Kōchi is a city in the southern part of Shikoku, in a prefecture of the same name. Looking at the rail system, a trip from Matsuyama to Kōchi via Uwajima might have been a better plan, but I wanted to be in Kōchi on the weekend when the bus service would be running more frequently and I could catch the Sunday Market.
I decided to grab an early morning train from Takamatsu so I could maximize my stay in Kōchi. Ideally I wanted three days here, but to make my connection to Mt. Koya I would need a stopover in Tokoshima on Sunday. Arriving around 10:30am, I dropped my luggage off at the hotel and headed out for some sightseeing.
Under the railway through town
First stop was the castle, Kōchi-jō, originally built in the 17th century and mostly intact – only one of about a dozen in all of Japan. Looking at the map, I decided to take a detour on the way and head towards the location of the Friday market to see if anything was still going on. Mostly a fresh produce market, there were a variety of items available for purchase – mostly food in one form or another. What struck me was the women staffing the various stalls – they seemed almost from another time, like they’d been doing this for as long as the market had every been open.
From the market to the castle there were two shrines and a temple on the map – so I figured I might just as well take them in too. Nothing too much of note different than other shrines and temples around Japan.
In case you’re wondering what the difference is, Temples are associated with Buddhism and tend to be larger and more elaborate, while shrines are associated with Shinto, a religion native to Japan that has more to do with day to day life than the afterlife.
A few blocks away I entered a park on the northwest side of the castle and wandered around for a bit. A few photos of flowers, but nothing specific of interest. Making my way towards the back entrance of Kōchi-jō, I could here a lot of yelling, some shrikes, and the distinct sound of two wooden staffs coming together. Just outside the park area there appeared to be a five storey building with a lot of activity inside. I can’t read the sign, but if I had to guess I’d say it was a martial arts training centre, and the activity I had heard was a group of women doing naginata. Perhaps someone with Japanese skills can translate the signage for me to confirm. That said, as a sport in grade or high school this sounds a heck of a lot better for you than wasting time playing dodgeball….
A hike up the hill to Kōchi-jō was next. It was nice to see an actual castle with some original structure left to it, rather than a partial or complete reconstruction (please, stop it with the concrete). The view from the top out of the city really helped confirm that we were literally surrounded by hills and mountains.
It was getting rather cold outside, and so I decided it was time to head out. For those that don’t know, Kōchi is the hometown of renowned historical figure Sakamoto Ryoma, and the subject of a recent NHK JDrama (Japanese Drama) series I had been watching. I wandered by his place of birth, and then headed to the museum around the corner.
Kōchi is a pleasant city to wander around in, with a nice vibe – big enough, yet with a small town kind of feel to it. I met someone from Vancouver who was travelling around Japan as well, and from our discussion it sounded like he was thinking of staying in Kōchi to look for a job teaching english – he was that impressed with the city.
After the museum and checking in at the hotel, I headed out for dinner. The speciality in Kōchi is katsuo tataki (lightly seared bonito fish). I found a spot and for a change had fish – the special, plus some saba (mackeral) sashimi.
On my way back to the hotel, I took some photos of the locals doing their thing – cooking up sweets, cycling home, playing music, or drawing/painting.