There are many thousands of castles and castle ruins in Japan but there are just twelve castles where the castle tower and main keep remains intact. At the very center of Kochi City, stands one of these 12 original castles.
Constructed in 1601, Kochi Castle has been preserved for more than 400 years and has survived all manner of catastrophe including: fire, typhoons, and WWII. The fact that Kochi Castle never saw a battle means the castle has been left in pristine condition. When exploring the building and grounds, you get a sense that you have stepped back in time to the Samurai era. The castle keep is open and accessible to anyone who wants to climb the steep wooden stairs and the view of the city and its landscape that awaits is certainly worth the effort. Stand where the Daimyo (feudal lord) stood to observe the surroundings from the keep and let your imagination run wild.
While the historical buildings and architecture are amazing, there is a must-see spot in Kochi Castle. If you are familiar with Japanese history, the word Ninja will ring a bell. When castles were built in Japan, the architects had to always consider Ninja and how best to keep them out. The steep walls of a castle are part of the defensive system, which is considered upon construction, but these walls were not enough to defend the lord from Ninja. Shinobi Gaeshi, a row of sharp, katana-like iron spikes were developed and installed on castle walls to repel Ninja. Kochi Castle is the last place that offers an opportunity to appreciate the real Shinobi Gaeshi, so be sure to take a photo while you’re there (see image #5).
While Kochi is beautiful all year round, spring cherry blossoms, stunning autumn foliage and winter snow flurries each create a different atmosphere around the castle, so be sure to visit and appreciate the ever-changing Kochi Castle in all seasons.
Cherry blossom time is especially beautiful around the castle, where the 223 cherry trees bloom from late March to early April each year. Every year, people from all over Japan visit Kochi Castle to frame the spiritual contrast of blossoms and Kochi Castle. Easily accessed by bus, tram and train, Kochi Castle is one of the most visited cherry blossom spots in Kochi.
Located in the southern part of Japan, Kochi has a relatively warm climate, so there are very few snowy days during winter. If you are lucky enough to see a snowflake in the Kochi sky, then you should pay a visit to Kochi Castle and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of snowflake flurries embracing the entire castle.
Winter illuminations are always a popular event throughout Japan. After sunset, Kochi Castle lights up with a variety of colours until 10pm. The illumination event has continued for almost 66 years. With its inherited illuminations and massive light up event throughout the year, Kochi Castle was nominated as one of the three best castles to view at night in Japan, so make sure it’s on your list of places to visit when you’re in Kochi!