Kochi - Sunday Market

Ascene from the Sunday Market
I paid a three days visit to Kochi. Kochi Prefecture is located in Shikoku Island and faces the Pacific Ocean. As it is separated by a chain of steep mountains from the other three prefectures of Shikoku facing the main island Honshu, Kochi is hardly accessible from the central areas of Japan. Therefore, Kochi has developed a characteristic local community unique for its tradition and culture. Outsiders like me have a fixed image of Kochi and usually associate Kochi with bonito pole and line fishing, Tosa Diary(*), Yosakoi Festival, Harimaya-Bridge(**) and last but not least Sakamoto Ryoma.
"Tosa Diary" was the first prosaic work written by a male using hiragana which was originally developed by women. The author Ki-no-Tsurayuki (872?-945?) described in Tosa Diary his trip in 935 from Tosa to Kyoto, on the expiry of his duty as governor. Tosa is the old name for the area of the present Kochi Prefecture. Kochi was originally the name of the capital town of the province and adopted as the name for the prefecture. The word "Tosa" is still often used in idiomatic or emotional expressions.

The original "Harimaya Bridge" was a small wooden bridge which was built over a moat to connect the premises of two rich merchants. A tragic love story between a young Buddhist monk and a daughter of merchant made this bridge famous. The monk is said to have bought an ornamental hairpin for his girlfriend near the bridge.

"Sakamoto Ryoma"(1836-1867) was one of the most active men in the movements to bring down the Tokugawa Shogun regime and establish a new government. Ryoma is the principal figure of a one-year lasting popular TV drama series of NHK and lots of tourists are now streaming into Kochi to see the places connected with him.
Far-above: Dried sea weed shop

Above: A stall selling citrus fruits.

Right:Vegetable shop - The shopkeeper enjoys chatting with her neighbor.

Below: Dryfish shop - many unknown fishes such as "mehikari" (shining eyes).

Below-right: Herbs on display - not many can name them.
One of the most fascinating experiences I made in Kochi was the stroll in Nichiyou-Ichi (Sunday Market). Nichiyou-Ichi is said to have started in 1690. Nichiyou-Ichi takes place on all Sundays except for the year-end and New Year holidays and the period of Yosakoi Festival. Kochi city has open-air markets on all weekdays except for Mondays. However, Nichiyou-Ichi with some 500 participating stalls is by far the largest of all and I was also impressed by the large number of market visitors. This is a very encouraging sign in light of the overall sluggish consumption and declining provincial economies.

I am impressed not only by the large number of stalls and visitors, but also the quality and variety of their products. They sell not only vegetables, but also fruits, herbs, tea, seaweeds, dry fishes and processed foods of different kinds. There are also some stalls where people can eat freshly cooked foods which are giving off appetite stimulating smells.

For me it is really amazing that the people of Kochi have many pieces of agricultural and fishery products which are unusual to me, a man from Tokyo. For example, most of the citrus fruits on display are not available in Tokyo, maybe except for a few specialized shops of Kochi products. Intensely-sweet tomatoes are also the specialty of Kochi. Some taro spices are also quite new to me. Many fish names are not known to me either. As for the quality, I am surprised that their spinach and carrot look totally different from those sold in Tokyo and incredibly fresh and appetizing. Apart from fresh vegetables, their offer of dried herbs makes me feel as if I am not in Japan but in a Asian country, because their assortment is so exotic to me.

In almost all stalls I discover something new to me. And their prices are really very reasonable. I wonder whether all these stalls can have good business, because their number is so big. But, I am advised later by a local friend that I do not need to worry about them, because all stalls can get good benefit from the consumers' huge appetite.
Above: a stall selling freshly cooked fish cake Left: Strawberries to be dipped in a chocolate fountain

A figure of Sakamoto Ryoma in Hirome Market.
Another attraction near the Sunday Market is Hirome Market. This market was opened rather recently on the former estate of Lord Hirome as a result of redevelopment of the city center. Hirome Market looks like a bazaar in South East Asia. There are many eateries surrounding large spaces with chairs and tables. Not only Japanese foods but also Asian specialties are offered.

Hirome Market

All in all, I was fascinated by the energy of the people in Kochi. I could not detect any kind of gloomy atmosphere which prevails now in Japan because of depression. Kochi is full of life!