A Foodie (and Beer Lover’s) Fall Weekend Trip to Kochi

Certified foodie Chiara Terzuolo shares her perfect long weekend fall trip to Kochi in Shikoku. It’s not as far as you might think!

After the steaming Japanese summers, I cannot wait for fall to arrive. With the temperatures finally dropping, it is time to plan hikes to see the trees turn their regal golds and reds, and eat all of the seasonal delights that come with the season.

While most folks in Japan think of the autumn foliage in Kyoto or the blazing colors in mountain areas like Nagano, my thoughts go directly to Kochi, on the little island of Shikoku. Despite its delightfully remote vibe, it is just under 3.5 hours from Hiroshima, via a fast bullet train ride to Okayama and a scenic ride over the Oseto Bridge on the Dosan Line.

Great Seto Bridge
The Oseto Bridge, gateway to Shikoku

Early to mid-November is the best time to visit for a long weekend, dedicated both to the pleasures of the palate and some outdoor adventures surrounded by the golden leaves. So let’s jump into my perfect fall trip to Kochi!


Kicking off in Kochi City

Mephistopheles coffee shop in Kochi Japan
Mephistopheles ©Takuya Hosogi

I usually hop on a shinkansen early on Saturday morning, to get to Kochi Station a bit before noon. A 15-minute walk from the station, cutting through the Obiyamachi shopping arcades, is my traditional first stop of the day: Mephistopheles.

Inside Mephistopheles coffee shop in Kochi City

The whimsical, retro coffee shop serves “morning” sets all day, in generous Kochi-sized portions that make an ideal brunch, which are well-worth restricting yourself to coffee on the train for.

Makino Botanical Garden in Kochi City
Makino Botanical Garden ©Takuya Hosogi

The next stop is just a quick bus ride up nearby Mt. Godai, where I head to see the seasonal flowers and colors at the Makino Botanical Garden. The vast grounds (which include a trail that is part of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage route) are dotted with russet trees and autumnal flowers that glow under the golden fall sun. On chilly days the greenhouse is a warm paradise, with walls thick with plants reminiscent of something out of Laputa, Castle in the Sky.

chikurinji temple in Kochi Japan in autumn
Chikurin-ji Temple ©Takuya Hosogi

Just across the road is Chikurin-ji Temple, which is at its very finest during this season. This is the 31st stop on the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage, and I can easily imagine how moving it must be for exhausted pilgrims to walk into the mossy embrace of this beautiful spot, and look up at the bright red pagoda framed in fall foliage. Make sure to splurge for the entrance fee to the inner garden, which always reminds me of those in Kyoto (without the millions of people competing for the view).

Hirome Market in Kochi Japan
Kochi’s kitchen, Hirome Market ©Takuya Hosogi


Kochi nights

After checking into my hotel for the night, which is often either the super sleek and minimal 7 Days or the private room at En Hostel & Bar, it is time to head out for dinner. Heading toward Kochi Castle, my go-to is always Hirome Market, where there are dozens of stalls selling all sorts of Kochi favorites, such as freshly seared katsuo no tataki (bonito cooked over a straw fire), aonori laver tempura, sake from many of the prefecture’s breweries and even some Indian and Italian dishes to switch it up. Grab a spot at one of the communal tables, start sampling tidbits from the various stalls, and say hi to folks seated nearby, as this is the best way to get a feel for this party-loving region.

Katsuo-tataki at Hirome Market ©Takuya Hosogi

One thing a lot of people don’t know is that in Kochi, one of the traditional ways of ending a night out is not with a round of karaoke, but rather with a delicious slice of cake! Give this part of local nightlife a whirl at the nearby Obiyamachi branch of Maison de Sweets Hattori, which is open until midnight.


Sunday Market in Kochi – One of Japan’s best

Sunday Market in Kochi Japan
Kochi’s Sunday Market ©Takuya Hosogi

After a good night’s sleep, I wake up to go have breakfast at what is (in my opinion) one of Kochi City’s very best institutions: the Sunday Market. Dating back several centuries, this is the longest street market in Japan, starting around the foot of Kochi Castle and stretching down 1.3 km under a canopy of palm trees. After a cup of coffee, I wander the stalls, weighing up my options… will it be the imoten, fluffy bites of sweet potato tempura, or perhaps an artisan muffin? Maybe a small platter of inaka-sushi, Kochi’s veggie based sushi flavored with yuzu? Everytime I find something different and tempting, and I always leave very full.

Kochi Sunday Market
Kochi Sunday Market


Gorgeous views and delicious brews

There are a number of cute retro towns to explore near Kochi City, such as the former samurai town of Aki or the flagstoned lanes of Sakawa, but for a fall foodie retreat, I usually chose to head to the tiny settlement of Niyodogawa.

I pick up a rental car near the station (there are train and bus connections..but I’m lazy), and take the easy drive of just over an hour to Nakatsu Gorge.

Nakatsu Gorge in Kochi Japan
Nakatsu Gorge ©Takuya Hosogi

Usually I just go for the short 2.3 km hike along the gorge, to see the autumn leaves and incredible glowing blue of the water, which make for really dramatic photos. However, you can also book canyoning or pack-rafting tours with Niyodo Adventure, run by a friendly Japanese-Canadian couple, if you want something a little more challenging.

niyodogawa craft beer by Blue Brew in Kochi Japan
Blue Brew’s craft beer line up ©Takuya Hosogi

A 15 minute drive further into the mountains (or one hour hike, for the more athletically inclined) and I pull up at Blue Brew, a craft brewery run by former Californians Ken and Masako Mukai. The enchanted beer-serving cottage in the woods, fronted by a clear stream and surrounded by trees covered in golden leaves, is adorable.

Blue Brew craft beer brewery and cafe in Kochi Japan
Blue Brew

Sit by the firepit or take your pint for a stroll along the river, for an intensely serene moment. All their beers are made from the pure local water and incorporate ingredients grown by nearby farmers, such as hops, ginger, sweet potato and green tea!

Of course drinking and driving is a big no-no, so once the sun sets I check in across the road at Shimona no Sato, a former school that has been transformed into a surprisingly cozy inn. The generous dinners and breakfasts here are a real taste of Kochi home-cooking, and often include freshly-caught river fish and mountain vegetables. More outdoorsy folks can bring their camping gear and overnight at the nearby Yumenomori Park camping site, which has nice bathrooms, cooking facilities and allows guests to build fires (s’mores anyone?!)

In the morning, as always, checking out is easy, but leaving this peaceful place, full of delicious food, beer and friendly folks is much harder. But not to worry… I’ll be back again next year.

Places mentioned in this article

October 2022

Chiara Terzuolo

Chiara is a Tokyo-based jack of all trades who enjoys running off to the lesser known parts of Japan. You can find her at @tokyoveganguide and @chiara_mezzo.