Spiritual sites and relaxing spas to cleanse both body and mind Refresh your body and soul with Kochi’s pristine nature and tranquil shrines and temples.

Need some balance to your busy travel schedule? Here we will introduce some fantastic destinations within reach of Kochi City that will leave you feeling refreshed and recharged.

Ancient trees and hidden worlds

It is not often you encounter a living creature that is said to be over 3,000 years old. That is exactly what is waiting for you when you visit the Sugi no Osugi in Yasaka Shrine. Regarded by many as Japan’s oldest living cedar tree, the majestic cedar consists of two separate trees that are fused at the base. The 60m tall trees are carefully maintained. The stillness inside the shrine adds to the mysterious atmosphere that seems to surround this ancient living structure.

Outside the shrine, a cozy restaurant and gift shop offers a set of healthy lunch options based on their famous handmade Tajikawa Soba and clear soy-based broth. The Tajikawa noodles are fatter with a more delicate texture compared to the usual soba noodles you encounter in Japan.

To the east of Kochi City on Route 55, just past the town of Aki and a stone’s throw from Ioki Station, there is one of the most intriguing sites in the whole prefecture. The Iokido Cave simply looks dark and unappealing on the outside. The entrance is overgrown and surrounded by the nondescript buildings, roads and fields you see in rural towns across Japan. However, this is in fact a portal to another world.

Walking through the dark tunnel was almost a Ghibli-esque experience. The noise of the traffic from the busy road outside faded away to be replaced by the sound of the stream underfoot. After a short walk, the cave opened up into a beautiful miniature gorge. The sides were flanked by tall bamboo and trees. It almost made you feel as if you were walking underground. It is not a long trek - 20 minutes at best. Towards the end you are rewarded with a delightful waterfall. At this point you can either turn back or walk above and around the waterfall on a route that leads you back down to the road. It was a wonderful detour into another world. We could experience nature without needing to drive for miles into the mountains. In the dedicated parking space and visitor area, you can borrow rubber boots for free. A necessity if you want to keep your feet dry. Some of the paths can be slippery, so please watch your footing!

Luxury bathing in the mountains and in the heart of the city.

Deep in the mountains east of Kochi City, the hot spring baths at Umaji Onsen will leave you feeling rejuvenated and thoroughly refreshed. The properties in the hot spring water will leave your skin feeling silky smooth. Although hot springs tend to attract most visitors during the colder months of the year, there is a good reason to make the journey to Umaji during the hotter seasons as well. Every Wednesday in May and June, the onsen prepares an extravagant rose bath experience for women. You can bathe in a hot spring bath full of floating hand picked roses that come in a variety of colors. It will make you relax and unwind as you breathe in the aroma that rises up from the flowers. You will feel like a princess.

The area is also famous for its yuzu - a fragrant citrus fruit regularly used in Japanese cuisine for its distinctive flavor. In the evening meal, you could taste hints of yuzu being used in the various dishes and desserts.

If you would prefer to stay in the city, you can still enjoy a great bathing experience at the famous Jyoseikan Hotel. Built in 1874, this hotel has been visited by a host of former prime ministers and celebrities. It was even used by the Emperor of Japan. Luckily for visitors to Kochi, the baths on the 8th floor of the hotel are open to the public for a very reasonable price of 1,080 JPY. This is highly recommended for anyone staying in the city and wanting to soak in luxury and enjoy a bigger bath than the usual cramped hotel room baths. The views of Kochi and the mountains surrounding the city from the outdoor bath is certainly fit for a king - or an emperor.

Visit Cape Muroto and gain a deeper understanding of the planet

Cape Muroto is recognized as a UNESCO Global Geopark - an area of global geological importance. Located in the southeastern tip of Kochi, the area has witnessed the birth of new landmasses due to the movement of oceanic plates and the effects of seismic activity. The formations of the rocks tell the story of how Muroto was pushed out of the sea over the course of hundreds of thousands of years - very recent history when compared to the age of the planet. Compared to the majority of Geoparks around the world, Muroto must be the most accessible. It’s literally just off Route 55 that hugs the coastline around the peninsula.

This was also where the famous Buddhist monk Kukai (also known as Kobo Daishi) underwent his solitary Buddhist training by continuously reciting sutras from a cave that looks out onto the Pacific Ocean. There is a theory that the name Kukai - which contains the characters for sky and sea - comes from this period of study when all he could see in front of him was the sky and the sea, and he was very impressed by them.

The impressive Hotsumisaki-ji Temple sits on the hill above Kukai’s cave. Part of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism founded by Kukai, the temple is one of the 88 temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage route. The smoke and the smell of incense adds to the atmosphere inside and it is well worth a visit. For a spectacular view of a vast expanse of ocean stretching out to horizon, walk down to the 19th century lighthouse that is still in operation a few meters away from the temple.

Feel the benefits of the deep sea water

The unique geographical features of Muroto make it possible to access the deeper reaches of the ocean directly from the coast. One benefit to this is access to deep sea water. Unlike normal sea water, the deep sea water brought up from the depths is nutrient rich and contains very few contaminants. This water can be used in the creation of various products and desalinated deep sea water can be consumed as mineral water. You can find out more about the benefits of deep sea water and the process of extracting the water with a visit to the Aqua Farm - a small exhibition space on Route 55. As well as having desalinated water to taste, they also have live fish and crustaceans on show that are funneled up with the deep sea water.

A few minutes down the road from the Aqua Farm is Searest Muroto - Deep Sea Water Therapy Pool. The pools and jacuzzis all make use of deep seawater and the concept is based on the German hydrotherapy model. The main pool is maintained at 34℃ and features an array of jets and streams that help to massage your body as you walk and exercise in the pool. The facilities are clean and easy to use, and the hot bath and shower at the end leaves your body feeling thoroughly refreshed. A perfect pitstop to recalibrate during any road trip or drive along the coast.

(Visited in January 2017)