You’ll find there’s plenty to see and do in Kochi, the approachable, friendly capital city of Japan’s Kochi prefecture. Kochi is an outdoorist’s paradise, where Pacific beaches and mountain views are easily accessible for tourists and locals alike to explore. Quieter than Tokyo and more outdoorsy than Kobe, a Kochi cruise is the perfect way to see a more relaxed, traditional Japan. One of Kochi’s best-known sites is the historic Kochi Castle, which dates back to the 1600s, or you can venture to the Niyodo River for a tour along Japan’s clearest, most peaceful waters.
Living like a local is the best way to experience Kochi. No rushing or speeding between excursions is necessary here. Shopping at Sunday Market is a must-do activity for weekenders looking to experience fresh produce and local goods in Kochi, plus there’s an entire shopping district along Harimayabashi Street where travelers can purchase clothing, handcrafted goods, and Japanese artwork. Take a break to see penguins and other marine species at the aquarium on Katsurahama Beach, then stop in at a restaurant to try the region’s signature katsuo no tataki, broiled bonito fish served with onion and garlic. While you’re on an Asia cruise, the small-town vibe of Kochi will make you feel right at home.
Take a peaceful tour of the enduring Kochi Castle, which has survived fires and destruction many times over the last 500 years. You can take a tour of the castle’s traditional rooms and walk through the cherry trees in the garden as they bloom in spring. It’s a must-see for visitors to Kochi who will experience a sense of peace and relaxation while there. Bring cash for entrance into the castle.
The Harimayabashi is a symbol of forbidden love in Kochi, where legend has it a monk had a secret affair with a girl from Kochi and was forced to flee the city to save their love. Though small, this red bridge is instantly recognizable when you see it and has appeared in several Japanese films over the years. Walk across and enjoy a small piece of Kochi mythology.
Close to the Makino Botanical Garden is Chikurin-Ji Temple, a serene shrine built in the 8th century. The road on the way to the temple is a steep walk, but the view from the observatory at the temple is worth the hike. Don’t miss the collection of Buddha statues within the temple, or unhurriedly stroll the beautiful grounds.
The currents are too strong here to have a truly relaxing swim, but you can relax on the shore with a beach towel or snap pictures of penguins and get close to sea lions at the Katsurahama Aquarium instead. Afterward, check out the memorial park with a view and plenty of food vendors serving katsuo no tataki all day.
It takes a couple of hours to fully tour the grounds, but the Makino Botanical Garden is an ideal afternoon excursion for nature lovers. The Makino Botanical Garden honors Japanese botanist Dr. Tomitaro Makino who is often called the father of Japanese botany. Each season of the year brings new plant life into bloom.
Sunday Market is a Kochi institution, and it’s perfect for weekend meandering. Living like a local in Kochi means buying fresh produce and food goods from the local vendors who have been selling from the market for years. You’re not far from other shopping in Kochi while you’re at Sunday Market, so you can make a day of it.
At Cape Muroto, you can take a boat out into the Pacific Ocean for an unforgettable whale-watching experience. It’s a short two-hour journey from Kochi to the cape, and most whale-watching tours take up a half day. Tours of the park around Cape Muroto are a great way for the entire family to see Japan’s natural beauty.
If you’re a fan of geology, you can surround yourself with stalagmites in this underground cave while on a cruise to Kochi, Japan. This natural monument stretches across several miles of spooky limestone, and it’s over 1.5 million years old. Descend underground for a tour and you’ll learn about the different shapes and formations of the cave.
Kochi’s signature dish is katsuo no tataki, which is similar to seared tuna, and is a must-try while you’re on a Kochi cruise. Ramen and udon rule the menus here, too, which are a staple in the Japanese diet. Or try Okawa black cow, which is a type of cow bred in Kochi known for its delicious marbled beef.
Address: 2-3-1 Obiyamachi, Hirome Market, Kochi 780-0841, Kochi Prefecture
As one of the top-rated restaurants in Kochi, Warayakitataki Myojimmaru is known for its expertly prepared bonito fish. Take a seat at the counter to watch the chef prepare your food.
Tosa Cha Cafe
Address: 2-1-31 Obiyamachi, Kochi 780-0841, Kochi Prefecture
Stop here for dessert on the upper level or enjoy hot tea from the cafe. This unfussy cafe is an easy stop for a quick bite or traditional Japanese lunches on the way to other Kochi attractions.
Address: 1-2-15 Harimayacho, Kochi 780-0822, Kochi Prefecture
Sushi and sashimi are must-order items, particularly the grilled mackerel sushi. They’ll even slice the bonito fish after you order, so you know you’ll get the freshest experience possible.
As the capital of the Kochi Prefecture of Japan, Kochi manages to be both relaxed and traditional. It has also beautifully preserved its natural attractions, known for caves like Ryugado, parks and memorials, and landmarks like Chikurin-Ji Temple that have come to personify Kochi City. Yosakoi Festival is celebrated each August and is one of the city’s biggest events. Dancing and street performances, plus tasty food pop-up stands and shopping, make Yosakoi Festival an event that attracts tourists from all over Japan.
The cruise port in Kochi is simple and centrally located near attractions like Kochi Castle. You can also access free wifi from the pier. Passengers arriving in Kochi are often welcomed to the area with a traditional dance performance by locals.
Taking a taxi or walking are your best bets for getting around Kochi from the cruise port and within the city. You can also take a free shuttle bus from the Kochi cruise port to the bus terminal and go from there. There isn’t a public transit system in Kochi, so be aware of taxi wait times when you and fellow cruise passengers are trying to hail rides.
You’ll find souvenir stalls and shops along the pier as you venture into the center of Kochi. Then, spend some time shopping along Harimayabashi Street, where there are hundreds of shops to get your fill of fashion and food. There are a lot of options within a short walking distance, so be sure to dedicate some of your afternoon to taking it all in. Every weekend, there’s a Sunday market where locals have been buying and selling fresh produce and goods for decades. It’s one of Kochi’s enduring local traditions.
The official currency of Japan is called the Yen, and paying with cash in Japan is the typical approach. Tipping is viewed as unnecessary in Japan. The culture is very polite and respectful, so they view good service as a reward in and of itself. On a cruise to Kochi, Japan, you don’t have to tip at restaurants or in taxis, but it is polite to tip a tour guide if you’re taking a guided tour.