Those who have been lucky enough to travel to Japan may already be familiar with the countless covered shopping arcades that are spread throughout the country. Teramachi and Shinkogyoku are two large shopping arcades in Kyoto and there are several in central Tokyo as well.
However, Shikoku’s Kochi City has one too – Obiyamachi. Though certainly smaller in scale, Obiyamachi’s interesting shops, charming cafes, and excellent restaurants make it a great place for a day of retail therapy.
Obiyamachi begins just off of Sanbashidori, the main street leading out of Kochi station, and runs through to Kochi Castle and Hirome Ichiba. From the station, it’s less than a ten-minute walk. Along the way you can stop and check out Harimayabashi, a small bridge famous for its role in a love story about a priest from Godaisan and a girl from Kochi.
This particular weekend I had set out in search of a Mother’s Day present to send to my mother back in Canada. Being an early bird, I arrived just as the shops were opening around 10 am and decided to grab breakfast and coffee at the newly-built two-floor Starbucks. From the second floor, I was able to observe Obiyamachi slowly waking up on Saturday morning as shops opened and shoppers casually strolling past.
In addition to chain stores like Starbucks or Mister Donut, Obiyamachi also has many independent cafes. I’ve visited ‘hikari no tane’ (光の種), which has organic and vegan options, and Tosa Cha Cafe as well, which specializes in local food and tea.
After breakfast, I went to a popular paper store a friend had recommended for buying unique gift cards. The store, ‘Paper Message’ (ペーパーメッセジ), had a wide variety of Japanese paper products, from origami paper to cards to decorative cutouts and notebooks.
Nearby was a store selling Miyazaki-related goods as well as a few home and accessory stores like Mamaikuko, where I picked up a pair of earrings for my mother here. These stores sell cute and stylish items that are a part of Japanese daily life such as wallets specifically for business cards, inkan cases, tableware and bento boxes. Exchanging business cards is common when first meeting someone professionally and inkans (also known as hankos) are personalized stamps of the kanji (or katakana if you’re a foreigner) for your last name and are used in place of signatures on documents.
In Obiyamachi there is also an arcade that has Purikura photo booths, and many restaurants where you can try local specialties like ‘katsuo no tataki’ or standard Japanese dishes like ramen and sushi. On the street running parallel to Obiyamchi and leading up to the castle there is a market every Sunday.
There are often events held in Central Park. While living in Kochi I’ve had the pleasure of attending a food festival that featured both local Japanese food and foreign food, the yosakoi dance festival that is held every August, a meat festival, and an art and crafts fair. Today they were setting up for an Earth Day event on Sunday.
Obiyamachi is a conveniently-located and lively area with much to offer. Whether you’re looking to go shopping, to attend a local event, or simply to take a coffee break after climbing up all the stairs to the top of Kochi Castle, Obiyamachi is definitely worth checking out.