Stray away from the hype of Tokyo and check out the hidden gems of the Kochi Prefecture. If you want to experience true Japanese culture and traditions, then the Monobegawa area in Kochi is your next travel destination.
The Monobegawa area is one of the several spots around Japan that have an extended history of rice farming near the rivers and has been around since the Yayoi era (c. 300 BC toKo c. 250 AD). Even today, the locals still maintain a strong connection to their town’s old cultural heritage, but you might be wondering why.
Well, if you’re only in Monobegawa for a couple of days, here are some of some of the top recommended spots to visit before you head back to the city:
Deep-rooted in the depths of Monobegawa is the Ryugado Cave, a 4km limestone complex cave. Gaining the people’s choice award for the best-known limestone cave in Japan, Ryugado has two different kinds for itineraries for its visitors. But the recommended route, which most people do, is the “Adventure Course”, which includes narrow spaces for all those adventure junkies out there who want to recreate scenes from the movie “Sanctum”.
The Ryugado caves itself took approximately 175 million years to form, and the inside of the cave is a comfortable 12-17 degrees all year round. Walking on rock paths and steel platforms that open out into giant rock chambers. We can guarantee you that you’re probably (most definitely) not going to experience something quite like this anywhere else.
This route will require you to go through spaces that are so small that you need to kneel down and crawl to continue forward, all while relying on your helmet, waterproof boots, jumpsuit and single headlight to keep you safe. I’m making this sound a lot more terrifying than it is, but you can always experience the thrill of this cave yourself and prove me wrong.
Did we mention that there’s also streams of clear water that flow throughout the caves, and in-cave waterfalls? Listen to your inner Groovio and chase those waterfalls!
Near the Anpanman Museum in the Kochi Prefecture is a little-known shrine in the area that was built around 1,500 years ago called Owakami Birafu Shrine– or as the locals call it, “Kawakami-sama”. Kawakami-sama and Anpanman’s creator Takashi Yanase has a very close relationship, as Takashi was born and raised in our very own Monobegawa in Kochi. When Takashi passed away, 32 of Japan’s most famous anime and manga artists dedicated paintings of the four gods and zodiac signs to the Kawakami-sama, in honor of the industry’s tragic loss.
Today, you can see the paintings across the ceiling at Kawakami-sama, drawn by Tetsuya Chia (artist and creator of popular series Ashita no Jo), Masashi Ueda (creator of Kobo-chan), and other well-known artists. Even if you’re not a big fan of Anpanman, if you’re an anime lover of any kind, pay your respects at the Okawakami Birafu Shrine!
Kokubunji temple is lucky number twenty-nine in the official 88 Temples of Shikoku Ohenro pilgrimage in Kochi prefecture. If you’re already in your pilgrimage then, congratulations on 73.3 kilometers from the starting line at Ryozenji!
The Kokubunji Temple was constructed under the imperial decree of the 45th Emperor of Japan, Emperor Shomu, and was established in 741 by the high priest Gyoki, until it was restored later under Kukai. At Kokubunji Temple, you’ll be able to view a Japanese garden that perfectly highlights the beauty of Japan’s four seasons. In Spring, the cherry blossoms bloom with the most gorgeous pink and is followed by the purply-pink Hydrangeas in Summer. The reds and oranges of the Japanese hagia bush clovers then signify Autumn before the snow covers each roof tile.
If you’re feeling like you need a little bit of Zen in your life, Kokubunji Temple and Its beautiful scenery that surrounds it will definitely give you a sense of spiritual enlightenment that would definitely ease your mind.
4. Act land
If you’re tired of hearing all about the Monobegawa’s history or the Yayoi Era, shrines and temples, don’t worry– here’s a spot that helps you learn about all that fun stuff in the form of an amusement park. Hopefully, you don’t have to continue to feign interest in Japanese history, and you’ll actually start to be interested!
ACT (Art, Culture and Technology) Land is an amusement park in Konan city, and based on the reviews on TripAdvisor, this place seems like an accumulation of all the best museum exhibits you can imagine. Right at the entrance is a playground for all the kiddies, but inside, you’ll see a line of some of the most antique cars and phones you’ll ever see, collected from all over the world. This pavilion is the Classic Car exhibit and is one of eight exhibits the museum, followed by the Ryoma Sakamoto, World Greats, Nio African, Picture Gallery Art, Model Car, Bonnet Bus exhibits, Container gallery and playgrounds.
Literally targeting the world of arts, culture and technology as much as possible, Act Land is known for their exhibits wax figures of Ryoma Sakamoto, one of Japan’s favorite modern historical figures and was a central leader in the plans to overthrow the shogunate 150 years ago. In this exhibit, Sakamoto’s life and story are portrayed with so much realism in the wax figures, that you’ll be able to see the exact moment when he fell in love, to the point of his death. To follow the theme of history, the staff at the museum dress up as samurai and are very knowledgeable, so feel free to ask them questions about literally anything in the museum!
Picture from: http://visitkochijapan.com/things_to_do/
Now if this list hasn’t got you convinced so far, maybe this place will change your mind. It’s a well-known fact that the people of Kochi have long been known for their love of alcohol. Particularly in the town of Akaoka, sake is a must.
In the town that also houses the Dorome Festival, an annual festival that prays for the safe, bountiful sardine season, but also has a main event that celebrates the local sake large cup drinking competition. Like a college frat party, the audience of 10,000 chants “CHUG, CHUG, CHUG” while male contestants down 1.8 liters of sake, and women 0.9 liters from large cups.
So yes, drinking is an Akaoka-specialty skill. On that note, we introduce the Takagi Sake Brewery, which has survived five generations of brewers. Today, you’re able to try three types of sake that bring out the variations of Kochi yeast, made from the fifth head brewer who uses local Kochi ingredients to brew sake with love and tenderness.
In the middle of the Takagi Sake Brewery success story, the sake warehouse was a victim of a huge tornado in 1996. Luckily for everyone, there was no damage. In fact, the tornado hit seemed to be a stroke of good luck, because the brand’s top sake “Toyonoume” was awarded 1st prize in Japan’s search for the best sake. Since then, people have been saying that God resides within the sake.
Holy sake! If that’s not a good enough reason to visit Kochi, then we don’t know what can convince you!