The hotel I booked online in Kochi City somehow offered breakfast for two for two days for an additional 77 cents more than a room without it. Emilee and I were eager to try the Japanese style breakfast in the restaurant at the hotel, so we made our way downstairs. We were greeted with a huge selection of 40+ items to choose from on the buffet. We loaded our trays with a variety of items, including mackerel, several salads, miso soup, adorable mini waffles, incredibly soft and delicate wagyu beef, chicken, and rice. We stuffed ourselves.
Following breakfast, I tried on my new shoes and some toe socks that are designed to help reduce friction between toes to prevent blisters. I have a pair of Vibram’s Five Fingers shoes, but putting on these toe socks felt even more weird than wearing those shoes. After walking around for a while, I noticed my toes weren’t getting so hot and sweaty, so hopefully they will help. My new shoes felt amazing too, but are the least flashiest shoes I have bought in 5 years. They come in Dad Shoe Grey with white laces. But damn if they aren’t super comfortable.
Emilee and I decided to walk to Kochi Castle today, knowing we could leave the burden of our packs at the hotel. The wonderful castle is perched high on a hill in the middle of the city. Surrounding it is a beautiful park, which slowly leads up to the castle itself with plenty of places to stop to learn more about the castle grounds, which used to be much larger and include several more buildings.
This castle was never successfully attacked by an enemy, which is not surprising when you see how tall these steep castle walls are. There are several places for turrets and guns to shoot down from the walls, as well as several openings in the castle keep where stones could be dropped on the heads of unsuspecting enemies. Additionally, the entrance of the castle was designed as a maze, including false gates designed to lure enemies into a trap and allowing them to easily be surrounded by castle guards and fired on from all directions. I’ll drop below a bunch of photos of the incredible castle, including the breathtaking views from the top of the castle, which felt like we were on top of Kochi City. Click the photos for a larger view of them.
After the castle, we decided to walk through the large arcade nearby, where I ate a few nights before. It was fun to see it in the daylight this time with all of the shops open and packed with people. We browsed restaurant menus and the different shops. This is really a one-stop-shop for everything you need, from pharmacies and clothing stores, to meat and fish markets and fresh produce stands. It was crazy hot out, so we stopped for a matcha ice cream at a little cafe. The ice cream was so silky smooth and refreshing. I’m buying an ice cream maker when I get home to make matcha ice cream. You’re all invited over for an ice cream party.
Nearby I found a tourist trap (I’m good at that) called Harimaya Bridge. The bridge is famous (it was the central location for a 2009 movie of the same name) as the site where a 19th century monk broke his vows to a solitary life by falling in love with a local woman and bought her a hair pin at a shop near the bridge. Scandalous! The monk and the woman were both banished because monks were not allowed to fall in love back then. When we got to the bridge, we found a short, 20-meter long bridge immediately adjacent and parallel to a sidewalk, defeating the entire purpose of a bridge. I suppose it’s a lasting symbol of love or some other crap. The bridge has been torn down and replaced several times since the time of the monk — so much for the lasting part of that symbolism. I have been to a lot of awful tourist traps (I’m looking at you, Four Corners), and this one ranks up there. The rest of the day I labeled it as the “shitty bridge”, and but for its central location and mildly interesting story, is otherwise entirely unremarkable.
Kazuhiro told me that the best place in Kochi City to eat and drink is at Hirome Market, which happened to be a few blocks from our hotel. We went for supper, having no idea what to expect. When we entered, we found dozens of tables filled with people, all scattered through a small indoor market with a maze of hallways lined by small restaurants and alcohol vendors. Emilee and I decided before we purchase anything, we make a full pass through the market to get an idea of all of the food and drink options. We found sashimi and sushi vendors, a burger shop, steak, a variety of meats grilled on skewers, a French restaurant, and lots of different shops selling noodles and gyoza (dumplings). We purchased a few bento boxes and sushi and sashi rolls and looked for a place to sit. Somehow, the guests at this market go through a process of reserving tables to sit at. Not knowing this, we tried to sit with a particularly unfriendly gentleman that tried to convey to us that the rest of the table was reserved for his friends or family. After about 10 minutes of wandering to find a table in the market, I decided I’d just order a meal at one of the small restaurants so we could eat all of our food there, which seemed like an acceptable practice as we saw people bringing food in and out of all of these restaurants from all over the market. We settled on an Indian restaurant, where I ordered an eggplant curry and garlic naan. The owner of the shop didn’t allow us to bring in the drinks we had bought outside the market, so we quickly exited the market and finished our beers. Drinking on the street is legal here, but the restaurant owners frown on bringing drinks purchased outside of their shop. That makes sense, but it was surprising since they allowed (and even encouraged) outside food to be brought into their restaurant. Eating in Japan has a bit of a learning curve of which I find I’m still on the steep upward slope. The owner seemed to understand we had no idea what we were doing, so he showed great patience with us. All of the food was incredible, but the curry was particularly delicious.
It was clear that the Hirome Market was an important part of community for adults in Kochi City. This is a place where people would gather after work to unwind from their day with their best mates, with an assortment of food and drink. It was fun to see people continue to come back to their full tables with different plates, passing them around so all of their friends could sample the different food. I hadn’t yet experienced this side of community in Japan, and once we got past the initial confusion of how the market operates, found it wonderful to watch and observe (and drink lots of shochu). I could have spent hours here, and wish someday that my best mates and I can spend an evening unwinding in a similar locale. Tomorrow, Emilee and I are back on the henro trail with plans to visit 3 temples.