Kochi is the latest place I’ve visited on my world ventures.
After spending a few days in the area I felt equal measures of awe and heartbreak.
The wonderment was discovering a fascinating new part of the world, a place that appealed to my sense of adventure just as much as its food appealed to my taste buds.
The heartbreak was knowing I didn’t have enough time to do/eat everything.
The more I discussed Kochi with other travelers, locals, and expats the more I realized this place isn’t even on the radar for most people.
Most travelers rarely stray from to the well-trodden tourist trail of Tokyo, Kyoto, and a couple other places.
In the hopes of persuading you to get away from the bigger cities and explore rural areas, I’ve painstakingly crafted this guide to Kochi, Japan.
As you read on you’ll discover the in’s and out’s, why you should visit, and the best things to do in Kochi.
The first question we need answer is where exactly is Kochi.
Kochi Prefecture spans almost the entire south-east side of the Japanese island on Shikoku.
This makes it both an easy and convenient destination as well as leaves you without an excuse to visit!
Kochi is also very close to Kyoto and Okayama.
There are also buses and trains to Kochi. However, they are all priced around the same so the quickest and easiest way is by plane.
Kochi is a little different from other areas of Japan for a few reasons. Kochi offers lush forest, tall mountains, cultural experiences, epic adventures, mouthwatering food, and last (but certainly not least) sake. This combines some of the best experiences that Japan has to offer in one location! How cool is that?
Like I mentioned earlier Kochi is a not a major hotspot for western tourists. Now, I know a lot of people worry when heading off the beaten path about finding someone who speaks English.
In Kochi this wasn’t a problem at all, perhaps, this is because it is a popular destination for TEFL teachers and various other expats.
Another perk is that you are venturing into a rural area where you can discover the villages and local people that aren’t used to hundreds of tourist flocking to their area.
Ah, food in Japan is carefully handled, and each dish is treated with the respect it deserves. All this TLC really shines through in the almost grandiose presentation and fresh taste.
I can honestly say that I have never had a bad meal in Japan. However, Kochi wears the crown as the home my new favorite dishes to eat. Without a second thought, the best thing to eat in Kochi is katsuo (translated into English as skipjack tuna).
This mouthwatering fish is the region’s speciality. Katsuo is similar to sashimi, however, it has two major differences. First, they smother the fish then they quickly sear the outside in a roaring flame for just a few seconds.
This leaves a top layer packed with a smoky/salty taste but the inside tender and juicy. I ate katsuo almost every meal for four days……. and I still didn’t get enough.
So now that we know why to visit Kochi, but let’s discover the best things to do when visiting!
Sake Brewery Tours – Is it possible to visit Japan without drinking your weight in Sake? Spread throughout the prefecture are numerous breweries. Many of these offer tours that take you on a journey of how Sake is elegantly crafted into the drink that is loved around the world.
As a bonus at the end, they also provide tastings that provide a healthy portion of the different types of rice wine that they brew. Personally, my tasting comprised of seven different types of Sake and by the end, I was leaving the brewery with a slight stumble and a huge smile.
There are also many bars, like Toshashu Bar that offer a range of different types of sake flights. This lets you mix and match Sake from all over Japan to compare. Kochi is a haven for sake lovers like me.
The Markets – Kochi has some great food markets that are filled with friendly locals, souvenirs, and new foods to try! Make sure to check out these two markets when visiting Kochi.
Hirome Market: An air of fills the lively stalls and dining areas of this market. Both locals and expats chat excitedly take in gulps of sake, and bits of food in between the short pauses in conversation.
This market is addictive and if I lived in Kochi would quickly become my go-to hotspot for hanging out as well as trying new foods. It is a great place to meet people, have a drink, and try foods like katsuo, jellyfish, eel. If your not a fan of seafood there are other options.
Although my general rule for Japan is to eat all the seafood I can get my grubby little hands on.
Kure Taisho-Machi Ichiba Market: This market is famous for Japanese travelers. It offers a range of cool shops, foods, fish, and souvenirs.
Personally, it is my new favorite market in Japan. This market is famous for katsuo. The fact that an awesome Sake brewery is just around the corner is just an added bonus
Whitewater Rafting – Who doesn’t love white water rafting!? Luckily that is one of the top things to do in Kochi! It is a prefecture of jaw-dropping winding rivers that cut through the mountainous landscape.
This makes it an adrenaline packed area for people who want to go both whitewater rafting and kayaking or any other outdoor activity you could ever want.
Biking – Small roads at the base of the mountains follow along with the gushing rivers in perfect harmony. These roads entice and challenge bikers. Imagine a beautiful scenic view of a gushing river on one side and a towering forested mountain right above you.
As you bike through the ridge roads, you will come along epic vistas, charming villages, and much more.
Pro Tip – You can rent bikes right from the train stations!
Knife Making – Due to a typhoon hitting while I was in Kochi I actually didn’t get to do any of the famed biking, hiking, and rafting.
Although, I did go along the routes and imagined what it would be like. While this was a disappointment, I learned to roll with the punches as a traveler long ago.
So instead of those fun water adventures, I spent an afternoon with a Japanese bladesmith working on my very own knife! It was fun, exhausting, and a little dangerous (all the qualities needed for an excellent adventure).
I spent the morning and afternoon working his forge, hammering out my blade, and trying not to give myself a third-degree burn from the glowing coals. Making my very own knife became a major highlight of my time in Kochi!
Scenic Drives- For those who rather experience the vast landscape for a car window you are in luck. Kochi is packed full of scenic drives that show off the beauty without all the strenuous activity.
Temples – Kochi also has a lot of temples in the area. You see the pilgrims and temples.
Kochi Castle – Kochi castle was my first Japanese castle, and I was extremely impressed. It is a massive cliffside structure with hidden rooms, a tall tower, and a lot of history. It is well worth a visit when exploring Kochi.
There are a lot of hotels to stay in around Kochi. I recommend trying at traditional Japanese style room at Hotel Takasago.
Overall, Kochi is an incredible place to visit in Japan. It is a prefecture I am yearning to get back to visit, not just for the food, landscape, and sake. But also for the people who made my time memorable. I highly suggest getting off the regular tourist trail and exploring this untouched and rural area of Japan.