The construction of Kochi Castle began over 400 years ago in 1601. The castle is now attracting attention as a tourist attraction and notable landmark, but the purpose of the castle at that time (400 years ago) was to prevent the invasion of enemies. In 1874 it was opened to the public as Kochi Park. It is completely free to walk around. However, for a small fee you can walk up to the top of the donjon, the main tower of the castle, and look out over the beautiful city.
One is welcomed into Kochi Park through a large gate called the Otemon Gate with a watch room above it. There you will find an employee handing out pamphlets in multiple languages. It is also worth noting there are vendors selling ice cream throughout the park. As soon as you walk in you notice a statue of a man with lengthy, yet unique facial hairstyle; this man is Itagaki Taisuke. He was a leader of the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement.
As you continue walking you towards the donjon, you reach the stairs leading to it. You may notice each step is different in height. This is because it made it harder for invaders to storm in and attack. These steps can be quite brutal on a hot day, which is why there are people selling ice cream and sodas at both the top and bottom of the stairway.
Once you climb up the stairs you will notice another statue. This one is of Yamauchi Chiyo and her horse. She was the lovely wife of Yamauchi Katsutoyo; Katsutoyo was a Lord of Kakegawa, and then later became the first Lord of Tosa in 1601, which is when the castle began construction. Chiyo helped Katsutoyo get promoted by spending her own money on an exceptionally elite horse to impress his superiors with. Unlike most lords, this couple actually lived in the castle too.
Once you make it to the donjon, there is an employee selling tickets to enter the castle and a set of lockers to keep your shoes in. As you make your way to the top of this five-storied castle, you will notice the inside is actually a museum packed with beautiful works of arts, history and culture.
The photo above is of a semi-3D depiction Yamauchi Katsutoyo on his elite horse and his wife, Yamauchi Chiyo, standing behind them. This piece can be found directly in front of you when you first start your tour of the museum. The museum even has a scale model of the castle during its early years when it was still used as a castle.
After many high steps leading up to the fifth story, you will find yourself at the top of the castle. With such an excellent view of Kochi City, be sure to bring something to take pictures with. Above are a couple photos I took when I visited.
Kochi Castle was the first Japanese castle I have ever visited, and I would love to revisit it. It is crazy to be surrounded by such rich history, and to walk through a building older than my own country. Kochi is an amazing city and prefecture, and it has a certain charm to it you cannot find anywhere else, just like with any Japanese city. One can find idiosyncratic charms no matter where they visit in Japan, which is what makes Japanese culture so special. This is a country of wonders and rich experiences, and should always be protected from the influence of change. Once you visit, you may not want to leave.