Kōchi Castle is a hilltop castle. In the pre-modern age, it lay within the borders of Tosa Province. It was in use from 1603 to 1871. The castle is one of the four in Shikoku with a keep that remains as it was in the 1800s, and indeed, it’s the only castle in Japan retaining all the original buildings in the innermost ring of defense, including the residence of the local daimyo. This gives the castle a satisfying feeling of completeness, creating a stronger impression of what castle life might have been like.
The current buildings date from 1748 when the castle was rebuilt after a fire. The castle was never involved directly in any battles. Interesting defensive features include ‘ninja spikes’ around the base of the keep to deter people in black pajamas, and a deceptive gateway that leads into a dead-end for attackers. The gateway has a number of gun ports that are lightly plastered-over for concealment.
You enter the attractive castle grounds across a small moat dotted with lily pads. A path wends steeply up through various rough stone fortifications, with the keep towering high above. The original buildings in the honmaru, with their beautiful smooth wood, have a palpable feeling of age. You pass through the elegant but compact daimyo’s palace before climbing up through the various floors of the keep. On each floor, there are interesting exhibits and dioramas explaining the history and structure of the castle, and Kōchi. The view from the top is fantastic.
The new castle museum just beyond the moat is also well worth a visit if you have time.
Name in Japanese: 高知城
Address: Marunouchi 1−2−2−1, Kochi, 780-0850 Kochi