Yamauchi Shrine was originally built in 1871 in honor of the former rulers of Tosa Province. The Yamauchi family ruled from Kochi Castle for 16 generations. The original shrine was destroyed by bombings in WWII. The shrine was not rebuilt until 1970. This is the shrine you see today. Most of the shrine itself is ordinary. Within the shrine grounds is a turtle stone.
The highlight of the shrine is its treasure house. Unfortunately, the treasure house was closed the day I visited. It houses thousands of treasures owned by the Yamauchi family. If I return to Kochi, I definitely want to visit the museum.
The shrine is free. The Treasure House is 300 yen.
Kochi city sits in a unique geographic location. Within the city is the point 133*33'33"East Longituge, 33*33'33" North Latitude. The number 33 appears in all six coordinates (and the number 3 appears 12 times), which is very rare. Only 9 other places on the planet share this distinction. Those are in Nigeria, Indonesia, Guinea, Botswana, Libya, and 3 in Russia. It is said that this one is the most easily accessible.
The Chikyu 33 Banchi is a monument that pinpoints the exact spot (which is on the Enokuchi River), so you can stand at 133*33'33"East Longituge, 33*33'33" North Latitude.
Most people probably don't associate Japan with dog fighting, but it was once a relatively popular spectator sport. There were trainers from around the country entering their dogs to compete in contests. Now however, most parts of the country outlaw dog fights, but here in Kochi the tradition has survived. The Tosa dog breed is a mix that was created and bred specifically for the purpose of dog fights. The breed is actually banned in many countries.
Visitors can see the dog fights at the Tosa Dog Fighting Center in Katsurahama. After you buy your ticket and go upstairs you can take a look at the small dog fighting museum with memorabilia, news articles, and other items related to the fights.
I was admittedly a bit nervous as I waited in the stands before the fight, but I was curious to witness this unique part of Kochi culture, so I waited. The fight I witnessed was not as gruesome as I imagined. Prior to the fight people were able to pet Tosa pups and the trainer showed everyone how the rumpled skin of the dog made its skin naturally stretchy so many of the body bites were not painful for the dogs. That could not be said for the ears, which the dogs were quick to target. The fight didn't last long, but it was definitely interesting. The dogs fight with a lot of fervor and some fights must certainly be harder to watch than others. The fights are certainly not for everyone, but if you have any interest, this is the only place in Japan to see it.
There are a few fights per day, so be sure to check the times before coming if you plan to see a fight. Fights cost 1500 yen. If you just want to see the museum (and perhaps pet some pups), you can do that for 500 yen.
The Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum is one of the sites in Katsurahama. It's a two-story museum dedicated to Sakamoto Ryoma. Most of the museum features information about Ryoma with replicas of famous things associated with him, such as his Smith and Wesson gun. As a "memorial museum" its purpose is mainly to educate visitors about Ryoma however, the museum does have a few authentic letters written by Ryoma.
One highlight of the museum is the great view on the second floor terrace. You can see the coast and a lighthouse not visible from Katsurahama Beach.
Outside of the museum is a statue of Ryoma with his had out. It's a popular photo op to shake hands with it. It's supposed to be life-size.
Entrance if 400 yen.
Ryomaden is the name of a popular TV drama about Sakamoto Ryoma, the Kochi-born samurai reformer. The Ryomaden in Kochi contains the sets and props used as Ryoma's house in the drama, including clothing and the famous pistol. Those who are familiar with the series will probably find it fun and interesting to walk through. Those who have not seen the drama may still be interested for the sake of the 'time slip' feeling of walking through buildings reminiscent of old Japan. It may also be of interest to those who find themselves with time to spare around the station, because the Ryomaden is located just outside Kochi Station on the right on the opposite side of the Tourist Information Center building.
Entrance is 500 yen.
In the area between Kamimachi-Itchome Tram Stop and the Kagami River (Kagamigawa) are many sites related to native samurai, Sakamoto Ryoma.
The first site, located right on the main road is a monument marking the site of Ryoma's actual birthplace. In front of the monument is a bench featuring Ryoma and guns like those used by him and others in his day.
The Ryoma Birthplace Memorial Museum is another highlight of the area. It features exhibits that educate visitors about life in Ryoma's days as well as Ryoma himself. There are English audio guides, so it's a great stop for those who want to learn but don't know Japanese.
By the river, the scenic Hineno Path was frequented by Ryoma for his kendo training when he was a teenager.
Sakamoto Ryoma is said to have played around the small Akiba Shrine when he was a child.
In the lobby of Hotel Nansui there is a reproduction of one of Ryoma's garbs made in his exact size. Anyone may enter to look at it.
Nishimura is a film development store but in addition they also sell "Ikemen Ryoma" goods ("Ikemen" are cool and attractive men). They are anime depictions of Sakamoto Ryoma and other men related to him. They've become very famous recently and you can buy them here or at select souvenir shops in the city.
The Sakamoto Ryoma Post Office is the final unique Ryoma site in this area. There is a statue of Ryoma outside. Inside, there are special stamps that you can put on postcards (or anything else) that signify you are sending from this special post office. It's especially nice to buy the Gotochi Postcard at the counter featuring Ryoma's face and then stamp the back with one of the post office's special stamps.
All of these sites are located in the same relative area between the tram stop and the river, so it's nice for people who enjoy historic walks and especially those interested in Sakamoto Ryoma.
Katsurahama is a coastal beach area, but swimming is not the reason people visit. Actually, swimming is prohibited, because the currents are too strong. Instead, people come for the scenic view of the water and coast. It's well-known for its beauty and even though Japan has plenty of coastlines, many people don't actually go to appreciate them, so it's something different from the usual attractions.
Along with the beach, there is a monument of Ryoma Sakamoto, a Kochi native who helped bring and end to feudalism in Japan and usher in the Meiji Period. There is also a museum dedicated to him here. A small marine aquarium can also be found here. They do some water shows.
Another popular and famous thing in Katsurahama are the dog fights. They are held daily at certain times. When I went the dog fights were scheduled too late for me to stay, so I did not get to see them. They are definitely not for everyone though.
There is no entrance fee to Katsurahama however, the museum, aquarium, and dog fights each have their own fees.
Kochi Castle as you see it today dates back to 1748, making it one of the few original castles in Japan. It is particularly great because all of the structures are original and intact, which is not the case for most of the other original castles. Kochi Castle belonged to the feudal lords of the Tosa Kingdom, the former name Kochi Prefecture, and the lord actually lived in this castle which is quite unusual.
Although the main keep (donjon) may look small, don't be deceived. Upon entry, you will find that the castle is actually 5 stories high! Inside there are exhibits and replicas of the castle and surrounding area as it was in the feudal times. As you look at the inside of the castle and ascend the stairs, do take the time to look out the windows, because the view of the city amidst the surrounding mountains is beautiful!
Outside the castle, the castle walls and main gate are all intact and well-preserved. You can roam around the castle grounds for free. Entrance to Kochi Castle is only 400 yen.
Harimayabashi Bridge is esentially just a small red bridge but the story associated with it is what makes it a nice attraction. It is said that long ago a monk from Godaisan fell in love with a woman, which was strictly forbidden for holy men. They kept their relationship a secret until one day someone saw the monk buying a hairpin by Harimayabashi Bridge. Because a monk would have no reason to purchase such a thing, everyone then knew he had relations with a woman. In order to avoid punishment the two lovers fled the city together.
The Yosakoi Bushi (song of Kochi's famous Yosakoi festival) begins with a reference to this story, mentioned seeing a monk buying a hairpin.
The bridge is free to see and the park around the bridge is actually quite pretty.
We just got back from our 3-week trip to Japan. Of course we had a great time checking out temples in Kyoto and all that Japanese stuff. However the best thing we did on our trip was Rafting in Shikoku. It was such a beautiful place and the river was absolutely awesome. We did the one-day trip with this company called happy raft. Check out their homepage at www.happyraft.com
The guide Mezza was such a laugh. We had a wicked time going over the biggest rapids with him. We also did this massive cliff jump into the river.
After the trip we stayed at the guesthouse, which was so cheap for Japan, only like 3000 yen or something. It was up on the mountain with this killer view. We had a bbq and just chilled out. It was one of the best experiences we have ever had. We really recommend doing this if your going to Japan this summer.
Kochi prefecture in Shikoku Island is famous for its beaches and has some good surfing spots. While most of the beaches are covered in garbage there are some jewels down in the south west corner of the island. You can swim at these beaches unlike many of the beaches near Kochi city which are dangerous due to the strong rips. This beach like several others is almost garbage free. You almost feel like you are on a tropical island looking down the beach as its one of the few places in Japan where you don't see any buildings. Summer is hot in Japan so go early, I suggest getting to the beach at about 8 am. As for the surf its generally small. You can find some great beach breaks for beginners. Swell is fickle except in summer when typhoons create swells that can last for a few days. Enough said. If you plan on getting here you need to hire a car and take a few 100 yen coins so you can have a shower and buy a cool drink from a vending machine when your done.
The botanical gardens has an extensive network of gardens for a small city. Its a great place to relax, enjoy nature and escape from city life. As the gardens sit high above the city of Kochi a walk through the gardens offers spectacular views of the surrounding areas. If you are in Kochi its well worth a visit in spring and early summer.
A must do if you are in Kochi is to try Katsuo tataki, or bonito which has been very lightly cooked on the outside.
You should be able to get this delicacy just about anywhere in Kochi.
Here's a photo of me enjoying dinner with katsuo being part of the meal.
This beach is dotted with signs saying 'No Swimming'. It is nevertheless a popular tourist destination in Kochi. There is a statue of Sakamoto Ryoma a local hero, an aquarium right on the beach and a demonstration on dog and long-tailed rooster fights. (We didn't see this but Kochi is well known for it).
On the cliff edge to the right of the beach is this beautiful shrine pictured here.
You will find lots of food on the market. I grabbed little snacks here and there. And I bought some cooking knives - Japanese style. The knives just look awesome with the Japanese characters on the blade. They are sharp as hell!