{Japan: Explore} Kochi Castle

Kochi Castle, Shikoku

In a Nutshell:

  • Who: L and M
  • When: May 29, 2012
  • Where: Kochi Castle in Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku
  • Why: To see both the castle and the Itagaki Taisuke statue on the castle grounds.
  • *Notes: One of Japan’s original castles, Kochijomae tram stop, 400 JPY entry fee pp, my favorite castle in Japan thus far!

Full Report:

Getting to Kochi Castle from our hotel (Hotel Nikko Kochi) was super easy: we just had to jump on the Ino Line tram and ride several stops over to Kochijoemae.  The fare was a flat fee of 190 JPY, not necessarily expensive, but the amount surprised us a little since it was more expensive than Kumamoto’s or Hiroshima’s tram fares.

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After getting off the tram (exit in the front and pay), we made our way to the front gate of the castle area:

gates to Kochi Castle

No, that is not M lurking in the entryway!

Soon after entering, we caught a glimpse of the Itagaki Taisuke statue:

300Itagaki Taisuke (1837-1919) was a Japanese politician who founded Japan’s first political party, the Liberal Party.  He was famous enough to have been featured on the 100-Yen note, although the note seems to all have been phased out in favor of the 100-Yen coin.  He is also somehow related to M although the specifics are not clear.  There are two other statues of Itagaki Taisuke in Japan (one in Gifu and the other in Nikko) and we visited those on this trip as well.

After leaving the statue we started walking towards the castle and the gardens were really beautiful:

Kochi Castle garden

After climbing a number of steps we arrived huffing and puffing at the front of the castle:

front of Kochi castle

We bought two tickets to enter the castle (400 JPY or Yen per person) and were instructed to put our shoes into cubbyholes off to the side.  Almost all of the cubbyholes were empty, indicating we’d be two of the only people inside the castle.  Now, some of the cubbyholes had little doors with keys dangling from them and some were door-less.  I know that in Japan, the chance of your personal belongings getting stolen is very, very slim.  However, we are from Southern California where you do not leave your property lying around unguarded EVER.  So out of habit, we opted for the cubbyholes with doors.  After locking up our precious dirty sneakers we entered the castle.

Almost immediately, it became clear why we had to remove our shoes at this castle when we hadn’t had to at any of the castles we’d previously visited.  If you read my notes up in the “In a Nutshell” portion of this post, I mentioned that this is one of Japan’s Original castles.  These castles are the original structures from the Feudal period and, as such, great care is taken to keep them in good condition.  The majority of Japan’s remaining castles are reconstructions (albeit, some very good ones), and only 12 are Original Castles.

The floors of this castle were wooden and the floorboards made a wonderful creaky sound as we made our way around the castle.  Really, it made me feel like those ladies in the old samurai tv shows I used to watch who would shuffle around the castle in slippered feet and long, silk kimonos.  Unlike the reconstructed castles I’d been to, I felt like I’d been transported back in time to the 1700s.

kochi castle interior

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There were a number of dioramas in the castle depicting life at Kochi castle in the past.  I really enjoyed looking at these, they mostly depicted Kochi men hard at work — fishing (and catching whales!), building, lugging heavy items here and there.  If there were women in Kochi during this time it was not made obvious!  I’m going to assume they were safely ensconced within the castle walls, cooking whale meat and such.

kochi castle diorama

kochi castle diorama

kochi castle diorama

There was one part of Kochi Castle that really scared me: the stairs!  They were so steep!  I tend to get dizzy in situations where there is a chance I may fall (probably mild vertigo).  I didn’t think I would have trouble climbing the stairs but I was worried about the climb down.  Still, I made myself do it because when was I going to get the chance to see the upper floors of Kochi castle ever again?

kochi castle stairs

Remember: what goes up must come down!

I really don’t think that picture did any justice to how steep the stairs were.  But anyways, it was worth it to go up because we made our way to the top floor and were able to get some great views of the city:

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One thing that I found oddly charming about this castle was how “messy” it was.  A few of the castle’s corners had cleaning supplies, brooms, ladders, etc just sitting there haphazardly.  Look at this picture with the buckets in the corner:

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The lady in the picture is pretty much the only other person we saw in the castle.  The lack of other visitors made it an especially wonderful visit since we had the whole place practically to ourselves.  Not to mention how glad I am that no one was around to witness my less-than-graceful climb down the stairs.  (I basically sat on each step as I made my way down).

Once outside again, we retrieved our shoes and set out to explore the rest of Kochi!