Our Sawachi

by Chihiro

In the village of Karyogo, in Nahari town–which prospered in Taisho and Showa periods from ocean Tuna fishery–is a shrine named Nobumori Jinja. In the autumn once a year, the Jinsai festival is held to get the god’s blessing for catching lots of fish. At night there is a party, an “Enkai” where the good harvest is eaten with god’s blessings. The meaning of such a Japanese traditional festival is to share food and drink with god.

In the Japanese way of thinking, when we do something, we tend to think as a group strongly. On that day, we have a lot of special tasks to do for our god. A few boys children play with Shishimai for god (Our god is woman so that children are selected are only boys) and boys and men do Bo uchi (A large group demonstration which uses 2 long wooden sticks held by 2 people. This event and Shishimai that a lion mask used in the children’s play, ares pecified as intangible cultural asset by Prefecture of Kochi). Also, men shoulder and carry the Mikoshi, a portable shrine, Shishimai and Tengu to visit each home.

And on that day, after a ceremony like that, people prepare Sawachi and Sake for themselves in their house. When they come home, they go around the house at first, and sit on a cushion for the Enkai. Many people are invited and chat a lot while drinking a lot of beer and hot rice wine or Shochu,. That’s why my neighbor has several tables just like it for the Enkai. We can eat as much as we like, directly, changing seats a lot, drinking and drinking…

Kochi has an original eating and drinking culture. This tendency is shown not only in the Enkai and it doesn’t matter whether men take part in it or not. Even an all women group can go to get some drinks at an Izakaya or gather in their house and start to drink.

This is a unique characteristic of people in Kochi. A Man who drinks a lot of sake and has a very stirring character has been called “Igosso, ” and in the case of a similar woman, people call them “Hachikin”.

The style of Sawachi also shows the character of people in Kochi. Sawachi is their amazing and traditional cuisine, made in each and every house in the past, but recently most of it is made by shops and caterers (We can order it from special stores). People often use it for some kind of ceremony and celebrations. Can you guess how Sawachi is made and eaten even today? What does it mean? It has a lot of interesting secrets.

Some kinds of food are put into a big dish, which looks very stirring! This is Sawachi. There is no complexity in eating Sawachi and we can eat with anything with Sawachi. All you have to do is to eat what you like, as you like. Don’t you think it’s a good rule?

Owners don’t have to waste food for each guest, and guests also don’t have to eat the entire meal and they can even move seats to eat what they want to eat. However, the important thing is chatting. Through changing seats and eating, everyone tries to talk to as many people as possible. It’s not stressful at all. I feel it’s causes lots of people to be happy! That’s why Sawachi is valued by people coming to Kochi.

Sawachi was served in the Enkai before “Honzen ryoi” in the past. Honzen ryori had the meaning of recommending food more and taking souvenirs home in the past and is still used in some ceremony like Sawachi now. But people in Kochi are more comfortable Sawachi than Honzen. Another advantage of Sawachi is that it costs less than “Kaiseki ryori” which is related to Sado (tea) culture and is like a course style. In other words, these food style are very formal compared to Sawachi. Therefore Sawachi is prefered over Kaiseki especially in Kochi.

People started to make and eat Sawachi about 2 centuries ago. During that time, lots of people were poor farmers who couldn’t even eat rice every day. Thus rice and sushi were specialties in a banquet and they had to gather the harvest as much as possible. Praying for this, they started the festival wishing for a rich harvest. Sawachi was eaten during that time.

In addition, Japanese have a habit to eat food with a large group like a family or with neighbors. It is related to the birth of Sawachi. It also has the meaning of eating with God. For the sake of this culture, Sawachi’s style is to put many kinds of food into a big dish or each food put into some fixed dishes.

Do you know that Sawachi can be separated into several kinds, basic kinds are Sushi, Kumimono and Nama Sashimi (raw). You may know about Sushi and Sashimi. ‘Kumimono’ means lots of different foods like Okazu which is a Japanese meal. The food included in Sawachi depends on the season and each home or shop. In the shop, they call one meal made by season food “Ichimaimono’’ which is derived from using one dish for one meal.

To be honest, there are other regions in Japan which also cook prepared food in the same manner as Sawachi. Then, why is it that only Kochi keeps this cultural food? The question goes back to the past when tourists came to visit here. The answer is that some stores which make Sawachi thought to promote it for tourists. Hence they became interested in it because Sawachi looks very stirring and is cheaper than Kaiseki Ryori.

Sawachi’s history is a long story far beyond my expectations. In addition, it’s a wonderful part of Kochi’s culture although some people say that people in Kochi drink too much, it’s not because they just want to drink but communicate with other people closely. We should keep this original culture so that future generations may also enjoy it.


  1. Hi Chihiro,

    I enjoyed reading about Sawachi, although, I have to admit, I am not a real fan of it.
    Good work.


  2. I once heard that the strong character of people for drinking etc. is only in Kochi City, but your writing suggests differently. Hmm – good research and reporting by you!.


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