The “Sunset Snowman” in Kochi
Are you looking for a fieldtrip suggestion? Try out Kochi Prefecture on the south coast of Shikoku with its mild winters for one such ideal location.
So what’s Kochi prefecture good for? Below we spot 10 things to do with kids while visiting Kochi Prefecture…
#1. Well, for starters, Kochi’s said to be “the greenest corner of Japan” and to be associated with the great outdoors and mountain hiking. With 85% of the prefecture covered in forests, and its uncluttered Pacific coastline, getting out and about in the great outdoors is one of the best ways to enjoy Kochi. Mild winters of Shikoku allow for winter hiking.
#2. Good for an adventurous date with the kids going canoeing (Canoe-kan (Japanese only): http://www.canoekan.com/), river-rafting, kayaking. Best rafting said to be at Oboke and Koboke Gorges on the Yoshino River – just over an hour from Kochi City Happy Raft or Gekiryu Rafting (Japanese only).
#3 Visit Kochi’s beautiful beaches, some good for surfing, (see photos of Katsurahama and more here) or for the coral reefs of Otsuki and the Tatsutsuki marine park. Kashiwajima in Otsuki is a treasure island located in the southwestern end of Kochi Prefecture with rich marine resources. NPO: Kuroshio Zikkan Center regards Kashiwajima itself as a Natural Museum. The island is even said to have one of the world’s largest concentrations of reef-building corals (123 different species) with 1,000 different kinds of fish seen in the waters around Kashiwajima. At certain times of the year, at a number of locations in Kochi prefecture, including Katsurahama you can go on whale watching trips (dolphins, sea turtles, and other creatures of the sea can also be spotted).
#4 Make a fieldtrip out to the Muroto Geopark to explore its geological wonders. Watch this educational video for a lesson on geology and earth science in Japanese with English subtitles.
#5 Featured a lot and much celebrated on Japanese TV and in documentary fare is the Shimanto River. Often dubbed Japan’s “last pristine river” or “Japan’s last clear stream”, see what a water crystal from the Shimanto River looks like under the microscope. Every school kid learns about the Shimanto River from their school social studies textbooks. They typically learn these facts:
a. The Shimanto River is the longest river in Shikoku.
b. It has about 300 tributaries and flows down about 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) from the south flank of Mt. Irazu (1,336 meters (4,383 feet) high) to the Pacific Ocean at the Tosa Bay.
c. The Shimanto River (with the gentle tilt of its river slopebed) is the only major river in Japan that has not been dammed anywhere.
d. That from the headwaters to its mouth, 94 species of wild fish are to be found in the Shimanto River, the largest number of all rivers in Japan. Using traditional methods rarely seen elsewhere, professional fishermen make their living by catching several product, such as Ayu sweetfish, basses, eel, crab, and “aonori” (green seaweed), etc.
It is very difficult, if not impossible, to find appropriate adjectives correctly describing the massive natural offerings that this great river of 200 km length brings. So legitimate that the river has other recognitions such as “100 great water areas” and “100 remarkable forests of water sources”.
#6. “Sunset snowman” phenomenon(See photo at the top of page) – This is an unusual celestial phenomenon can be seen from Kochi during the winter months around the southern part of the prefecture near Cape Muroto and Cape Ashizuri. From these vantage points, the sun sets into the Pacific Ocean. During the cold months, the temperature difference between the sea and the atmosphere sometimes sets up an optical illusion whereby the sun seems to ‘bleed’ into the horizon, forming the image of a second sun immediately beneath the real sun. The images join just above the horizon, making it seem as though a huge sunny snowman is peeking over the horizon. Lasting only seconds, you have to time it well and hope for a completely clear day. (Source: Tourism Shikoku)
#7. Have fun visiting Japan’s oldest outdoor marketplace. Opened in 1690, the Sunday Market has continued ever since. Starting at Otemon Gate, the entrance to Kochi Castle, it winds its way for 1km along Otesuji Avenue.
#8. Visit an authentic ancient Japanese castle, i.e. not a reconstructed ferro-concrete one.
What’s rare about this castle is that all the structures from the original honmaru are extant. Kochi Castle considered to be one of the 12 “original castles” of Japan. The construction of the castle was begun in 1601 by Yamanouchi Kazutoyo who took control of the province after the Tokugawa victory and the whole castle was completed in 1611. A fire gutted much of the castle including the donjon in 1727. The current donjon is from the reconstruction that was completed in 1748. The castle was completely rebuilt by 1753.
#9. A heritage or historical tour of a few of the temples along the one of the great Buddhist pilgrimage routes of the world, …might just be your cup of tea. Way back when, walking the entire 1450-km-long Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage route would have taken between 40 to 50 days. 16 of the 88 designated pilgrimage temples, beginning with number 24 (Hotsumisaki-ji, in Muroto) and ending with number 39 (Enko-ji, in Sukumo), are in Kochi and are associated with the pilgrim’s walk founded by the monk Kobodaishi over 1000 years ago. The Kochi leg of the pilgrimage is called the ‘Training Ground for Ascetics.’ According to legend, Kobodaishi, aka Kukai, is said to have reached enlightenment after spending many days and nights in a cave on Cape Muroto, in modern-day Muroto City.
The Makino Botanical Gardens house the extensive collection of botanical specimens of the father of Japanese botany, Dr Tomitaro Makino, who had traveled all over Japan collecting over 400,000 specimens and naming 1,500 species of plants, spearheaded the whole field of plant taxonomy in Japan. The Makino Botanical Gardens were opened in 1958 to honour his work and the gardens remain a serious place of research for botanists today.
Finally, if you more than a few days on your hands, then exploring the rest of Shikoku makes for a really terrific summer camping trip. Check out all the stellar sights of Shikoku here (Source: The Miracles of Shikoku).
Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Gardens (Japan Visitor website)
Environmental Education Rooted in the Local Area of Kashiwajima Island, Otsuki, Kochi Kuroshio Science 2-1, 111-116, 2008 Masaru Kanda*
Kochi Prefecture (Japan Times article) Find out about Kochi’s natural and scenic retreats, such as the Muroto Geopark and Shimanto River, while learning about its renowned hospitality
“The Great Nature along the Shimanto River” on journeys in japan (Jib-kun’s Diary)
Images: Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons, Shikoku Tourism