Partners Information: If you’ve been dreaming of taking the road less travelled in Japan, don’t forget to put Kochi on your list of places to go. Kochi, which spans the bottom half of Shikoku — Japan’s smallest and most untouched main island — is known for its sunshine, picturesque coastline, pristine rivers, and majestic mountains. Its capital, Kochi City, is where you will find Japan’s oldest and largest Sunday markets and is home of the original Yosakoi Matsuri, a vibrant dance festival which is now celebrated all over Japan.
We have compiled a list of destinations and attractions in Kochi that’ll have you itching to get explore one of Japan’s best kept secrets.
The new “Toki no Yoake no Monogatari” train
Since the 4th of July, the “Toki no Yoake no Monogatari” train has set a new standard for travelling in style in Kochi. It is the most luxurious way for guests to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the sea and countryside between Kochi Station and Kubokawa Station.
The train carriages are beautifully appointed with a retro design aesthetic: the wood-panelled trim and gleaming brass lamps will make you feel like you have stepped back in time to the golden age of rail travel.
While taking in the scenery, guests can enjoy exquisitely prepared meals featuring local specialties, for a unique only-in-Kochi dining experience.
After alighting from the “Toki no Yoake no Monogatari” train at Kubokawa Station, head another 30 km south to the town of Kuroshio, where you will find one of the world’s most unique art galleries: the Sunabi Museum. Their philosophy is that the gorgeous 4-km-long Irino Beach is a natural art gallery: the views, patterns on the sand, children running barefoot on the beach, driftwood washed ashore, and the sound of the waves are its “exhibits" that are constantly evolving to the cyclical rhythms of nature.
One of the museum's best-known events is their yearly T-shirt Art Exhibition, which is scheduled to be held in October this year (but is usually a fixture in early May). Strolling through rows of t-shirts printed with creative designs by artists all around the world while enjoying the sand and surf is something you can only experience here.
Kochi Prefectural Ashizuri Aquarium
Heading another 40-km down south will bring you to the stunning Tatsukushi coast, home of the newly refurbished Kochi Prefectural Ashizuri Aquarium that re-opens on the 18th of July. The aquarium is passionate about conserving the region’s biodiversity, with a portion of the entrance fees dedicated to efforts to protect the local coral reef ecosystem from invasive species like the poisonous crown-of-thorns starfish.
Here you can learn all about the huge variety of fish and other sea creatures that live along the coast and after seeing them up close, we encourage you to take a stroll outside to see the gorgeous rock formations that are scattered along the coast. The locals also do their bit to protect the environment by organising a massive clean-up each year to keep the coastline and waters clean.
While you’re there, don’t forget to also visit the Ashizuri Underwater Observation Tower, which is just a brief 10-minute walk away. You definitely won’t mistake the 24-metre-tall tower with its distinctive red-and-white paint scheme and unique cross-shaped architecture. Its retro-styling prompted one impressed reviewer to say it was like arriving at a life-size set from the Thunderbirds! Go down the spiral staircase to enter the underwater observation chamber where you can see an amazing variety of tropical fish and other marine life in their natural habitat.
Inaka-zushi is a local delicacy of Kochi. While the name literally means “country sushi”, you won’t find any seafood in these bite-sized treats. Instead, the locals use ingredients like shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and other locally grown vegetables. The rice is also unique, as it is seasoned with the juice of the citrus fruit, yuzu, not vinegar. It makes sense once you know that Kochi is the largest producer of yuzu in Japan. These colourful and pleasantly tart sushi are a local favourite, and can be found for sale all around the prefecture.
A great place to try inaka-zushi (and other tasty treats, like yuzu juice and deep fried sweet potatoes) is the aforementioned Sunday markets in Kochi City. If you’re keen to channel your inner Master Chef, why not try your hand at one of the fun cooking classes for inaka-zushi, which can be found throughout Kochi?