Otoyo Town’s Special Product

by H. Hattori

“What a hot day!” says one woman in front of her house. She and her neighbor are talking with. “Well, do you remember that today is Hange (半夏)?” says neighbor. “Of course. Why don’t we make Hange dango together for our workers? And also, Ginburo, a kind of black bean, are overgrowing here and there. So, let’s make Ginburo sushi too! I’m sure every worker gets happiness.” says woman. Just then, her child come back home and says “I’m home. Hey, mom. I’m really hungry!” “I thought you would say just like that. I made Konchin. Eat it and wait a dinner time.”

Each of prefectures in Japan has some special product. For example, Katsuo no Tataki and Sawachi (皿鉢) are very famous in Kochi. So, how about the scale of cities, towns and villages?

We went to Otoyo Town which lies northern of Kochi in June 30. Otoyo has some special products. Especially, Ginburo beans, Hange dango and konchin are famous in Otoyo, but almost people who are not from Otoyo don’t know these.

Ginburo is a food peculiar to this part of Kochi. Ginburo is called a bean of perpetual youth and longevity.

“That’s because, Ginburo can come up wherever people sow,” Otoyo’s old woman said. “and some Ginburo’s vine can grow up to 2 meters high and we can see many lush green pods in late summer. Bean’s color is black.”

In short, Ginburo is the strong plant and it is a kind of green bean(サヤインゲン). Main cultivation area of Ginburo is Nishitoyonaga(西豊永) area in Otoyo town.

“Otoyo people want Ginburo to become popular,” said a man who lives in Otoyo. “so, we tried to produce many foods from Ginburo.”
Surprisingly, Patisserie working at Joseikan (most famous Japanese-style hotel in Kochi) paid attention to Ginburo and made rolled cake from Ginburo. These cakes contain the soy sauce, but sweet. We can eat it in Joseikan and Kajigamori mountain cottage in Otoyo. And also, we can buy it on Rakuten online store. Moreover, Reiko Takashima who is a famous Japanese actress introduced Ginburo rolled cake in nationwide broadcast TV.

“Now, many people who don’t live in Otoyo know the Ginburo by some big name. I’m really happy.” Otoyo guy said.

“Do you know the meaning of Hange (半夏)?” Otoyo’s old woman asked us. “It is a day in the old calendar of 11th day from the summer solstice. Now, it is a 2nd July and this day is rest of farming day. Well, in the old calender, one year was divided into 24 equal parts. So, there are big differences between old calender and present calender.” She answered herself.
So, Otoyo’s old people cooked Hange dango, ate it, and cured physical fatigue to rest whole day.

“And also, you think that Hange dango and Japanese ginger dango are the same thing, don’t you?”

Many people, and of course, we think that they are same things, but a little different. Hange dango is traditional seasoned. It only uses flour to the dough. On the other hand, Japanese ginger dango is seasoning for children and uses some sugar to the dough. No one can buy Hange dango in stores, but Japanese ginger dango can. We bought it in Kondo store and ate. It was wrapped with a Japanese ginger blade. Size was big and it was beyond our imagination to large amount. Taste is so-so. I thought that elderly people seem to like such taste.

“When I was a young, I used to eat Konchin.” Otoyo’s old woman said. Konchin is a typical and traditional snack. It is a burdock snack. Burdock, wheat flour and soup stock are main ingredients. It is not sweet and color is not good. Some children come back to their home from school; they cannot bear hunger until dinner time. So, their mother has made Konchin previously. However, it has changed since then.

The woman said “Nowadays, there are many delicious snacks, and these are easy to get. So, almost children nowadays don’t eat it and don’t like much.” However, she also said, “My grandchild can eat it to change the seasoning. When I make it, I try to add more sugar and care about soup stock because of color.”

In the respect for the Aged Day, many people get together in front of a community center. A pleasant smell spread around there. Regardless of age or sex, people eat some foods happily. “Hey grandma, what’s this black bean?” says little boy. “It is a Ginburo bean. It’s an auspicious food.” answered his grandmother.

Ginburo, Hange dango, and Konchin, each of them have their own good episode. However, sad to say, they are forgotten by people nowadays except for Ginburo because of other more delicious foods.

Now, the Messiahs were born in Otoyo! They are called “Health Mate”. Another name is “committee that promotes and improved the eating habits” and they are a volunteer group. Many old women join this group and they often try to broaden the traditional dishes.

“We want young people to know the traditional foods, so we sometimes make foods for people.” said woman who is a member of Health Mate. They cook Ginburo sushi and treat to it free every year in the respect for the Aged Day. “Also, children can eat Konchin and Ginburo beans in a school lunch.” She said. They protect their special product.

Thanks to them, we could learn and eat the traditional foods. Special product is a unique thing and the greatest asset a person can have. We should never forget it!

The Fish Story of Katsuo

by Jyo Syowai Villa

“Oh, you are here already!” said the fisherman with his professional smiling reception, “Please wait a minute for I am a little busy”

“No problem,” responded by four of us in the typical polite Japanese styles, “we have plenty of time” Actually, though, we really could not control our desire for the fish that was maybe the most delicious fish we have ever eaten.

“Please come in, please, the rain is heavy. Come here and I will show you fish”

It is an average day in June, and still in the mouldy rainy season. The fish shop is not so crowded as we had expected, so it is easy for us to have a relaxed talk with the fisherman.

The young gun received us warmly, he owns a classic fisherman’s face of and a skillful fisherman’s hand which quickly cut the whole fresh fish into two big pieces in a few minutes and earned our applause.

Of course he is an experienced fisherman. He explained that his family had been doing this job ever since his grandfather. Under the man’s guidance we roast the katsuo smoothly within 10 minutes we start to enjoy the meal.

“Do you think the katsuo will become more and more popular in the future?”

His answer was unexpected. The fisherman did not look hopeful. On the contrary, he give us a reality situation that we should not avoid .

“In the future katsuo will become less and less until one day it will not be able for people to eat .” The expression is firm during his speaking and it seems to be that he really wants everybody understands this fact.

When I ask my classmates at Kochi university and other local residents what they associate with Kochi, they invariably answer “katsuo”. In the whole Japanese nation there is no place that is more fond of katsuo than Kochi. Just have a look at one of the mascots of this town. When the katsuo “Yuru-kyara” gives you a hug, won’t you be surprised!

But hidden behind the katsuo industry’s prosperity is a looming crisis. The amount of katsuo caught by Japanese fishermen is decreasing year by year. That is really a big problem.

According to http://fsf.fra.affrc.go.jp/ an investigation into katsuo maguro’s resource shows that the catches started to fall from 1980. At that time the katsuo that is catched by fishermen all over the world is about 720,000t per year , in the year of 2005 it is about 430,000 per year.although the amount of katsuo still occupies a great proportion in the whole fish ,but from 1984 the tendency of decrease is remarkable

“Some foreign countries do work much more than they should, for example overfishing, Sometimes they even take the young fry to can and sell it to make a lot of profit. For us fishermen that is a disaster “

The crashing of fish stocks can’t just be blamed on foreign countries, though. Beginning in 1960s, the Japanese economy stepped into a growth period and the demand for the land increased rapidly. People started marine land reclamation. And in places like Isahaya, which is called the uterus of the ariake sea, has also been in serious trouble.

“Do you know the kuroshio current?” asked our guide. “Every year fish give birth to their child at the upper reaches of kurosio, and after one year the small fish grow up and swim along with the kurosio to come to Japan and we can get a big harvest. But that is in the past. Nowdays, some people do great damage at the upper reaches of kurosio, and the consequence is that the price of katsuo is going up and up today.”

We don’t need to worry about that katsuo will disappear soon in future but we have to worry that as with the price growth developed. For residents in Kochi, katsuo will change from a common food which can be bought in the supermarket to a kind of luxury food which can be only eaten at the high level hotel.

“In the future, if you want to eat katsuo, the only choice will be to go to Hawaii not kochi”bHe said it just liking taking about a joke. Everybody laughed with a nervously.

But there is another reason for worry that is often ignored: the world is changing and the world’seating habits are changing with them. In the past, Europeans, Americans, Chinese and Indian people refused to eat sashimi. But as the global economy developed, people in those areas have started to accept raw fish. People in America and Europe are in trouble with their obesity caused by the unhealthy diet so they look for fish to improve the situation. As a consequence, the fishing fleets have increased and the fish stocks decreased.

A new quarrel has appeared. The whole world are advising people to take a healthy diet at present in the end it brings a great disaster to fish. That is why when our fisherman commented on the katsuo Yuru-kyara which is Kochi’s character he called it “baka.”

At last when the fish man was asked about his future plan if katsuo disappear, he said “we have no idea but to choice other fish.” I couldn’t help wondering if that is really useful.

Our time is up and we need to go,when we separated, we turn back to have a look at the fisherman’s figure ,he was still standing there showing his strong professional spirit .And we wondered after 5 years or after ten years ,do this gun still have the opportunity to sell the fish with his professional smile?

Chirimen Don : looking at me

by M. Yuki

Something is looking at me with the glare of eyes from a plate…..It’s a Chirimen Jako!!! I loved it before, but without notice, I became not to like it, even feel gross. Their eyes look like as if they are blaming me.

About one month ago, I went to Aki city with my friends for sightseeing and ate lunch there. We got in one restaurant, and the waitress recommended “Chirimen don”, or rice covered with Chirimen Jako. Of course I refused, but my friends ordered. They seemed to be moved by the Chirimen don so much and tried to make me eat that! Then I noticed that there were no bad smell of fish and no glare in their eyes. So I timidly took a bite of it….. “How delicious it is!!!” I was moved. This is my first encounter with Chirimen don.

Chirimen Jako is probably not familiar to most non-Japanese people, but it is very popular here. It is the genetic name of young fish of eel, ayu, and sardine. They hatch in the ocean and have clear body. They are very nutritious food which contain a lot of calcium, vitamin, and minerals.

Chirimen Jako’s “Chirimen” means a kind of silk fabrics that have fine wrinkles on the surface. And “Jako” means different kinds of young fish. The name “Chirimen Jako” is said to come from the view that those fish are spread and dried on the beach as if there are silk fabrics.

Chirimen Jako has another name, “shirasu”. In Kochi, it is popular to call them Chirimen Jako, but in other cities, people usually distinguish those fish by size and dry level.

Aki city has been famous for Chirimen Jako for a long time.

According to fishermen’s cooperative in Aki, the catch last year was 612t. It means that in the Aki city, Chirimen Jako occupy about ninety percent of fishry share. And In catch of Kochi prefecture, it always comes on first or second.

Fishermen dry Chirimen Jako in the sun without any machines by a method passed on from the past. It brings about good flavor and soft texture. Finally, a lot of Chirimen Jako are covered piping hot rice and put vinegar of yuzu, or a kind of citrus. This has been eaten as home cooking and liked everyone there.

Recently, there is a movement that make Chirimen don special food to appeal Aki outside. The Aki Chirimen don Association was organized by some different volunteers like Aki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, JA Tosa Aki, and so on two years ago. This group is leading the movement. To be specific about their activities, they sell Chirimen don at events for public relations, produce sightseeing menus like experiencing drying Chirimen Jako, and makes Websites, brochure and a map for eating tour of Chirimen don. On the map, there are 15 stores that serve Chirimen don now and each stores devise the flavor and topping. We can enjoy 15 different Chirimen don!!!

Last year, to promote PR, they got a powerful partner “Chirimen don chan”. She was born by Yanase Takashi, who made “Anpanman” or very famous character in Japan. She is a cute girl who has eyes like Chirimen Jako and a small mouth.

The Aki Chirimen don association are also trying to make Chirimen don popular as a “B-grade dish”: which are delicious, but have reasonable prices and we can eat with nothing special.

According to Yamamoto Miei, who is a chairman of the Aki Chirimen don association, “Chirimen don stands out in them because it has simple taste while other “B-grade dishes “tend to be heavy and rich. Besides it matches the health boom and will be loved by people of all age.”

Chirimen Don-chan

In April 2012, Chirimen don has topped “TheTosa B-1 Grand Prix” which is food festival of “B- grade dishes” in Kochi prefecture. It helped Chirimen don to be known by many people. Now they are thinking of participating in the contest of “B-grade dishes” on a national this year.

Those are so meaningful activities.

“They connect to promote using materials of primary industry, processing and selling them in the city. This flow can promote sightseeing, make employment, and many good things.” said
Ozaki Masanao, governor of Kochi.

Aki is one of the cities in Kochi that are suffered by serious aging and depopulation, and they are great help for enlivening Aki city.

I visited Aki and ate Chirimen don again. The store I went this time served Chirimen don with grated radish and myoga, or Japanese ginger. And the store’s original vinegar of yuzu is so fresh. It made me feel like ordering second and third helpings. There I asked an old woman what she thought of Chirimen don.

“Uh, for me, Chirimen don don’t have the freshness,” she answered, “because I have grown up eating Chirimen don. But I’m happy that many people come to Aki to eat that. I feel something proud of in my childhood.” and laughed.

Then I told about my story that I scared of Chirimen Jako, but somehow I could eat it and feel delicious here.

“Yes,” she answered, “it’s because Chirimen Jako in Aki have hospitality in their eyes.” and laughed again warmly.


Please visit Aki in a sunny day. You can see many white spots where Chirimen Jako are spread on the beach. And walk around Aki with Chirimen don map. You will be welcomed by Chirimen Jako and people there with great hospitality.

The Phantom Fermented Tea: Goishi Tea in Otoyo

by M. Watanabe

The women are talking cheerfully. “Irashai! Come in, welcome!” they say when we enter the roadside station (道の駅) named Osugi (大杉).

It’s a very humid day in June, and it has rained violently in Otoyo town, about one hour from Kochi. Beautiful river, green forest…and a little lonely roadside…along the road from Otoyo interchange, we can find roadside station, Osugi. Half of the place is a restaurant, the other half is shop. It is a little smaller than other roadside stations, but like other stations, some products were sold as usual..

Among the various products, something caught our eye because they have been advertized on TV recently. The prices of the products are about 1000-3000 yen! The name of the product is goishi tea (碁石茶)!

Goishi tea leaves are square, and the color is black, so it looks like “goishi” (the stone when we use on the game, igo (囲碁), Chinese game.) The taste and smell of goishi tea are similar to green tea in Japan(緑茶), but there are also a little sour taste and smell.

Kochi is suitable place for growing tea leaves. According Kochi prefecture’s website, tea trees called sancha (山茶) are growing naturally in Kochi and lands in Kochi are suitable for their growing. Almost all their growing areas are close to the upper reaches of big river. Fog appearing there make the quality of tea better. Tea made in Kochi are valued and are popular in Japan. About 80% of them are shipped to Shizuoka!. Green tea(煎茶), coarse tea(番茶), roasted tea(ほうじ茶), and etc…are made in Kochi. Otoyo is one of the famous place producing tea in Kochi.

According to the woman who is working at ticket counter Osugi and looks about 60 years old, surprisingly, it was not such a popular drink locally.

“Goishi tea was not drunk so much in Otoyo in the past” says the old woman at the ticket counter. “It was produced in Otoyo to sell to other town in the past. Goishi tea goes well with water that has a little salt, so it is sold the region where is able to get enough water including salt.”

“It is sold to Okubo to Tokushima or sold to Tajikawa to Ehime.” She explained, “I drank goishi tea with hot salty water”,like the past.

Goishi teas’ hometown is China or Myanmar and have long history.

According to the Otoyo town’s website and goishi cha museum’s (碁石茶博物館) website, goishi tea were exchanged for salt. The origin of goishi tea is said to be Otoyo from Unnan in China and Myanmar, and the history of goishi tea is very old. We can find it on the document in Edo period.

The number of farm producing goishi tea is only seven to eight now. This is one reason why goishi tea are so expensive and called phantom tea.

The old woman also told us how to produce goishi tea.

“At first, when the season is nearly now, in summer, farmers cut down tree-use hard leaves. Next, they steam the tea leaves. After that, farmers tear off them into the kouji (麹、malted rice) and ferment them. Fermented leaves are cut to square, the figure of goishi tea leaves, at last, leaves are dried completely by sun. The works are much influenced by the weather and are needed a lot of works. So it is necessary to employ some people. Farms employ local people in Otoyo. A lot of works and employments makes the price of goishi tea higher, this is also the reason why goishi tea is expensive.”

Goishi tea is good for our health? A man told us his interesting episode about goishi tea.

The clerk working a mountain villa, Kajigamori, is about 30-40 years old, and wearing spectacles gave us some cup of goishi tea kindly. In there, some cheerful women are about 50-70 years old were working with him. He said ”I challenged to go on diet, so I drank goishi tea. When I drunk it, I felt hungrier. So I went to doctor to know the truth. I found the answer then. Goishi tea can make our bowel movement lively. By that, it promote my appetite. That is why I missed diet is that.”

If we always take goishi tea, won’t we catch flu?

Goishi tea is said to be prevent from flu. According to one article by Kochi-shinbun (March 14th 2012), Kochi university and Otoyo town having investigated to reveal that, by having had students in Otoyo junior high school drinking goishi tea since 2009. From this investigation, students who are taking goishi tea tend to be harder to be flu. Goishi tea have the possibility of prevention of flu.

From these, we can know the power of goishi tea to our healthy and there are possibilities of promotion our life more.

The man working at a mountain villa, Kajigamori hopes goishi tea will be more famous for Otoyo.

Goishi tea has been introduced on TV lately. There are also some products related to goishi tea sold, for example, goishi udon, goishi tea yokan, goishi tea ice cream…and so on. Moreover, we can buy goishi tea on the internet, or Kochi city, Sunday market and Saenba town, and also we can drink it canned. It has drawn public attention as a healthier tea. Goishi tea has the role of attracting many people to the special character of Otoyo.

参考文献 References

Umaji’s Dragon Yuzu!

by Tanizaki Emiko

A tiny village and its fruit

“Are we there yet?” We are driving deep in the mountain. There are no konbini (convenience store), gas stations, no buildings of any kind, but only mountains! mountains! mountains!!! Can we really see and reach the village ? We just keep driving up the mountain roads. At last, about 2 hours later, we finally see the village.

Continue reading Umaji’s Dragon Yuzu!

Imokempi: Hard or Soft?

by Emiko

The sun is dazzling as the temperature soars above thirty degrees Celsius.  The day is too hot, but Obiyamachi is full of energy because it’s Sunday the scene of the Sunday street market. A lot of stalls  stretch as far as eye can see. There are fruits, vegetables, tea, steel products and so on.  My friend and I enter a shopping arcade because we want to stay out of the sunlight, and we discover a store which sell imokenpi. There is a clerk who looks to be 50 or 60 years old moving around the shop. Sometimes she stops to talk with customers. This store, called “Kenpiya”,  has many flavors of imokenpi– there are salt, sesame dark brown sugar and dried green seaweed. What they have in common is that they are all hard. Continue reading Imokempi: Hard or Soft?

Let’s Have Tea Time

by Kasumi

Sweat is running on my face under the glaring sun one day in the middle of July. My friend and I have walked around Sunday Market all morning, and we’re now sitting in a comfortable Japanese-style room in Tosa-cha cafe. Though before noon, it is full of customers of all ages. Cold Tosa tea served as soon as we sat looked like bitter and astringent, but it is easy to drink. Fresh taste cooled me down and I could sense a little sweetness. There is a teapot in which are a few tea leaves cup, pottery and green tea cake on the table. Chartreuse tea is shining in a cup. I’m little confused because of preparation methods of green tea one of staffs taught us. Hot Tosa tea tastes more bitter than the cold one, but it’s perfect with sweet cake. I can’t help saying “This is so good!”. I find that taking enough time and many steps are important to make better tea. I’m feeling the slow-passing time for a long time. Continue reading Let’s Have Tea Time

Gingerly Ginger

by Sayana

When I was a little child and caught a cold, my mother would make ginger tea for me explaining why it was so good for me. “Of course it’s good for you,” she would say, “It makes you warm and it also relieves your symptoms.”

The recipe my mother used is simple. First, grate some ginger. Next, add sugar or honey and dilute it with water. Finally, boil it for 10 to 20 minutes. That’s all! How simple! Just give it a go! Continue reading Gingerly Ginger