-gun, which houses a hotel and a spa. At paper pressing and weaving sessions, you can create a work of your own. You can also enjoy rafting and canoeing. At Blacksmith’s Shop Toyokuni in Nankoku City, knife making lessons are given in English.
All Japanese children are familiar with the character Anpanman. His creator, YANASE Takashi, is from Kochi Prefecture. The Anpanman Museum in Kami City recreates the world of Anpanman. Seven stone statues of Anpanman characters stand on Yanase Takashi Road in Nankoku.
Kaiyodo Hobby Museum Shimanto exhibits Kaiyodo’s numerous collections and its latest figurines. Nicknamed “the remote museum,” it’s located at the end of a narrow mountain path, despite this it draws a number of visitors from all over the country. The Diorama Class, which teaches you to make a miniature garden of your own, is popular. The nearby Kaiyodo Kappa Museum is a kappa (Japanese youkai) theme museum. It has 1,300 kappa figures on display.
The most famous local dish in Kochi is seared bonito. Single-hook fishing, a method of catching bonitos without harming their bodies, is well known. The prefecture has the largest ratio of bonito consumption in Japan, five times the national average. There are a number of dishes using fresh bonito and also many processed products made with various parts of the fish.
With a mild climate even in winter, Kochi is suitable for growing vegetables and fruits. In particular, the prefecture produces a wide variety of citrus fruits. It boasts the largest production of yuzu in Japan, with numerous yuzu products available for sale, such as juices and bath salts. Other local products include cutlery – which has been produced in the region for 400 years – Muroto deep seawater, which contains plenty of minerals, and coral goods, which European buyers call “tosa.”
Another attraction is various markets such as Kayou-ichi (Tuesday Market), Usa Doyou-ichi (Usa Saturday Market) and Kochi Organic Market. At the biggest one, Nichiyou-ichi (Sunday Market), there are about 500 tents set up, as well as a resting area. Those participating in the market will show you how to eat and preserve vegetables and fruits, so please feel free to ask them.
It takes about one and a half hours to fly from Haneda Aiport in Tokyo to Kochi Ryoma Airport. If you’re using JR trains, you can ride a shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo Station to Okayama, which takes approximately three hours and twenty minutes, and then get to Kochi Station on the Nanpuu Express in roughly two and a half hours.