Only a two hour drive from Kochi City, Tengu Kogen is a beautiful mountain retreat away from the hotter weather and industrious pace of urban life. The huge park is located in the Ishizuchi mountains to the east of the Shikoku Karst on Kochi`s border with Ehime—there is even a line in the parking lot where you can straddle the two prefectures! The steep, twisting ride up the mountains is not for the faint of stomach (unluckily for me), but it is well worth it. Before exploring the alpine forest trails and karst rock topography the highlands are known for, stop off at the rustic yet somehow grand looking hotel awaiting you at the end of your ascent. It offers food, bathrooms, a gift shop, and cottages for overnight stays.
I was lucky enough to visit Tengu on a free “monitor tour” for foreigners sponsored by Kochi`s tourism department. The theme of the tour was “therapy.” We had a “therapy walk” on a soft, wood-chipped trail through the forest and enjoyed healthy, beautifully presented “therapy bentos” for lunch. Before and after exploring the highlands we had our stress levels measured. We had to stick a little indicator under our tongue and then an expensive machine apparently read the stress hormone levels in our saliva.
Throughout the day we were tasked with evaluating the existence of English signage and speakers, Western toilets, etc. and reporting on the general appeal of the site to foreigners. Truth be told, Tengu Highlands is not geared toward non-Japanese speakers like myself whatsoever. But if you don`t speak Japanese, not to worry: the views speak for themselves.
The Highlands had an almost European feel. The sun was shining brightly off of the fields and the ocean far off on the horizon. Seemingly endless mountains stretch on in all directions, and the unobstructed vistas make you feel on top of the world. The karst rock for which the region is famous was fascinating and plentiful. The best spot is a large rock-dotted meadow of wild rice with a small gazebo and rocky path down to a lookout point—a perfect place for taking pictures. Also make time to drive all the way down the road away from the hotel to check out the huge windmills, the seasonally roaming cows, and delicious ice cream from a Swiss-like chalet.
Even though according to the saliva test my stress levels increased over my visit, I found Tengu Kogen to be one of the most relaxing places in Kochi! I would highly recommend prioritizing this amazing place that somehow manages to feel both like another continent yet still very Japanese.