The Port of Kochi is located on the south coast of Shikoku on Tosa Bay on Japan's Shikoku island. The Port of Kochi is about 160 kilometers southeast of the Port of Hiroshima and some 216 nautical miles east of the Ports of Kinuura and Kitakyushu on Japan's Kyushu island. The Port of Kochi is the capital and main city of Kochi Prefecture. In 2008 almost 342 thousand people lived in the Port of Kochi.
The area of the Port of Kochi encompasses three different geographic areas. Most of the city is at the head of Urado Bay in a plain crossed by the Kagami and Koubu Rivers. The plain is surrounded by mountains to the north and hills to the south and west. The people live on the Tosa plain, which is for the most part surrounded by mountains. The Port of Kochi's main products are agricultural machinery and implements, limestone, coral, processed seafood, paper, and raw silk.
The city center of the Port of Kochi was settled as a castle town around Kochi Castle where the Lords of Tosa Province lived. Lord Yamauchi Katsutoyo selected the site for the castle in 1061. The town began to grow quickly and soon was the region's biggest settlement. Kochi Castle is thought to be one of the most elegant castles in Japan.
The original Port of Kochi was developed in the protected inner Urado Wan (bay) in a calm-water area. An excellent natural harbor, the Urado Wan has long been used by fishermen and traders. The port was mentioned in a famous work of literature in the 10th Century AD.
A small jetty was built at the site of the Port of Kochi in the 1500s. In the 1600s, Tosa's most famous engineer, Kenzan Nonaka, was charged with designing and supervising the development of port facilities at the Port of Kochi.
During the Meiji period, the Port of Kochi was a well-known center for pro-Imperial thinking. Later, it became known for its leadership in the democratic and human rights movements. In the late 1800s, increasing traffic and ship sizes led to the expansion of the breakwater at the Port of Kochi.
The Port of Kochi was incorporated as a city in 1889. The Port of Kochi's tram service started operating in 1904. In the 1920s, during the Showa period, the cement industry began to grow up in the coastal area next to the Port of Kochi. The Kochi Prefecture is rich in natural resources, and mining products processed at local industrial plants were exported through the Port of Kochi. Local forestry and fishing industries also grew during this period, and the Port of Kochi became an important coastal industrial and distribution center.
The Port of Kochi was then called Urado Port. But when it was designated an open port in 1938, the name was changed to the Port of Kochi. Between 1938 and 1945, port facilities were built and improved. By 1945, the Port of Kochi could accommodate ships of three thousand DWT.
The Port of Kochi was connected to Japan's national rail network in 1951. That year, Japan's Port and Harbor Law designated the Port of Kochi as a Major Port, and additional land reclamation and construction of port facilities continued the expansion of the Port of Kochi.
The first long-term plan for development of the Port of Kochi was established in 1960. The plan's first objective was to make it possible to handle ships of 15 thousand DWT so that raw materials could be imported and finished products could be exported through the Port of Kochi. To that end, the Port of Kochi constructed a channel and public berths with a depth of 10 meters. By 1968, cargo volume far exceeded the planned five million tons.
The Port of Kochi revised its master plan in 1970 due to the quickly-increasing cargo volumes it handled. The Port of Kochi added a berth with 7.5 meters draft for ferry vessels up to 8.5 thousand DWT. Growth was so fast that the next master plan was published in 1974.
Due to a serious flood in 1960, the people of Kochi City were not quick to support further land reclamations for expansion of the Port of Kochi. Growing environmental awareness also slowed development for a time. In response to local concerns, the Port of Kochi decided to build new facilities outside the inner bay.
The new Port of Kochi facilities included a berth for large vessels to complement the existing facilities. The new berth has a 12 meter draft and can accommodate vessels of 30 thousand DWT. A second berth with draft of 9 meters for 12-thousand-ton ferries and a new breakwater were also constructed.
In 1995, Japan designated the Port of Kochi and Kochi City as a Foreign Access Zone, and in 1998, the Kochi Prefectural government established Kochi Trade Services Company Limited with shared ownership of the prefecture, the city, and private interests. The new company was tasked with promoting and developing the port and attracting new industries to the new port area.
In 1998, the Port of Kochi was designated a core city, making it Japan's first core city on the island of Shikoku. That year, the Port of Kochi began its first operations as an commercial international trade port.