Kochi, located in Shikoku, Japan, is a coastal city known for its historical significance and scenic coastal views. It offers a mix of cultural attractions and natural beauty, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and forested hills on the other. It was one of the ports I (Merge) visited on my travels in Japan on the MS Westerdam. Until this stop, Shikoku was the only one of the four major islands of Japan I had not visited yet. So this port completed the quadrifecta! As a reminder, the other three main islands in Japan are Honshu, Hokkaido, and Kyushu.
For my day in Kochi, I elected to utilize the equivalent of a hop-on, hop-off tour bus called the MY-YU Bus. Normally a one-day pass on this bus for the sites I wanted to visit would have cost me a reasonable JPY 1,000. But if you present a foreign passport at the time of purchasing your ticket, you get it at half-price! Since I only had the one day, I had to choose which attractions I wanted to visit, and I elected to go to the Chikurinji Temple, Katsurahama Beach (and neighbourhood), and also make a quick photo stop at the Hariyama Bridge. Even though Kochi Castle is a big draw in the area, I chose to not visit as I knew I simply wouldn’t have enough time.
Chikurinji Temple is a peaceful and ancient Buddhist temple dedicated to Kannon, a Buddhist deity representing compassion, and it features beautiful gardens and a serene bamboo grove. Original construction was started in 724 AD, and additions continued until at least the 17th century. There used to be a three-storey pagoda at the temple, but it was destroyed by a typhoon in 1899. It took another 81 years before temple supporters finally built a replacement. In 1980, a 31 metre five-storey pagoda was built out of Japanese cypress wood in early 13th century style. Today, the temple is known for its historical buildings, gardens and other quiet places for meditation, and calming views of the green hills that surround it. The temple caretakers run it as a place to connect with spirituality and find tranquility, and both pilgrims and tourists looking for a peaceful experience are welcome.
Chikurinji Temple is also famous for being stop #31 on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage, a traditional journey that covers 88 Buddhist temples across the island of Shikoku. This pilgrimage has deep religious and cultural significance and is often undertaken by those seeking spiritual enlightenment. Pilgrims walk a route of about 1,200 kilometers, visiting each temple to offer prayers and experience the island’s natural beauty. Each temple has its own unique history and meaning.
The Treasure Hall at the temple has 17 beautiful images of Buddha from the Fujiwara and Kamakura periods ie. late 9th to the early 14th centuries.
After exploring the temple, I boarded the MY-YU bus again. My destination this time was Katsurahama Beach. The bus ride to Katsurahama gave me several vistas of the city and the countryside.
Katsurahama beach is a scenic coastal area known for its simplicity and natural charm. There is a pier, a golden sand beach, and several eateries in a small commercial centre, making it a very pleasant place for a 45-minute wander. A short climb brings you to the bronze statue of Sakamoto Ryoma, a historical figure from the Meiji Restoration era.
After a very pleasant time in the Katsurahama area, I climbed back on to the MY-YU bus to go back to Kochi city. I had one final stop to make and I knew it wouldn’t take very much time. I wanted to stop at the Hariyamabashi shopping area, not just to wander in some of the shops, but specifically to get a photo of the bright red Hariyama Bridge. There is of course a story behind this bridge. It has come to symbolize love because of an ill-fated affair between a 19th century monk and a local woman, which has been immortalized in the lyrics of a local folk song called yosakoi-bushi, that has also been made into a movie. Junshin was a young monk who fell in love with Ouma, a local merchant’s daughter. At the time, monks took vows to lead a solitary life, and were forbidden to have relationships or marry. The secret relationship was revealed when Junshin was seen buying a kanzashi hair ornament for his beloved at a shop in the Hariyama area. As punishment, Junshin was exiled and Ouma was sent far away, never to meet again. The bridge itself is in a small park, and there is a stream beneath it to represent the river that once passed beneath the original Harimaya Bridge. There is a clock across the street with figures that dance to the sound of chimes on the top of each hour. And the souvenir shops nearby all sell kanzashi hairpins and sweets shaped like the hair ornaments. It was a charming way to wrap up my day before I returned to the ship.