Perfectly poised to get the most out of nature.
The vast Pacific ocean stretches out in front, and into it flows the pure waters of the Niyodo river. Just around the corner is a bustling downtown area. Home to roughly half of the prefectural population, Kochi is a compact city offering both the merits of outdoor and urban life. While the surface area of the city itself is considerable, the main functions are concentrated in the downtown area that is 5km east to west and 3km north to south. The sea and mountains are both a 15-minute trip by car. With this in mind, a pair of Teva® shoes is perfect for both pounding the pavements on foot or equally for heading into the great outdoors.
The Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden is a firm favorite among the nature-loving Kochi locals. Many have year-round entry passes, no thanks in part to being reached by a mere 30-minute ride on the sightseeing bus from Kochi Station. The Botanical Gardens sprawls atop the 146m Mt.Godiayama, and was designed in commemoration of pioneering Japanese botanist Tomitaro Makino. Just stepping off the bus and walking the short distance through the approach to the ticket area is entrancing all on its own. This area is the “Tosa Botanical Ecological Garden”, a veritable paradise of blooming wild grasses. Venturing further into the park, one cannot help but be stirred by the beautiful scene created by the interwoven fauna, bursting with vitality. At the entrance of the greenhouse are Ficus superba trees planted along the wall. The structure itself resembles a plant, while the myriad tropical plants converge to create a decidedly psychedelic beauty, which overwhelms the senses and has you constantly reaching for your camera.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover a pilgrim’s path within the park. Mt.Godaiyama in which the park is located is also the site of Churinji Temple, the 31st on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. The park was once within the limits of Chikurinji, and the cobbled stones that make up the ancient pilgrims path remain in a fine condition. The soles of my snug fitting Teva® thankfully negotiate the unforgiving stones. I can’t help wondering how many pilgrims came and went along these very paths all the way back in the Edo era, and what their state of mind was. The ambience stirs up visions of these ancient pilgrims.
Mouthwatering cuisine blending old with new
If you are going to talk about Kochi City in terms of food culture, the street markets are a must. As well as the Sunday market which has been running for more than 300 years, the markets held downtown are a veritable cornucopia of cuisine. Vegetables and citrus fruits, local traditional sushi, sweet potato tempura are some of the delights in plentiful supply. Just when you slip into a travel mood thanks to the row of nostalgic street stalls, suddenly a tacos joint appears with a queue outside, run by a diverse international staff. Cruising around while trying to take it all in makes time pass in a flash. A long session looking around the shops is made all the easier by my comfortable Tevas®.
If in town on a Saturday, head to the “Kochi Organic Market”. Located some 40 minutes by sightseeing bus from Kochi station, this organic market which started in 2008 is a world away from the bustle of downtown, and the first of its kind in Japan. All sorts of organic vegetables, vegan food and gluten free sweets make for up a cosmopolitan lineup, full of temptations that are hard to resist.
Also known as “Tosa, the Saké Country”, Kochi is certainly not short of restaurants paring cuisine with delicious sake. However, recently it is also becoming known for its modem restaurants that have serious flair. The “Aikei” café in Sakurai-cho serves sweets and coffee in a delightful atmosphere, with attention to detail evident in the interior all the way to the paper wrapping. “yoiyo” meanwhile is an izakaya with an eye on sustainability, internally adjoining a small book shop where meaningful encounters can take place. It’s equally tempting to stroll around the back alleys in search of unique shops. Don’t worry if you get tired out, as there is a retro tramcar running through town.
After a full day of walking, it’s time to repose in the comfortable “7days Hotel plus”. Although a business hotel, it has an art and culture theme, with various works displayed in the lobby and guest rooms. It goes beyond the traditional remit of a hotel in order to tell the world about the delights of Kochi, including initiatives such as the “7days laatikko” which is a gift box set bursting with seasonal delights of the prefecture. It’s also a great place to pick up local information. Lie back and start devising tomorrow’s itinerary. Go and check out the Sakamoto Ryoma statue maybe, or perhaps head to the mountain streams? Any road up, I’ll be slipping into my Teva® again in the morning.
Teva® HURRICANE VERGE
New model melds modern with comfort.
The Verge is the latest addition to the popular Hurricane Series, updated with a modern feel. Sturdy underfoot thanks to the 100% renewable polyester webbing that crosses over the instep. Velcro fastener heel and toe straps can be as tight or loose as you like. The ankle buckles allow for easy slipping on and removal. With an EVA footbed in the soles for extra cushioning, one pair is all you need for a fun day outdoors or for striding around town.