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!


  1. I’ve always like Japanese food and this is one of the food that I would like to try.
    I prefer green beans over red beans.So, since it is a kind of green beans,I wondered if I would enjoy it over green beans ^^


  2. Hitomi, I didn’t know that this bean was grown in Kochi. Thank you for your interesting story. The next time I eat some of these beans during the New Year, I will remember your story.


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