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Shikoku Rail Tales #2: Shikoku Tosa Toki No Yoake No Monogatari and exploring Kochi

Shikoku Rail Tales #2: Shikoku Tosa Toki No Yoake No Monogatari and exploring Kochi

Continuing on from where we left off, this is the second part of Shikoku Rail Tales, a series where we explore travelling around Shikoku via rail, specifically taking a look their three Monogatari sightseeing trains:

  • Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari (四国まんなか千年ものがたり)
  • Shikoku Tosa Toki No Yoake No Monogatari (志国土佐 時代の夜明けのものがたり)
  • Iyonada Monogatari (伊予灘ものがたり)


The train with a tale of Tosa

"Monogatari" (物語) means "tale", and each train tells the tale of the region it travels through. We covered the Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari in Part 1, and in the second part of this series, we move on to the Shikoku Tosa Toki No Yoake No Monogatari, which runs between Kochi Station (高知駅) and Kubokawa Station (窪川駅) in Tosa (土佐), an old name for Kochi. 


Statues and images of Sakamoto Ryoma all around Kochi. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


The train’s route tells the story of Tosa, and follows the path of the samurai warriors during the turbulent times during the Bakumatsu (幕末)―the late Edo Period when the Tokugawa shogunate was ending―specifically areas passed by Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬) as he fled the castle town of Kochi and headed towards the Pacific Ocean and the mountains.


Shikoku Tosa Toki No Yoake No Monogatari. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


The Shikoku Tosa Toki No Yoake No Monogatari runs mainly on weekends and holidays, and the train makes one round trip per day of operation. The train departs Kochi Station at 12:00, so I had an evening and half a day to explore Kochi City, and of course I had to try the local food!


Feasting in Kochi

Yatai Yasubee’s gyozas are tasty and cheap. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


For dinner, I had a must-try and local favourite of Kochi: the juicy gyōza (餃子) from Yatai Yasubee (屋台安兵衛 Yatai Yasubē). The establishment is only open only at night, and their flavourful dumplings―crispy on the outside and filled with juicy minced pork and vegetables on the inside―are delicious and cheap, costing only ¥600 for a plate of seven! Pro-tip: the gyoza are best enjoyed with a bowl of ramen and bottle of beer. Kanpai!


Yatai Yasubee (屋台安兵衛)
Address: 4-19 Nijudaimachi, Kochi-shi, Kochi 780-0843
Nearest station: JR Kochi Station (高知駅)
Opening hours: 19:00–03:00 (Mondays to Saturdays, Closed on Sundays)


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Entrance to Hirome Market. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


If there’s one place you have to visit in Kochi for food, it’s Hirome Market (ひろめ市場 Hirome Ichiba), a large food hall that’s nicknamed “Kochi’s kitchen”. Filled with a huge assortment of over 60 food and drink stalls, and open from morning until late evening, Hirome Market is a great place to satisfy your food cravings and try out the best that Kochi has to offer.


Enjoy seared bonito and other dishes at Hirome Market. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


A must-try dish while in Kochi is seared bonito (カツオのたたき katsuo no tataki): thick slices of bonito sashimi that have been seared on the edges, usually over a straw fire, and sprinkled with salt and served with a slice of lemon. Bonito fishing is a large part of Kochi Prefecture’s economy, and the prefecture boasts the highest bonito consumption in Japan. 


Hirome Market (ひろめ市場)
Address: 2-3-1 Obiyamachi, Kochi-shi, Kochi 780-0841
Nearest station: JR Kochi Station (高知駅)
Opening hours: 10:00–23:00 (depends on shop)


Cherry blossoms at Kochi Castle

Cherry blossoms blooming at Kochi Castle. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


After eating, how about taking a walk to digest? Nearby Hirome Market is Kochi Castle (高知城), a castle with over 400 years of history, and one of Japan’s 12 remaining original castles (現存天守 genson tenshu): castles which have a main keep that has remained intact since its original construction in the Edo Period or earlier. When I visited, the cherry blossoms (桜 sakura) were blooming beautifully in the rain.


Kochi Castle (高知城)
Address: 1-2-1 Marunouchi, Kochi-shi, Kochi 780-0850
Nearest station: JR Kochi Station (高知駅)
Opening hours (Castle tower): 09:00–17:00
Admission fee (Castle tower): ¥420/adult (18 and above), Free for ages 17 and below

*Castle park is open 24 hours and free to enter.


Feasting on the train

The two ends of the Shikoku Tosa Toki No Yoake No Monogatari train. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


After having breakfast at Hirome Market and exploring Kochi Castle, I headed to Kochi Station to board the Shikoku Tosa Toki no Yoake Monogatari train. 


Interiors of the Kurofune (left) and Sorafune (right). (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


The train is made up of two cars, with Car 1 being Kurofune (クロフネ), inspired by the times of change in the late Edo Period. Car 2 is Sorafune (ソラフネ), which represents the new era that Sakamoto Ryoma dreamed of for the future.


Meal on the outbound journey. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


Abundant in nature, Kochi has the best of both worlds, producing delicious ingredients from both the land and the sea. When you ride the train, I highly recommend getting the meal package, which lets you dine on tasty meals made with locally produced ingredients.


The menu changes seasonally, and on the outbound journey from Kochi to Kubokawa, I was served a delicious selection of dishes made with local Tosa ingredients, served in a hexagonal box. For the inbound journey from Kubokawa to Kochi, guests will be served a meal in a box made with local cypress (檜 hinoki) wood from Shimanto.


Meal on the Shikoku Tosa Toki No Yoake No Monogatari. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


My meal was made up of 10 mini dishes crafted by a local chef with deep knowledge of Kochi’s local ingredients, who created a wide variety of flavours ranging from traditional to creative and Japanese to Western, with ingredients from both the sea and the mountains.


Some of the dishes included sea bream carpaccio with spring onions and ravigote sauce, cabbage and shrimp with tomato cream sauce, butter-grilled potatoes, lotus root with Shimanto pork, Shimanto chicken soboro, miso-grilled Spanish mackerel, roast beef, strawberry tart, and more. 


Getting extra drinks from the food counter. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


For passengers who did not get the meal package, fret not, as the train also has a food counter that serves drinks, snacks, and desserts. Although I was already full from the meal, I had to try the sake (酒 rice wine) sampler trio that came in a holder that resembled the train. Aside from the sake sampler set, other popular items included the citrus juice sampler set and the bonito Danish pastry.


View of the Pacific Ocean from inside the train. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


Although it was a cloudy and rainy day when I rode the train, we were still able to enjoy beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean as the train made its journey across the prefecture.


Brief stops at Kusaka Station and Awa Station

Warm welcome and send-off at Kusaka Station. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


The train did not make many stops along the way, but one short stop it made was at Kusaka Station (日下駅). The area is known for its tomatoes, and we were treated to a lovely and enthusiastic tomato dance performance by the locals. 


Stop at Awa Station. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


We were not able to get off at Kusaka Station, but the train made a longer stop at Awa Station (阿波駅), where we could get off to take photos by the sea, and take a look at local products being sold at the station.


A side quest on the Tosa Kuroshio Railway

Tetsuin from Tosa Kuroshio Railway’s Nakamura Station. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


Finally at 14:40, the train arrived at Kubokawa Station. One thing to note is that trains along this line are not frequent. I had 3 hours before my next train to Uwajima, so I decided to make a detour to take a ride on the Tosa Kuroshio Railway (土佐くろしお鉄道) to add another stamp to my tetsuin.


Onward to Uwajima

The Kappa Uyouyo Hobby Train. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


After the detour to Nakamura Station to get the tetsuin, I made my way back to Kubokawa Station and made it just in time to catch my train to Uwajima (宇和島). To my surprise, a special train awaited: the Kappa Uyouyo Hobby Train (ホビートレインかっぱうようよ号)! Kappa (河童) are creatures of Japanese folklore, said to be green water-dwelling trolls that love cucumbers.


Preview for the next part of my Shikoku Rail Tales. (Image credit: Carissa Loh)


After a 2.5-hour ride on the local line, I finally reached Uwajima, which I would explore the following day before catching the third and final Monogatari train, the Iyonada Monogatari.


In case you missed it, check out Part 1 of this series, where I took a ride on the Shikoku Mannaka Sennen Monogatari and explored Oboke Gorge, and stay tuned for the final article in this series, where we’ll explore Ehime Prefecture and fun stations along the way while riding the Iyonada Monogatari!


Header image credit: Carissa Loh


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