I recently had a chance to venture a couple hours south to Kochi prefecture, for the first time. Considering how relatively close this place is to my own Kagawa, it was fairly surprising that it took this long to make happen. I suppose I finally had an impetus of sorts, as my friend Soeng promised to show me around, saving the headache of an itinerary.
So, I made the drive through the dark, all along a dark and winding road until I reached the town of Otoyo. There were a lot of striking similarities to my town, though this was certainly more isolated from the rest of the world. Arriving closer to 9pm, we hunkered in, ate some glorious curry, and hung out for the duration of the evening.
The following morning we hit the ground running, waking fairly early (for a Saturday) and then heading out to see what the town had to offer. Despite the torrential rain, it was clear that this was a very beautiful area. Being in the midst of autumn, the mountains were highlighted by patches of warm colors. The other thing I noticed immediately was the size of the mountains, towering much higher than anything I have around me. We set out to see what they might have for us, over-sized umbrellas in tow. After tracing a winding road up the side of one mountain, we reached the Yakushi Temple. Built in 724, this is the oldest building in Shikoku. For this and its religious significance, it was designated a National Treasure. Despite the rain, it was nice to stroll about the compact grounds.
My pictures all turned out poorly, so this is some stock footage. Would you have even noticed?
The next stop was at the largest cedar tree in Japan. This 3000 year old girthy behemoth boasts a massive 20 meter circumference and is said to have been planted by Susanoo, the Shinto god of storms and seas. There is another tree directly adjacent that is slightly smaller but no less striking. I have seen a few massive trees in my lifetime, but these two had to be the most impressive. I had to step over the fence to get my picture though, without a point of reference this wouldn’t look like much.
It was getting to be lunch time, so we stopped by the town’s main restaurant and had some donburi. I went with katsudon, easily my favorite.
The next little while was spent driving the 50 km to the main city to check out a few more things and also meet some of her friends for a dinner. On the way, we stopped at a Michi no Eki to pick up some ice cream and a little local produce. The region is famous for its yuzu production, which is a small yellow citrus fruit. When we arrived at Kochi City, we parked on a hill overlooking the shore. It was a beautiful view where we could see the entire coastline and watch some large waves coming in. We had time to burn, so we just relaxed and chatted for a bit.
After we parked the car for the evening, we made a long walk over to catch Kochi Castle at twilight. The vast majority of the castles in Japan have been rebuilt in the last century or so, but Kochi’s is one of only twelve that exists as the original structure. At this hour the castle was closed to admission, but we were able to walk around the grounds and admire the illuminated facade.
Finally it was time to meet some friends and eat. We were running a bit ahead of schedule, so we went over to the Hirome Ichiba which is packed with numerous food vendors. The place was filled with people chatting, drinking, and eating the local delicacies. Soeng and I were able to find a spot, and then we jumped right into our feast. Kochi has a number of local foods, and I strove to try them all. As we ate we waited a couple hours for a few more people to show up. Everyone arrived at last, but before long we were saying our goodbyes before the long drive home.
Fish Eggs, Moray Eel, Shellfish, Raw Whale & Bamboo Sprouts
The next morning, I got to sleep in while my host went to some event at a mountaintop park where she agreed to volunteer at some event. After taking my precious sweet time to warm up to the day, use the internet a bit and then shower, I too drove over there. It was a bit of a hike, and my car is never happy to contend with climbing hills, but in the end I made it there around noon thirty. The place was called Yutorisuto Park and from the top it offered incredible views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Again, these were all much more impressive than what I live in.
After fumbling around a bit, I was able to catch up with my Soeng, though she was bound to working a grill. I hopped in the long line and after a while had my very own chance to buy lamb sausage and kangaroo steaks. These delectable morsels were seasoned to perfection. I was done eating, but I still had about an hour and a half to kill before people she would be free of her duties. I just walked around the grounds, took a few photos, and relaxed. Once her obligations were finished, we rode a miniature train, undoubtedly crafted with children in mind. I don’t care, I was very satisfied.
On the way home we decided to stop back at that same restaurant from the other day. I still got a donburi, but this time I went with the wild boar meat, which was a bit gamier than the katsudon. We had considerations of doing something with the beautiful weather, but we were both too pooped to go back out once we were back. We took in a movie and some tacos instead. I finally left in the late evening where I had nothing but work to look forward to. In the end, it was a wonderful weekend and I am glad to have seen some more of Japan, especially Shikoku. I’ll be looking forward to some future adventure to these parts to tie up the loose ends.