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9 Best Things to Do in Kochi, Japan

Are you looking for some amazing things to do in Kochi, Japan? Read on to get a complete, unbiased overview of this beautiful Japanese city.

Kochi is one of the friendliest cities in the world, with a warm culture and incredibly inviting locals.

Located along the southwest coast of Shikoku island, Kochi is the capital of Kochi Prefecture.

There are plenty of stunning places to visit for sightseeing and activities to enjoy as a tourist.  In fact, you can simply never run short of things to do in Kochi.

The city has an abundance of sunshine and soothing water flows of the clear streams, rivers, and extensive coastlines.

As a tourist, you can explore some of the most beautiful Kochi attractions and sceneries, starting from the city center before proceeding to other places in the countryside.

Getting a camper van or a rental car can make exploring Kochi pretty hustle-free and enjoyable.  But if that’s not a viable option, you’re still not limited as the transport system in this place is superb.

The good thing about Kochi city is that the streets aren’t as congested as many cities around the world.

And, you can access some of the best sightseeing spots and campgrounds quickly, even by just walking.

Top Things to Do in Kochi

Of the many amazing things to do in Kochi, here are some that you can’t afford to miss on your list.

1. Go to the Drinking Dorome-Matsuri Festival

People Dancing During Matsuri Festival
Evelyn-rose/ Public Domain

In Kochi Prefecture, a drinking festival is held each year in late April. It climaxes with ‘Taihai Nomihoshi Taikai,’ a stiff competition to determine who can drink sake (rice wine) the fastest.

Women get 0.9 liters of sake while men get 1.8 liters in a big cup. So far, men’s fastest time record is 12.5 seconds while that of women stands at 0.8 seconds. And, since some people get sick after participating in this festival, they have doctors at the site, just in case.

The women’s competition lucky winner is rewarded free visits to different events around Kochi Prefecture the following year. Here, pictures of her taking the drink are dispersed.

Whoever wins this competition for at least 3 years in a row acquires the title “The Doctor of Drinking.” This label is a source of pride in Kochi.

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2. Attend the Yosakai Dance Festival

Yosakai is another great festival with origins in Kochi. Watching this unique dance style, especially in Kochi, where it originated, would certainly offer a great feeling.

The first Yosakai dance was held here in 1954 but has since spread throughout Japan. As of 2005, the Yosakoi festivals and competitions were held in over 200 locations.

Yosakai dance is a highly energetic dance that combines Japanese movements with modern music. The dances are choreographed by large teams of men and women of almost all ages. The number of people in the competition increases yearly, and as of 2005, over 10,000 people participated in it.

Yosakai rules of competition include:

  • Those participating must use the Naruko clappers in their dance.
  • Participants are free to use musical arrangements of choice, although the music must at least have a section of Takemasa’s original style (Yosakoi Naruko Dancing).
  • Each dance team shouldn’t exceed 150 members.

This popular event is mostly held during sports festivals. It is held not only by the Yosakai schools and town dance teams but also by the elementary, junior, and senior high school students. The festival takes place every August, meaning that if you happen to visit Kochi this month, you’ll have a chance to attend this incredible festival.

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3. Visit the Kochi Castle (Kōchi-jō)

Kochi Castle

If you’re in Kochi, Japan, the Kochi castle should also top your list of things to see in Kochi. It is one of the most beautiful castles out of the 12 main castles in Japan.

Believed to have been built between 1601 and 1611, the Kochi castle is a remarkable complex. While a massive fire destroyed the temple in 1927, it was fully re-built in 1749. It is located in Kochi city and surrounded by fifteen castle structures, a picturesque moat, and beautiful parks.

As a tourist, you can explore the insides of the Kochi Castle Museum and the Keep for less than 500 yen. The Keep observatory is a viewpoint place where you can go and watch the city’s magnificent surroundings.

The castle is just a 20-minute walk away, but if not in a position to walk, you can catch the tram from the JR train station using a transport pass. If you’re coming in from the street, you’ll need to pass through large defensive gates before you climb up a hill to the main building located at the peak.

This remarkable castle is unique because, unlike other castles in Japan, it was used both for military and residential purposes. So, when walking through it, you’ll see beautifully manicured gardens, cozy living rooms, plus a 5 level tower where the soldiers would defend it from.

Just near the Kochi castle, you’ll come across the Yosakoi Inari shrine, a place worth stopping at. Here, you’ll find plenty of chickens, particularly beautiful roosters. Locals have made statues and sculptures in different designs representing these interesting roosters.

4. Meet and Chat with Locals as You Dine at Hirome Ichiba (Hirome Market)

Hirome market is also a famous landmark in Kochi city. Here, locals chat with friends in Japanese, and they also don’t shy away from starting conversations even with tourists in English. There’s a lively atmosphere that makes you feel instantly welcome.

Hirome market is a prominent meeting hub for locals and visitors to sample local and international flavors as they share stories. This indoor building market has around 65 different street restaurant-style stalls and bars packed with locals eating, drinking, and chatting. In Kochi, anytime is drinking time and so when you visit, be prepared to find a friendly drinking surrounding.

In this place, you can find all sorts of things from meat butcheries, fresh fish shops, unique souvenir shops, local alcohols and beer bars, and clothing boutiques.  The market is well-organized with long spacious tables and ordering areas. This open-style encourages a warm interaction of locals, with each other and even with strangers.

Seared pieces of bonito tuna, locally called ‘Katsuo no tataki,’ is a must-have delicacy when in Hirome Market.  Katsuo is prepared outside with an impressive demonstration and large flames rising over straw pits. Once it’s cooked, it’s sliced, seared with a pinch of salt, and served.

As I said earlier, you can never run out of things to do in Kochi. Visit Hirome market, grab a seat in the general area, then choose and enjoy a wide variety of foods and drinks from different stalls.

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5. Bask in Katsurahama Beach

The Katsurahama beach is another highlight in Kochi Prefecture. It is a one-hour ride from Kochi station and the last stop on My Yu bus route at Kochi city’s outskirts.

The beaches’ natural beauty and stunning landscapes are something you’ll marvel at. Since ancient times, this beach is known as a place for viewing the moon.

At one end of the beach, there is the Ryuogu Shrine, a small Japanese shrine accessible by a walking trail.  On the other end is the unique dense traditional Japanese pine grove hanging behind the beach sands, contrasting perfectly with the blue ocean right in front.

The interesting areas sites in Katsurahama Beach include:

  • The famous Sakamoto Ryoma, 14-meter bronze statue
  • Souvenir shops
  • Katsurahama Aquarium
  • Restaurants that serve different meals, including the Japanese famous Katsuo no tataki

The beach is only for sightseeing as swimming is forbidden due to strong waves and currents. Katsurahama Beach is a lovely spot to explore and to rest on a hot sunny afternoon. In the evening, you can catch an express bus at the bus stop, which will take you back to Kochi city center.

6. Enjoy Nature Walk at the Makino Botanical Garden

Walking around the Makino Botanical Garden paths is one of the best things to do in Kochi.  It was opened in 1958 to honor one of the world-renown botanists, Dr. Tomitaro Makino (1862-1957).

The garden is one of the most all-inclusive botanical gardens in Japan.  The outdoor garden is full of seasonal plants, and the indoors has an expansive greenhouse with over 3,000 species of tropical plants.  In Makino garden, there is a flower garden, medicinal plants garden, other types of gardens, and interesting spots.

Why don’t you visit the place and get lost in the trails while watching unique and enhanced plant species?  There’s a unique plant in this garden whose leaves resemble a goldfish, which you can actually buy as a souvenir if you so wish.

And, for those interested in knowing more about the botanist Makino achievements and the botanical garden developments in Japan, they can visit the museum hall displays.

So, if you’re not sure of what to see in Kochi, Makino Botanical Garden is one of the places you shouldn’t miss.  It’s a great place worth paying a visit. When done, you may exit on the other side and catch a My Yu bus to your next destination.

7. Climb to the Great Viewpoint of Godaisan Observatory

Kochi cityscape panorama from Godaisan mountain Observatory in Kochi, Shikoku, Japan
Sanga/ Adobe Stock

Located on the small Mt. Godaisan outside of Kochi city is the Godaisan observatory, a great viewpoint in Shikoku. It’s one of the most beautiful places with mountains and waterways surrounding it. From this viewpoint, you can enjoy an impressive Kochi city view, including the Kagami River and Kochi Harbor.

There is a café where you can sit, enjoy a cup of coffee and snacks as you view the surrounding areas. From here, you can then walk down the hill to visit the Chikurin-Ji Temple.

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8. Visit Chikurin-Ji Temple

Ever heard of the famous Shikoku pilgrimage that goes up to 88 Buddhist temples? Chikurin-Ji is number 31 of these temples.

Founded in the 8th century, the place is an attractive temple complex worth paying a visit. In its treasure hall, you’ll find fascinating statutes and scrolls. The main highlight in this temple is the 5-story pagoda found on the raised part of the site.

In this place, you can enjoy watching pilgrims walking through the temple wearing conical hats and white shirts. It’s such a remarkable thing to see this bit of a significant religious journey.

Chikurin Temple is located in Godaisan, just a five-minute walk from the Makino Botanical Garden. Its outdoor area is peaceful and covered with serene forests and moss-covered gardens.

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9. Walk down the nature trails of Shikoku Karst Natural Park

Green Field View of Shikoku Karst Natural Park in Kochi
Eric’s library/ Adobe Stock

You can’t go to Kochi and fail to visit the Shikoku Karst Natural Park. The park is known as the roof of Shikoku as it is located in an elevated place, with scattered white limestone and sinkholes that are cone-shaped.

In Shikoku Karst Natural Park, visitors get the calming and therapeutic effects of walking down beautiful nature paths and magnificent viewpoints. The area is also home to a vast number of pastured milk cows.

In the park, there are trails that have been built and covered with cypress woodchips in the forested areas. In the park, there is a path of softwood chips called the ‘Forest Therapy Road,’ which is located in the Tengu Kogen Highlands.

In this park, you’ll be fascinated by the incredible views of the starry night sky and stars known to be close enough to reach out and touch. This Nature Park should definitely top your things to do in Kochi.

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