It’s difficult to not fall in love with the natural beauty of Kochi. Located on the smallest Japanese island, the prefecture is backed by the Shikoku Mountain Range, faces the grand Pacific Ocean, and 85% of the area is covered in forest. Still relatively undiscovered by foreigners, the picturesque countryside makes a road trip the perfect way to see Kochi, visit their onsens, and enjoy its local produce. Renting a car from the airport won’t set you back by much either (US$45-75) and is the most cost-effective and convenient way around the island.
While visitors to Kochi are warmly welcomed by the locals, arming yourself with navigation tools and simple Japanese phrases won’t hurt. Here are six recommendations to get you started on that road trip!

Nishijima Flower Garden

One of the best things about Kochi is the natural and organic produce available. Fruit picking is a fun activity that lets you taste the difference of the Japanese variety when it comes to familiar fruits like strawberries and watermelon. Nishijima Flower Garden has 10 greenhouses and plant nurseries that you can wander through from January to June; the best part is, of course, getting to eat these juicy fresh fruits at Ichigo Cafe. The entrance fee of 780 yen includes a slice of watermelon and emerald melon, along with sweets made with seasonal fruits. We highly recommend getting the soft serve in emerald melon for a cold, delicious treat.
Nishijima Flower Garden is located at 600, Hataeda, Nankoku City. Open 9am-5pm daily. Parking is free and it is a 15-minute walk from Kyohoen Mae bus stop if you take the Tosaden Katsu Bus.

Nakatsu Keikoku

The Niyodo River and the entire area surrounding it is postcard-worthy. The clear and pristine river has been rated the cleanest river in Japan for five years running, which such high water quality that its shade is known as ‘Niyodo Blue’. The waterfalls are incredible, and in winter, the frozen waterfalls create a stunning sight to behold. Just 30 minutes from Kochi city, a visit to Nakatsu Keikoku Prefectural Natural Park is ideal if you’re up for some physical exertion. The many trees provide shade while the sights and sounds of rushing water are both peaceful and calming; we recommend a slow hike to take in the incredible view.
Nakatsu Keikoku (Prefectural Natural Park) is located at Kochi Prefecture, Agokawa-gun, Ninodogawa-machi, 258-1, Nogawa River.

Washi

Images courtesy of @kamikoyawashi かみこや

Washi or Japanese papermaking is a popular activity in Kochi for locals and visitors alike. Tucked away in the mountains is the Kamikoya Washi Studio, which hosts various workshops and even provides accommodation for visitors interested in a more advanced paper making course. Owner and certified Tosa Artist, Rogier Uitenboogaart and his son Yohei provide a unique washi experience because rarely do you get to witness the journey from the mitsumata shrub to the end product – durable handmade Tosa Washi paper. Besides leaving you with a newfound appreciation for washi, you’ll get a cherished souvenir as they will mail you the washi you make at the workshop.
Kamikoya Washi Studio is located at 1678 Otado, Yusuhara Town, Takaoka County, Kochi Prefecture. To get here, take the bus to Yusuhara town from the JR Susaki Station or the JR Kochi station. The owner can pick you up from this bus stop if you inform him beforehand. The two-hour workshop is priced at 8000 yen for two people. 

Salt-Making

Kochi gives new meaning to the term ‘self-sufficient’ by producing their own delicious sea salt that adds a distinctive umami flavour to the dishes in Kochi. Using only water from the Pacific Ocean, wind and sunlight, the small batches of salt produced has a high mineral content. At Salteve, get an in-depth look at the natural salt making process in Kochi that hardly uses technology. Furthermore, they adopt a no waste policy so bittern, the by-product of salt, is used as a bath salt, for teeth cleaning, and to make Yose-tofu (fresh tofu), which you can try your hand at making too. Enjoy a tasty snack of seasonal vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers with the salt sprinkled over as well as a salt ice cream wafer to cool off after the session. Plus you get to take home the salt that you make!
Salteve is located at 333, Nada, Kuroshio Town, Hata Gun, p.+81-880-55-3226 (inquiries are available only in Japanese). Open daily from 9am-5pm. Admission fee is 1500 yen (includes the souvenir), Yose-tofu making is an additional 300 yen, reservations required. Parking is free. 

Shimanto River

While the Niyodo River is a must for its clear blue waters, the water activities available at the 196km-long Shimanto river makes it the ideal destination for a relaxing and enjoyable day out in nature. Dubbed ‘the last clear stream’ in Japan, the water is incredibly inviting and we highly recommend taking a dip, or renting Stand Up Paddles or a canoe to take you downstream. Even beginners can do it because of the steady waters. Take a Yakatabune or wooden houseboat for a 30-minute cruise (2000 yen) around the river for stunning landscapes and a sumptuous lunch on the boat. The night comes to a beautiful close as fireflies light up the night.

Stargazing

It doesn’t get more romantic than cosying up and star gazing over at Cape Ashizuri in Kochi. Surrounded by the sea, this spot is great all year round and there will also be a helpful guide to explain the various constellations that can be seen. Head over to the Shimanto Astronomical Observatory over at Nishitosa in Shimanto City to view the Milky Way.
Shimanto Astronomical Observatory is located at 1100, Nishitosamochii, Shimanto City, p.+81-880-52-2225. Entrance fee is 510 yen and reservation is required.
Images where not credited are courtesy of Visit Kochi.