Why you’ll love Kochi Castle

Kochi Castle, Main Citadel.
Kochi Castle, Main Citadel.

On a sunny day in the morning, I go to a Kochi castle by bicycle from my house. It takes only a few minutes. Wondering where to park my bike I looked up the castle. I walked through the park under the castle. I found a few people walking, sitting on the bench and feeding birds. It was full of green so felt like time goes on very slowly there. There is a little cabin, where my grandma works as a castle guide volunteer. A tourist comes and asks for a guide.

“Hi thank you very much for coming,” my grandma says, then asks “Where are you from? How long are you going to stay?”

Wide main stairs
Main stairs

Looking at the left side there are wide stairs. It reminded me of my childhood, when climbing up these stairs listening to my grandma’s guide, thinking “It’s too hard I want to go back.” Some people are using sticks. Going up hard stairs she starts talking to the tourists about the beginning of the castle.

The beginning of Kochi castle, the old lady began to talk, dates back to about 400 years ago. The battle of Sekigahara had happened in 1600. A man named Yamauchi Kazutoyo contributed a lot in that war, so he came to Tosa (present Kochi prefecture) and started constructing the present Kochi Castle.

He started building Kochi castle in 1603. It is said that he built Kochi castle like the previous castle where he used to live. The place is Shizuoka, Kakegawa castle. He missed there a lot. Kazutoyo started living in Urado and started constructing on Mt. Odakasa. It was 1609.After that, the main citadel had finished building so Kazutoyo moved to present Kochi castle.

image01At that time it was named 河中山城 (Kouchi-castle, including the meaning of water) but the second lord hated the letter of 河, because they were always worried about flood damage and it reminded him bad memory. That’s why it is named 高知城. In 1611, Kochi castle was mostly completed.

But in 1727, most of Kochi castle had been destroyed because of a large fire. Only the main gate remained. The present main gate still exists. It took for 25years to rebuild and finished completing. The castle tower where we can see now was rebuilt at that time.

As we go up to the castle, people are saying “I’m exhausted”. We have to keep going up this wide stairs, which is for enemy’s blocking. Here is not so wide so if you just keep going it doesn’t take so much time to get to the castle. I looked at the back and thought “ oh I didn’t know I’m already here” seeing the way I had walked.

Stone work
Stone work: Uchikomi-Hagi, in front of the entrance of the castle

Also Kochi castle is known as its plenty of stones. If you see a wall made of rocks very carefully you will see large and small rocks piled up and mixed very well. This way of building called “打ち込みはぎ“(uchikomi-hagi).

In front of the entrance of the castle. There is an open space. It has nothing except for big trees. And there two old ladies sells ice creams, camera and bird seed. They talk to me” how about ice cream??” I just smiled at them and went away.

The founder of this castle, Yamauchi Kazutoyo What is he like?Actually his name is vague, most of people say Kazutoyo, but my history-lover grandma believes it is Katsutoyo. Anyway let’s have a look into his life.

Statue of Yamauchi Kazutoyo
Statue of Yamauchi Kazutoyo

During the  Sengoku period,  many people dreamed of becoming a top lord. They lived through the difficult time, and had to survive fighting many battles. Yamauchi Kazutoyo, was one of these men. He was born in 1545. When he was 13years old, his father had died because of the war. The little boy wandered with his mother and his little siblings. As he grew up he followed his father’s way. He served Hideyoshi Toyotomi (one of the most famous lord in Japan) and participated in the war to beat Nobunaga Oda (one of the most famous in Japan). He gradually stood out the war and became stronger. My grandma said a little happily, that during the war the arrow pierced his face but he beat the opponent. Although we are not sure this is a true story or not. But we can see that how he was a great man. As he participated the war he contributed it and stood out among other military commanders.Yamauchi Kazutoyo’s statue.

Yamauchi Kazutoyo’s wife, Chiyo.
Yamauchi Kazutoyo’s wife, Chiyo.

When we talk about Kazutoyo, we should never forget his wise wife, Chiyo. On your way to castle tower you will see her statue with horse. Some people stop there and taking photos and reading guide. People call her Chiyo, the influence of the drama, but actually her real name is not sure. Usually she is described as  Yamauchi Kazutoyo’s wife. She helped him get promoted.
Kazutoyo used to have a poor, cheap horse. Chiyo felt sorry for him because she thought the horse was not suitable for a man who will be a lord. So she bought a thoroughbred, spending all the money that she got from his father for an upcoming 馬揃え (umazoroe; inspection of the horses before the war) . Later the horse won the admiration of Nobunaga then his master and the most powerful warlord in Japan. This led to Kazutoyo’s promotion.

After Hideyoshi died,  Japan fell into a waring period again, and the couple were parted from each other. Kazutoyo was at Ieyasu’s side. Although Chiyo was supervised by Ishida Mitsunari she kept sending secret letters with important information. “Never mind about me, do what you have to do.” She would have written a letter something like this. Also she never allowed his husband to open the letter, but just asked him to give it to Ieyasu and show his loyalty. Thanks to Chiyo, Kazutoyo established credibility from Ieyasu. These two stories are famous.

In 1873, the site of the castle is open to the public as a park the following year.
Thanks to the drama more and more people, even young people show their interest in Kochi castle. My friends from other prefecture say they like the castle and it was good.
In the winter it is lit up very beautifully and there are full of visitors. Young people may not interested in historical places or history, but Kochi people can never think that we lost Kochi castle. In 1950, Kochi castle is designed as a national important cultural property

Does this crest remind you of anything

For your information here, there was a man named Iwasaki Yataro who is from Tosa Domain.

This became a mark of present Mitsubishi, which is now world-famous car company. Yataro is a founder of the company.

They came down the stairs from the castle. My grandma asks “Did you enjoy it?? I hope you like Kochi and please come again.” Tourists also says thank you to my grandma and I go back on a gravel road. .

I thought it was very peaceful. My grandma is also very busy with today for guiding but here in this castle, time goes very slowly.

A  cat lying under the shade
A cat lying under the shade

by Eriko Yamamoto


  1. I have been to Kochi castle for few times but the next time, I would like to go with Guide.
    Also I like the view from top of the castle so I’ll go there again with my knowledge that you told me. Thank you.


  2. Before reading your article, I don’t know what Kochi castle has long history.
    If I go to Kochi castle, I will check uchikomi-hagi.
    There has many interesting building system!!


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