Tosayama rests in the gentle hills just outside of Kochi City in Shikoku. With a population of less than a thousand and a centre town that boasts only a post office, general store, and government office, it is a quiet town that hasn’t yet caught the eye of eager tourists. It is, however, a beautiful place with a tight-knit community that is well worth the visit for anyone traveling through Shikoku and interested in experiencing rural Japan.
I went to Tosayama this March as part of an educational program with Kochi Encounters: Japan. Our day began with a relaxing hike up Mt. Ohtakiyama. The path is maintained by the community and leads to the Auberge Tosayama Hotel. Depending on the route, you can go for a short walk through the forest or spend an entire afternoon exploring. From the hilltop, which is 8658m above sea level, you can see all the way out to the sea.
Next, we visited the Tosayama Plum Festival which is held every spring when the plum trees begin to blossom. Sakura (cherry blossoms) may be more famous in Japan, but the plum blossoms were as beautiful and more fragrant. We bought fishcakes with cheese from local vendors and enjoyed them at tables set up under the canopy of flowers.
Many years ago, the community decided to plant plum trees and hold a festival as a form of community building and to revitalize their small town by attracting visitors. The success of the festival has since led to other community building initiatives in this area. For summertime visitors, there is a firefly festival that is also quite beautiful.
The Auberge Tosayama Hotel was built by the community. It is beautifully modern with glass walls that let in the afternoon sun and tall wood supports. Much of the food in the restaurant is local and seasonal. The hotel also has an onsen (Japanese spa/hot spring) where guests can relax after a day of hiking.
Visitors to Tosayama can enjoy the beauty of rural Japan. Delicious local food, spectacular scenery, and friendly people make it an excellent destination for those interested in venturing off the beaten path and experiencing a different side of Japan.