The History of the Big Cedar in Otoyo Town

by Chisa Kawakami

The Osugi michinoeki is a two-story blue building with many banners flying outside advertising many different foods and drinks. Nearby stands a map with a picture of the late Misora Hibari (a very popular Japanese enka singer) along with a monument and explanation of “michinoeki”.

Then there is a very big tree which is the famous cedar in Japan. The reason why there are connections between the big cedar and Misora Hibari is that; there were some points related each other. The following story is a real story which happened in Otoyo town.

In 28th April, 1947, Misora Hibari was touring as a part of working with her mother all over Japan . Then the bus Misora Hibari got into collided with an oncoming car and fell off from the road in Otoyo town. And she was carried to Dr. Murakami Takashi of Uemura hospital because she lost consciousness due to excessive bleeding, and had a narrow escape from death. After medical treatment of one month and half a month, she recovered from an injury. Then she came to Yasaka-shrine (the place where the big cedar was built) for appreciation for people who had took care of Hibari when she had got injured, with her mother and prayed to the big cedar that she could be the best singer in Japan. 5 years later, when she was 14 years old, she performed publicly in Kochi city and she also worshiped this tree again. For these facts, a portrait of a deceased Misora Hibari’s tombstone and a song monument were built by people in Otoyo-town.

Also, now, Hibari hall where people can have a meal was built at the spot Misora Hibari fell down. It is the spot where about 1 kilometer from the big cedar was. Therefore, Misora Hibari was related to the big cedar in Otoyo town very much.

Also, there are a lot of interesting things in Otoyo town. One of this is that there is the oldest cedar of Japan in Otoyo town.

According to the Web site of Otoyo town, this big cedar is in the Yasaka shrine. It is estimated to be over 3000 years old and is said to have been planted by Susano-Omikoto, a mythological figure mentioned in old texts. It includes South-Big cedar and North big cedar, and also called Meoto cedar because two roots have been united in the ground. South big cedar’s root is about 20 meters and height is about 60 meters. North one’s root is about 16.5 meters and height is about 57 meters. It was specified a protected plant in 1952.

The reason that this old tree has been living for such a long time is people have been taking care of it carefully.

“The inside of the cedar is hollow,” one local person explained to me, “so it is reinforced by sheet copper. Moreover, it had been damaged by typhoons or thunder in the past. Therefore, it has been wrapped a rope to prevent it from toppling over”. Thanks to these cares by people, the big old cedar is still living now.

Due to the influence of Misora Hibari, a lot of people visit Otoyo town to see the big cedar and to have a meal in the Hibari hall. According to people in Otoyo town:

“At the most, 300 people come to see the big cedar per a day, for example Golden Week, summer vacation, and so on. When visitors reached the peak in the past, 1116 people came to see it in a day. Also, at least, 30 people come to see it per a day. There is no day when less than 10 tourists come”.

It was surprising that the number of tourists was very large. How great the history in Otoyo town and the influence of famous singer are!

Finally, a person in the entrance of Yasaka shrine explained about souvenir connected to the big cedar and Misora Hibari. She introduced typical three souvenirs;

“These are bookmarks, Misora Hibari’s calendar, and Ohsugi rice cracker. Bookmarks of the big cedar were sold at 200 yen per one.”

“These bookmark are made in branches which were broken by lightning”, she continued, “people cannot cut the big cedar due to a protected plant, but they can use broken branches”.

It is an impressing point that they are making use of such a gift from nature efficiently. Also calendars of Misora Hibari are sold, but “we can buy them everywhere in Japan because Misora Hibari was a very famous singer, so not just in Otoyo town”, she added. And Ohsugi rice crackers were been selling, but she said “to tell the truth, those were made in Kagawa”.

Vistor’s impressions of Otoyo town before visiting and after visiting were different. Before visiting, there might be impressions that Otoyo town is far from Kochi city, very rural, a thinly populated village, just something like negative things. Surely, these things may be facts, but there are also plenty of good points in Otoyo town. For instance, there are a lot of gifts which were given by great nature and histories. There is no more older cedar than one in Otoyo town. For a very long time, people have protected it, and attracted a lot of visitors; it’s the pride of Otoyo town. Also, Otoyo town has some relations to Hisora Hibari. Otoyo town is the place where made her life changed and the starting point of her activity as a singer, isn’t it? These facts are connected with revitalization of Otoyo town. Therefore people should take over and protect these histories.

Reference materials: the Web page of Otoyo town


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 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

Nature Parks in Otoyo

by Y. Nakagoshi

Once upon a time, a young girl went to visit a house under a waterfall at night. “May I spend the night?” she asked the master.

“Yes, of course,” he said. However, he began to distrust her because of the strange request she made next.

“While I am sleeping, please pour water over my body.”

“Why did she say such a strange thing?” he thought. He stealthily opened a sliding door of the room she was sleeping in and in his doubt stole a glance at her.

Surprisingly, a big snake coiled her up!! Continue reading Nature Parks in Otoyo

Beyond The River: A View of Life from Otoyo

by Telmen.B

Driving to Otoyo over one hour from Kochi city.

The drive to Otoyo takes about an hour from Kochi, some forty kilometres along a highway where you see big mountains and clear nature streams. It’s peaceful while watching beautiful nature of sightseeing.

“Oh my god, what is this place?” said somebody suddenly. We were surprised “What? Where? What happened?”. But she just said “I can see nothing here. There is nothing in Otoyo”.

Continue reading Beyond The River: A View of Life from Otoyo