2-Days and 1-Night in Kochi
When traveling in Japan, there is no better way of doing it than with the Japanese themselves. Nothing beats efficient automobile travel directly from destination to destination, with little wasted time from being lost. So, whenever an invitation to travel outside of Tokushima comes my way from the teachers at my schools, it’s hard to decline. This past weekend, I visited Tokushima’s neighboring prefecture of Kochi for the first time. Similar to Tokushima, Kochi is a relatively small prefecture located also on the island of Shikoku. With a population of approximately 110,000 people, Kochi City is where Nishiyama sensei, Miyagi sensei, Sogowa sensei and myself stayed the night. The highlights from our trip included visits to Katsurahama Beach, Chikurinji Temple (#31 on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage), Kochi Castle and a walk down the Kochi City Sunday Market.
Known as one of the most beautiful vistas in Japan, Katsura-hama captures the essence of the Japanese aesthetic. Katsurahama lies at the foot of a hill atop which are the remains of Urado Castle. This used to be the political center of ancient Shikoku and was the seat of daimyo Chosokabe Motochik, the feudal lord of this area.
Statue of Sakamoto Ryoma
Standing on the bluff above Katsura-hama facing the Pacific Ocean is the statue of Sakamoto Ryoma, a historical figure of great importance to modern Japan. In many ways, Katsura-hama is a fitting home for Sakamoto’s statue. The broad Pacific horizon represents the wider world and specifically, the West. Ryoma was instrumental in forcing Japan out of its self-imposed isolation and onto the modern world stage. To this day, he is beloved by people throughout Japan as one of the founding fathers of modern Japan. This wonderful statue is a gift by the young people of Kochi prefecture to his memory.
The towering white donjon of Kochi Castle is a city landmark. From the heights of the donjon, visitors can enjoy a 360° view of downtown. In 1601, Yamanouchi Kazutoyo took up residence in Tosa. Successful warriors of that period earned greater and greater rewards in title and koku. Land was measured not strictly by area, but rather by koku, a unit of rice production. (One koku could, theoretically, feed one person for one year.) Yamanouchi’s loyalty to Tokugawa Ieyasu earned him the 240,000 koku domain of Tosa. Convinced that future development of the town would be impossible at the Urado site, he moved his government back to the Otakasa area and built Kochi Castle. The wooden buildings of the castle suffered heavy fire damage in 1727, but were faithfully rebuilt 25 years later. It is one of the oldest intact castles in Japan, of which there are but twelve. An Important Cultural Artifact of Japan, it is the only castle where both the donjon and the lord’s home, or kaitokukan, survive. The kaitokukan now houses cultural treasures of Tosa.
Kochi City Sunday Market
Kochi prefecture is known for its 300 year history of markets and embody the rough-and-ready spirit of Tosa (a dialect and/or culture in Kochi). Of special note is the Sunday Market, which starts at the main gate of Kochi Castle and stretches east for over a kilometer. Stalls line both sides of the street, and offer everything from home grown vegetables and daily goods and clothes, to antiques, trees and stones for ornamental gardening, and a wide variety of local specialties. It’s a lively market where you can see, hear, feel and smell the essence of Tosa.
Note: See Kochi album for more pictures