Kochi Castle 高知城
Kochi Castle, in Kochi Prefecture in the south of Shikoku, is a completely original castle, one of only twelve of the hundreds of castles still standing in Japan. The complete Edo Period inner citadel (honmaru) of Kochi Castle is still intact.
History of Kochi Castle
First constructed between 1601 and 1611 by Yamauchi Kazutoyo, the feudal lord (daimyo) of Tosa, Kochi Castle burnt down in 1727 and was rebuilt between 1729-1753. The buildings you see today at Kochi Castle date from that time, with the exception of Otemon Gate, which survived the fire.
Yamauchi Kazutoyo was located here from Kakegawa, in present-day Shizuoka Prefecture, after his efforts for Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Previously he had served with distinction both Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The original castle was designed by Dodo Echizen, a renowned castle architect, and constructed with materials from the surrounding area.
The reconstruction of the fortress in Kochi took place in the middle of a period of prolonged peace in Japan so the feudal lord of the day had his living quarters (kaitokukan) situated on the ground floor looking out on to a pleasant garden planted with cherry trees and plum trees.
Kochi Castle Buildings
The huge Otemon Gate is the main entrance to Kochi Castle and has two floors with the upper floor serving as a watch room above the gate doors. This is the oldest surviving part of Kochi Castle. It was first built in 1610 and then rebuilt in 1664. The square-shaped ground in front of the gate, known as a masugata, forms a box to trap any invading forces and rain fire on them from three sides. The main beams of the gate are zelkova reinforced with copper plates.
The 18.5m-tall castle tower (donjon) is registered as an "Important Cultural Property" and has three external levels on six floors. The tower was rebuilt in 1749 according to the original design. The curving eaves of the tiled roof earned Kochi Castle the nickname of "Hawk Castle."
On the north east corner of the tower are spikes embedded in the wall known as "ninja repellents" which are unique to Kochi Castle. The feudal lord's reception suite (kaitokukan) within the tower consists of several rooms including an entrance hall, guard room and the lord's chamber - a step high than the other rooms to emphasize his superior status. There is also a hidden room to hide soldiers to protect the daimyo.
The interior of the tower now serves as a castle museum with displays of photographs of other castles in Japan, a palanquin, models of samurai warriors and information on historical figures associated with Kochi Prefecture such as the omnipresent Sakamoto Ryoma and Itagaki Taisuke.
Other buildings in the inner citadel are the Corridor Gate, a storehouse and East and West Row Houses built on stone foundations and the Black Iron Gate.
The impressive black-painted, two-storey Tsumemon Gate acts as a corridor between the inner citadel and the outer citadel, with the second floor used as a guardroom and the first floor a storeroom for salt and other provisions in case of a siege. The name Tsumemon comes from "tsumeru" meaning to be on duty.
On a clear day, there are good views over Kochi town stretching out below from the top of the donjon.
The Kochi Castle grounds are now known as Kochi Park and contain a number of other attractions, including the Kochi Literary Museum, which is designed as if it were part of the castle walls.
Just outside the main entrance to Kochi Castle is an equestrian statue of Yamauchi Kazutoyo and just inside the entrance to your right another statue, this time of Itagaki Taisuke, a founder of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) People's Rights Movement and a native of the area. Close by is a further statue, this time of Chiyo, the loyal wife of Kasutoyo Yamauchi, who was featured in a popular NHK Taiga drama.
Of particular interest in Kochi Castle grounds is the impressive main gate (Otemon), a "Trick Gate" that lead potential attackers outside the castle and the beautifully restored Tsumemon that connected the Ni-no-Maru (second citadel) of the castle with the inner sanctum.
Tel: 088 824 5701
Admission: 400 yen
Hours: 9am-5.pm (last entry 4.30pm)
Access - Getting to Kochi Castle
Kochi Castle's main entrance is at the end of Otesuji, where the Sunday market is held. The nearest tram stop to the start of the market is Hasuikemachi-dori. Koji-jo-mae tram stop is a short walk from the main entrance of Kochi Castle.
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