It’s five in the afternoon in the kitchens of Kochi “obiyamachi arcade”, and lots of women come and go, totting shopping bags with both hands. Delicious smell of croquettes from the meat shop makes me hungry. At the snack stand, high school students are talking and eating taiyaki. Powerful women, their heads covered in hair nets shout out, “Konban no okazu ni, ikagadesuka?” (“How about these with dinner tonight?”) They are full of strong energy.
Before 1935 when the railroad opened between Takamatsu and Kochi, Kochi was an isolated spot. Therefore Kochi’s people survived typhoons or some severe natural situations by themselves. Because of these reasons, Kochi’s people came to be strong, and full of vitality. According to historian Kijuro Hirotani, they are called “Igossou” for men and “Hachikin” for women. He meant the personalities of Kochi’s people are affected by the geographic reasons. The past independence has made them tough and self-reliant.
You can see many Hachikin in Kochi’s history, such as “ Sakamoto Otome”, the older sister of Sakamoto Ryoma. She was famous for raising the blubberer Ryoma into a strong man. She liked studying and martial arts rather than cooking, or sewing. Another famous Hachikiin was Kusunose Kita who joined “the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement” in Meiji era. She was the only woman who acted for women’s right of voting with men. Actually, thanks to their efforts, Kochi’s women got the right to vote first in the world.
There is clearly a relation between Hachikn and Kochi’s background. Now then, what is the definition of Hachikin? There are some opinions for the origin of this word. The most famous one is that Tosa women have the “testicular strength” of four men. Another one is that it means the women who have relations with eight men. And another is from the name “hachikinnya-kinemon “ who was a strong man. There are lots of attributes that we can find in these women, and also these are mentioned in books or reports. The late Nakajima Gyo in his book Tosajin defined Hachikin as women who were unyielding, full of vitality and tomboyishness, and stronger than men.
Even at the present time, Hachikin are still visible. Kochi is the eighth position in Japan. When asked what this means, people might say, what is this rank? This is the number of divorces. About half of divorces are ordered by women. Most of divorcees say they divorce because of men’s alcohol or gambling. We can see women’s spirit of self-reliance in this. It is also related to the rate of working women in Kochi. They believe that working is natural not only for men, but also for them to help home. The average rate of working women in Japan is 30%, but Kochi’s is 43%.
So, compared to other prefectures, there are more hard-working women in Kochi.
What do Kochi’s women think to be called Hachikin? To hear their real voices and to feel the Hachikin spirit, I went to “Hirome market” at 3 p.m. It was not particularly crowded at that time. A middle age woman who works at clothes shop said, “I am not Hachikin because I wasn’t born in Kochi.” She also said, “Hachikin are happy about to be called Hachikin, they are proud of that.” In her mind, being born in Kochi is the minimum requirement for being Hachikin.
Another woman who works at a souvenir shop said, “I thought I am Hachikin myself, because I have a strong mind. And it is because there were lots of women with strong minds who affected me naturally.” A next woman who works at a flower shop refused to answer frankly, at that time Hachikin’s feature suddenly came clear to me..
It seems Kochi women’s common points are they are strong, but they also have sensitive aspects, and the biggest one is they give a positive energy and warmth to people. Kochi’s warm atmosphere is not only because of the temperature, but also thanks to Hachikin. Their power creates a gender equal society even sometimes women may be stronger than men. Today, Obiyamachi is filled with lots of energy by them.
Hirome Market: 〒780-0841高知県高知市帯屋町２丁目３−１ tel 088-822-5287