The sky was gray and there was a salty humid wind on my cheek. Nobody was walking in the street. A few aged women were riding their bicycle for going shopping to local grocery supermarket. In the quiet atmosphere, there is a local roadside station “Tano Ekiya”.
In the station, people were lining up at the register and talking with their friends in the cafeteria. In the crowded station, beautiful vegetables and fruits were displayed. At the service counter was a sign for bicycles to rent for 200 yen. A staff gave me a map and explained about the bicycle kindly. I rode the bicycle to see this town.
There are many small towns in Kochi and they try to sell specialty goods for economic development. Some towns like Umaji village are developing successfully but some other towns are still growing in the first step. Tano town is one of the small towns that are still developing and does not have any obvious tourist attraction. However, “ Tano Ekiya” was renewed three years ago and bay salt making facility was built in 2013. Tano has been developed little by little for tourism .
In 1800s, Tano was called Nahagou. The place was economically developed because there used to be an office that governors stopped over in business trip. In 1888, Nahagou changed the name to Tano village and it became Tano town in 1920.
“You can make a better thing if you take your time.” Mr. Tanimoto who works at the the salt facility told me in the vinyl salt house. There were three people in the facility and they are not originally from Kochi. They are working as local development project member that is a national local supporting system. The project member can work at local place for 1 to 3 years with housing and job hunting support.
“ It takes a few months to make salt because they use only sun light not artificial heat,” he explained in the humid salt house. “Tano’s sea water includes a lot of mineral because there is the clear Nahari river next to Tano. Thanks to great deal of time and lucky circumstance, the salt can be high quality.”
In this facility, you can experience salt making if you reserve one month before. Not only you can make salt, you are able to hear the passion of making things. Also, you can join facility tour for 400 yen as I did.
“This salt is sold in Tano Ekiya but it sold out at once because it’s very famous salt,” Tanimoto told me and gave me a small package of salt at the end of this tour. I left this facility and I continued to ride a bicycle in the salty air.
Tano Town has decreased birth rate and young people. In the Tano elementary school, there are only about 100 students and there is not a lot of choice for high school.
“Decreasing population is our big worry for this small town,” Town office worker Mr. Yamamoto told me seriously. “When I was elementary school student, there were 300 students but now only 100 students.“
In the past, Tano had never face a crisis of town disappearing and annexation. People always decided important thing by voting. They were always trying to stop annexation. But the population is declining gradually. Now there are 2869 people living in Tano town in total and 1064 people are aged over 65. 10 years ago, there were 3379 people in the town so we can see it is decreasing gradually. If this decling would continue in the future, Tano might have annexation with another town.
“To tackle this problem, housing support and tourism resource are needed in Tano.” Mr. Yamamoto explained with serious face. For the housing, Tano bought some lands for town housing and aim to invite people from another place to live. As a tourism resource, “Tano Ekiya” is successfully developing and many poeple are visiting there. Also salt facility is a good place to visit because we never experience making salt in our normal life.
Tano is very small town. You can see everything in 5 minutes. It takes about two hours by car to get to Muroto from Kochi city, but only about two minutes to pass through Tano. You have to pay attention when you throughout Tano.
Mr.Yamamoto has mixed feelings about living in such a small town.
“In good way and bad way, rumors get around faster than I imagined. Everyone knows about me.”
— by F. Mori