Into the wild
Wild and rebellious, Kochi is one of Japan’s most rewarding off-the-beaten-track destinations.
In the past, Kochi’s inaccessible landscape meant it was cut off from the rest of Japan. It allowed the prefecture to form a distinct personality as strong and untamed as its natural surroundings. Kochi people are resilient, self-reliant, and just a little rebellious. They’re known for their love of the great outdoors. Whale-watching, surfing, hiking, fishing, caving, paragliding, and paddle-boarding are just some of the outdoor activities on offer.
Crescent-shaped Kochi is the largest of Shikoku’s four prefectures. It covers most of the island’s southern half in rugged mountains that slope into the Pacific Ocean. Most of the population is clustered together around the Shimanto River and towards the coast. Kochi City, in the center of the prefecture, is the best place to start exploring the region. Visit the emblematic Kochi Castle, browse the stalls of the 300-year-old Sunday street market, and stroll along Katsurahama beach. It’s guarded by a statue of everyone’s favorite samurai rebel, Sakamoto Ryoma.
To the east lies the dramatic Cape Muroto. On your way, you can stop by Ryuga Cave, a limestone cave formed over 175 million years. Explore the main chambers on foot or by crawling your way through the inner sections on the adventure course. Head to the tip of the peninsula for whale-watching and surfing, using picturesque Kiragawa with its traditional streets and yuzu-filled hot spring baths as a base.
The Shimanto River
The Shimanto River runs through the western part of Kochi. Shimanto is the place to organize your outdoor activities. You can watch traditional torchlight fishing in the summer and hit up the ski slopes in the winter. Along the coast are more dolphin and whale-watching cruises, plus surfing and hot springs. Remote Cape Ashizuri has beautiful panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Most notably from temple no. 38 on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage.
Set aside enough time to get to know Kochi’s incredible food. The seared bonito (katsuo no tataki) is a highlight, as is the pork and wild mountain vegetables. Yuzu is the local fruit, and you can’t leave without challenging a local to Kochi’s infamous sake drinking game, bekuhai.
A uniquely remote getaway, Kochi offers several tours and is an appealing option for travelers coming to Japan for various activities. Active travelers can cycle, enjoy river activities, or relax. Families can laugh as they play in the river, and couples can reconnect and talk over delicious, locally sourced food. Lone travelers can disconnect from all the bustle for just a few precious moments or days.
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