Tatsukushi Marine Park
Unreal rock formations make Kochi’s coast a photogenic, beachy hideaway.
Despite being 84 percent mountainous, the prefecture of Kochi has the wild-and-rugged Tatsukushi area for travelers who want fresh air and beautiful coastlines. During your trip to the secluded island region of Shikoku, head to the southernmost coast of Kochi to discover Tatsukushi Marine Park in the city of Tosashimizu.
The marine park is overflowing with vibrant aqua waters, surreal geological rock formations, and bulbous coral formations. It’s also home to countless types of colorful tropical fish.
With such a stunning and diverse landscape, there’s no question as to why this location was awarded Japan’s first nationally designated oceanic national park. Since that’s a bit of a mouthful, everyone just calls it a marine park. Here’s how to explore it.
Discover Tatsukushi by glass-bottom boat
When you’re ready to take in the area’s beauty from all sides, the first port of call is the Tatsukushi glass-bottom boat. During the breezy journey, the boat cruises mere inches from the top of mammoth coral reef clusters, stopping for a few moments so you can get up close and personal with all the aquatic action.
The excursion takes about 60 to 90 minutes round-trip and will take you to the Minokoshi Coast where you’re free to explore at your leisure. Stroll along a sandstone beach or narrow promenade before heading back to Tatsukushi.
Kochi’s coastal rock formations
Looking like sci-fi inspired, gravity-defying sculptures, the sandstone formations of Tatsukushi were formed around 20 to 15 million years ago by a series of tremors and earthquakes and were sculpted over time by the unrelenting Kuroshio Current. Also called the Japan Current, it’s warm waters help sustain coral reefs along the coast.
There are walking trails that weave up the hills to a viewing platform which offers panoramic views of the vividly blue waters and rocky coast. Exploring the area feels like reading an ancient history book, with each crevice and rocky fold telling stories of the past.
An under-water lookout
Tatsukushi holds a few more surprises. Of course, you can head to the nearby Ashizuri Aquarium (Note: It will be closed from the end of Feb. 2020 but reopening in July 2020), but there is another, more unique type of aquatic attraction open year round. The curiously shaped Ashizuri Underwater Observation Tower brings the aquarium to the sea — and not the other way around. This lookout spot is located seven meters beneath the ocean’s surface and is reached via a walkway to the tower, which juts down into the sea.
Visitors can witness the comings and goings of multi-colored schools of fish swimming by unperturbed and free, through large viewing portholes. Unlike a typical aquarium, what’s particularly special about this spot is the fish on display change with the passing seasons. In winter and spring, you can expect clusters of horse mackerel and sardines passing through, while autumn welcomes barracuda, sea turtles and rays.
Worth more than just a one-day-trip, Tatsukushi offers the chance to experience a completely different side of this naturally stunning prefecture.