Day 16: Kochi

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I think I’m at the point where all I want to do is sleep, haha! But Kochi’s main sights are quite spread out so I had a lot of ground to cover, thus, I made myself get up this morning. Good thing, too, because it was a loooong day (therefore be prepared for a long post!).

Kochi Castle was my first stop, about a half hour walk from the hostel. It’s a small castle, but like Matsuyama Castle, it is one of only 12 original castles left in the country. It, too, features a tower that offers wonderful views of the city. They had some displays and information inside but, Kochi being a bit off the beaten track, all of it was in Japanese.

Left (top to bottom): a view of the castle grounds from the tower. Some of the castle’s interior. A little miniature display of the castle and it’s surroundings in the old days. Right: the exterior of Kochi Castle.

I did happen to bump into some fellow Canadians, though. Coincidentally, they are from Hamilton, where I went to university. As I said, Kochi is not usually on Western tourists’ itineraries, so the chances of me finding people from my small part of the world are quite slim. They are heading to Osaka next, where I’ll be in a couple of days, so maybe we’ll be able to meet up there!

Next, I walked over to Kochi Station, where tourists can purchase all-day tickets for the My-Yu Bus, a bus circuit that links all the tourist attractions except for Kochi Castle (which is within walking distance from Kochi Station, anyway).

I bought my ticket and ran into an American guest at the same hostel I’m staying in. I met him last night while getting some tea from the dining room. Apparently, he is a physician and has been all over Japan, and he chatted with me for a while. He’s very talkative but he has a lot of personal experiences to share.

Clockwise from top-left: the main building of Chikurinji Temple. The 5 story pagoda. A sunbathing cat I met on the temple grounds. What looks like an old cemetery?

My next stop was Chikurinji Temple, temple #31 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. It is an old temple and really quite peaceful. I took my time wandering the grounds and even came across what looked to be an old cemetery. There were also some couples dressed in fancy kimono having photo shoots…maybe engagement photos?

After, I hopped across the road to the Makino Botanical Garden. I was a bit reluctant to go because I’m not really into plants, but figured, “Hey, I’m here, so why not?” I’m so glad I went, though, because this garden is massive and is much more than just a garden. It’s actually several!

Top-left: the interior of the greenhouse. Bottom-left: a view from the observation point. There’s a colony of snowy herons in there somewhere, but even the zoom on my camera couldn’t get a good shot of them. Right: The statue of Dr. Makino, the botanist who created this garden.

I liked the greenhouse the best, as it houses some of the more exotic plants. It’s also quite literally packed with plants – wherever you look, there’s at least half a dozen plants crammed together. Combined with all that was the sound of a waterfall and peaceful background music. I could have stayed there for a long time.

The outside grounds were absolutely massive and also offered a few viewing points, seeing as the gardens sit atop Mt Godaisan alongside the temple. Unfortunately, I’m visiting Kochi just a little after the prime cherry blossom viewing, so most blossoms have wilted or are in the process of it already. Still, there was quite a lot to see so I spent quite a bit of time there.

After, I accidentally hopped on the wrong My-Yu Bus and headed back into town rather than the opposite direction. Oh well. I snapped some pictures of the Harimaya Bridge (a red bridge made famous by an old love story between a monk and a lady), grabbed some souvenirs, and then hopped on the correct My-Yu Bus to Katsurahama, a beach at the southern end of town.

I unfortunately had to rush through Katsurahama, otherwise I’d miss the last My-Yu Bus back into town. Still, I had just enough time to see the statue of Ryoma Sakamoto, a justly famous samurai who came from Kochi (and man, is he popular here! There are images and caricatures of him everywhere. Even on the bus, I talked with a man and his young son who came from Tokyo to Kochi just because his son had learned about Sakamoto in school and was interested in him), and enjoy the picturesque beach. There’s no swimming allowed here, though, because the waves are quite big.

Top-left: the Harimaya Bridge. Bottom-left: Katsurahama Beach. Right: the statue of Ryoma Sakamoto.

I caught the bus back into town and stopped again at the Hirome Market for more katsuo no tataki. I just can’t get enough of that stuff. However, I can’t stay in the market long because they allow smoking in there and the smoke makes me cough a lot :(

The weather was a bit cool but it was otherwise a nice night, so I decided to walk back to the hostel rather than take the streetcar. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made on this trip yet. My walking route took me past Kochi Castle again, and as I approached, I saw a bunch of pink and orange lanterns lit, crowds of people, and heard music.

Curious, I went to investigate. Turns out there’s some sort of multi-day festival going on. There was music, dancing, massive floral arrangements, and light shows, including a light display of cherry blossoms against Kochi Castle itself.

From top to bottom: Kochi Castle, lit up with the images of cherry blossoms. Music and folk dancing. A bamboo floral arrangement (it was about as tall as I am!)

I stayed for a little while to take it all in, then walked the rest of the way to the hostel.

So now I’m pretty tired but I’m rather sad I’m leaving Kochi tomorrow. It was an awesome day.

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