With mountains in the north and ocean to the south, Kochi has the best of rural, coastal and city attractions.
The capital of Kochi Prefecture, on the edge of Urado Bay, is a laid-back place with a subtropical climate, friendly residents and plenty of attractions. It's a must-see stop on any trip to the island of Shikoku.
Much has been done in recent years to make Kochi more accessible for international visitors. In March 2019, the city opened a Tourist Information Center in Obiyama near the front entrance of Hirome Market. Check it out for information in multiple languages, either via leaflets or the multilingual staff. There’s also an AI-supported app, available in English, Chinese and Korean, to help you get around.
Before you arrive, here are some ideas of where to explore.
1. Kochi Castle
Perched on top of a hill and standing five stories tall, Kochi Castle has a commanding presence. It's one of only 12 castles in Japan with its original castle tower and main keep, which both date from the 18th century.
There are many rare 17th- and 18th-century features throughout the original structure. The oldest, dating from 1664, is the otemon (main gate). Don’t forget to take a photo or two here; you’ll be able to fit both the main gate and tower into the shot — this is rarely possible at other castle sites in Japan.
After checking out the castle, the environs are worth a stroll. Fifteen of the buildings on the grounds are designated Important National Cultural Properties. Kochi Castle Museum of History, Prefectural Archery Hall and Kochi Literary Museum are all located nearby.
2. Sunday Market
Kochi’s Sunday Market, or Nichiyo Ichi, is said to be one of the oldest and largest bazaars in Japan. It has been attracting thousands of people to peruse its stalls every week for more than 300 years.
To fully appreciate the lively atmosphere, take a stroll along the market’s entire length — more than half a mile (1 km). Organisers estimate there are about 400 vendors, most specialising in only a handful of types of product.
There is fresh and natural produce, such as fruits, vegetables, flowers and plants, as well as breads, confections and other food items. Why not take home some of the many local products? The prefecture is particularly well-known for its delicious tomato, ginger, buntan (pomelo) and green tea. For visitors looking for a snack or light meal, there are also numerous stalls selling juices, savoury bites and sweets.
The market is a great place to pick up traditional handicrafts that are unique to the local area, such as colourful fishing boat flags, mini bonsai and hand-carved wooden masks. The more popular items sell out quickly, so be sure to peruse the wares well before pack-up time in the late afternoon.
3. Monet’s Garden Marmottan
Step into the world of French impressionist Claude Monet (1840–1926) in the stunning Monet’s Garden Marmottan. The famous painter’s best-known works of landscapes, flowers and lily ponds are recreated in the village of Kitagawa, just over an hour’s drive from downtown Kochi.
A replica of Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France, the oasis was created in close collaboration with the Claude Monet Foundation, to be faithful to every aspect of Monet’s art.
There are three distinct areas — the Water Garden, the Flower Garden and the Garden of Bordighera — each a haven of tranquillity. The multi-coloured waterlilies and year-round blooming trellises are especially impressive.
4. Dainichi-ji Temple
Dainichi-ji, near Konan, is the 28th temple in the 88-temple pilgrimage of Shikoku, a 1,200-kilometre (746-mile) route traversing the island thought to be established in the late 16th or early 17th century.
According to legend, a priest named Gyoki founded Dainichi-ji in the 8th century. The small temple is located on a hill and surrounded by lush, sub-tropical greenery. It is believed that a visit to this temple can cure illnesses in the upper part of the visitor’s body.
Dainichi-ji is about 30 minutes by train from Kochi Station.
Find out more
For more details about Kochi City, visit its official page.