近海る (Kin Kairu)

JET, Japan, Journalism and other J words

Shikoku Pilgrimage: A Note on Kochi

I’m going to be writing up about my latest trip to Ehime, in which I did the third section of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Obviously doing the math there, some may ask “Ok, but where’s Kochi then? Did you even go?”

Oh, I did!

By car!

Almost a year and a half ago…!

During Golden Week (a week holiday in Japan from late April to early May) in 2014, I drove along Kochi prefecture to complete the second section, known as the “Dojo of Religious Training.” If you’re wondering why I drove instead of walked, please take a look at the map below.

Shikoku Pilgrimage map

Shikoku Pilgrimage map

The end of the Tokushima prefecture section is Temple 23, and Kochi prefecture goes from temples 24-39.

Taking into account the space between 23->24, 36->37, 37->38, and 38->39, that’s a lot of distance!

If I’m going to be honest though, once I visited all of the Kochi temples, I didn’t like the car method as much. In short, I overestimated how far I would drive each day, which made my visits to each temple significantly shorter than if I walked. Having said that, I honestly don’t remember too much about each temple and don’t have a breadth of stories to pick from and write about. But I still wanted to give resources as far as where I stayed and my general impressions, as well as some key spots to visit along the way for any pilgrims-to-be.

Stay #1 Kochi Youth Hostel
Dorm rate: 2,500 yen, 1 night, no meals

Kochi Youth Hostel is located just off of Kochi central, and is really affordable when it comes to tourists and pilgrims alike. The large building definitely has a “cabin” vibe with the fresh wood infrastructure. The mom-and-pop owned hostel has an absolutely friendly (English and otherwise) feeling to it, too. The pop also previously worked in the sake industry and does a Sake sampling every night as long as you ask. He was really good at explaining the sake brewing process in English, and the overall tasting really helped me solidify what actual kind of sake I like. The dinners and breakfasts are also good and relatively cheap. Total recommendation.

Kochi Youth Hostel Sake Tasting

Kochi Youth Hostel Sake Tasting (the camera was drunk, not me)

Stay #2 Minshuku Ashizuri Hatto (Japanese only)
Room rate: 6,500, 1 night, 2 meals (dinner and breakfast)

The next place I stayed at was Minshuku Ashizuri Hatto, located mere minutes away from the coastal Temple 38. While the price was a little steeper than I initially wanted, the dinner and breakfasts provided were absolutely spectacular. The owners and people who frequently visit the minshuku seem to be fisherman, and I had some of the freshest fish in Japan for my meals. The room was also massive for one person. For the the quality of meals and accessibility to Temple 38, I think it’s a very good place to stay, but a solid Japanese language background is recommended since there didn’t seem to be many English resources for the place.

Getting there was a little bit of a pain as the roads leading to Cape Ashizuri are windy, small, and not well marked. My phone frequently lost connection, so make sure you leave in a timely manner if you do plan on staying at Hatto (or any other hostel in the area). It’ll take longer than you imagine.

As a funny side note, one of the things Hatto was really proud of was when a Asuka cosplayer (from Evangelion) stayed. They had a whole wall practically dedicated to her.

Asuka cosplayer "exhibit"

Asuka cosplayer wall

The following are some of my favorite photos I took of the trip and also some quick recommendations for Kochi prefecture.

East Kochi Prefecture

Large Kobo Daishi and resting Buddha statues near Cape Muroto

Large Kobo Daishi and resting Buddha statues near Cape Muroto

Very ominous cave where Kobo Daishi is said to have gained Enlightenment. Visitors are freely able to go in, light candles, and leave donations. At Cape Muroto near Temple 24.

Very ominous cave where Kobo Daishi is said to have gained Enlightenment. Visitors are freely able to go in, light candles, and leave donations. At Cape Muroto near Temple 24.

Pilgrims at a temple near Cape Muroto

Pilgrims at a temple near Cape Muroto

Central Kochi/Kochi City proper

Hirome market is loated right in downtown Kochi city and has loads of local markets which sell everything from gifts, vegetables, seafood, and more. Absolutely worth a visit.

Hirome market is loated right in downtown Kochi city and has loads of local markets which sell everything from gifts, vegetables, seafood, and more. Absolutely worth a visit.

A English guide to Kochi city that I found at Kochi Youth Hostel. Great resource for things to do, food recommendations, etc.

A English guide to Kochi city that I found at Kochi Youth Hostel. Great resource for things to do, food recommendations, etc.

Katsurahama beach, located in Kochi city, also has loads to do if you're sick of the downtown. Plenty of gift shops, food stalls and museums to pick from. Anyone interested in Japanese history can also check out the many Sakamoto Ryoma related buildings and items around the beach.

Katsurahama beach, located in Kochi city, also has loads to do if you’re sick of the downtown. Plenty of gift shops, food stalls and museums to pick from. Anyone interested in Japanese history can also check out the many Sakamoto Ryoma related buildings and items around the beach.

One of the more "controversial" aspects found at Katsurahama is the Tosa dog fighting museum. You read that right. While the fight is far more sumo than it is a fight to the death, Katsurahama still poises the Tosa dogs as "traditional culture." However, the "fights" themselves seemed infrequent. An interesting visit to say the least.

One of the more “controversial” aspects found at Katsurahama is the Tosa dog fighting museum. You read that right. While the fight is far more sumo than it is a fight to the death, Katsurahama still poises the Tosa dogs as “traditional culture.” However, the “fights” themselves seemed infrequent. An interesting visit to say the least.

West Kochi Prefecture

Pilgrim at a temple in west Kochi

Pilgrim at a temple in west Kochi

Right around Temple 38 is Ashizuri park, which has many legends and mythical sites around the area. One of my favorites was the "Entrance to Hell," which you can see here. Funny enough I only spotted the sign after I had stepped right into the middle of the circle...

Right around Temple 38 is Ashizuri park, which has many legends and mythical sites around the area. One of my favorites was the “Entrance to Hell,” which you can see here. Funny enough I only spotted the sign after I had stepped right into the middle of the circle…

One of the popular things to do at the cape is watch the sunrise, which is said to be one of the best spots to view it in Japan. While it was a little cloudy the morning I watched it, that did not stop a group of people waking up very early to watch the daily event.

One of the popular things to do at the cape is watch the sunrise, which is said to be one of the best spots to view it in Japan. While it was a little cloudy the morning I watched it, that did not stop a group of people waking up very early to watch the daily event.

While Buddha's birthday date changes depending on the year, the Golden Week I visited the temples fell on his birthday. At Japanese temples, they set up a small fountain with tea and a Buddha statue, and ask visitors to douse the statue in tea. A very interesting event if you're able to go during that time.

While Buddha’s birthday date changes depending on the year, the Golden Week I visited the temples fell on his birthday. At Japanese temples, they set up a small fountain with tea and a Buddha statue, and ask visitors to douse the statue in tea. A very interesting event if you’re able to go during that time.

Next up, Ehime!

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