When you live in Kochi, one of the farther corners of Japan, you may not find wealth or a cutting-edge, cosmopolitan vibe, but you will find something arguably more important: Really fresh, really good food.
No fuss, no shenanigan kind of food, but rather an honest, naturally delicious bounty from the land and sea.
First, foremost, and famously, it’s got to be the katsuo
Ask your typical Japanese everyman what Kochi is famous for, and most likely you will hear all about the katsuo. They will pine for it, imagine they are eating it at present, and theorize how exactly they would top it, cook it (or not cook it), and dip it.
Katsuo, or “bonito” in English, is a red meat fish with flesh that looks similar to tuna, but generally has a more forward flavor profile. If it is fresh and prepared correctly, it is blissful. If it is not, it can have a bit of an odor and odd taste to it. In Kochi, they know their katsuo very well, and you would be hard pressed to find anything less than stellar.
Locals and visitors alike swarm to Hirome Ichiba for regional delights
Hirome Ichiba, or market, is like a food court gone magical. Say goodbye to chain restaurants belching out standardized, previously frozen, canned, or vacuum-packed edibles, and say “Well, hello!” to fresh, local, and fine.
Naturally, you will find the aforementioned katsuo in abundance, be it seared (“tataki”) or simply sliced up raw as sashimi. You will also find local, pedigreed chicken, sushi, and just about everything else under the big red Japanese sun.
It’s a festive atmosphere, and almost always packed, so don’t be surprised if you have to share a big table with strangers. They won’t be strangers for long!
Everyone’s got a soba story
Some people in Kochi even have udon stories, but soba stories are indubitably the defining ones. Soba is made from buckwheat flour, while udon is made from wheat flour. Generally speaking, they can be adorned in similar ways, be it as a hot soup or a cold bowlful.
Suffice it to say that soba in Kochi (and on Shikoku island at-large) is a big deal. Try to find a way to get some local ponzu (soy-citrus) sauce to be a part of your soba experience.
If it’s Sunday morning, it’s Sunday Market time
Locals and regional growers all come together on Sunday mornings for Kochi’s famous “Sunday Market.” Hundreds of local farmers come to sell their fruits, vegetables, and prepared foods to a busy and appreciative crowd. The kinds of produce you find here just may make you never want to shop for fruits and veggies at a supermarket again.
Big, juicy, colorful citrus fruits. Gorgeous, sweet “fruit tomatoes.” Leafy greens that have never known a wilt in their lives. And all of this for much cheaper than you would pay in a supermarket, with the added bonus of a little local fraternizing! Pictured above are some giant takenoko, or bamboo roots. They’re a rite of early spring that should never be passed up!
In Kochi, you may not become rich, but you will eat well
Be it the fish, the lively night restaurant scene, or the open produce market, you will never hunger for delicious options in Kochi! Best of all, most of the food is pretty darn healthy! Who could ask for anything more?
Access: How to travel between Kochi and Tokyo By air JAL and ANA operate multiple flights per day between Tokyo's Haneda Airport and Kochi Ryoma Airport. Flight duration is 90 minutes. The regular one way fare is around 35,000 yen, but discount tickets are usually available for between 13,000 and 27,000 yen. Kochi Ryoma Airport is connected with central Kochi (JR Kochi Station) by airport bus. The one way trip takes about 40 minutes and costs 720 yen. By train Take the JR Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen from Tokyo to Okayama (3.5 hours) and transfer to a JR Nanpu limited express train for Kochi (2.5 hours). The entire one way trip takes around six hours and costs about 20,000 yen. Because the Japan Rail Pass is not valid on Nozomi trains, pass holders have to use Hikari or Sakura trains between Tokyo and Okayama, which can add more than an hour to the travel time. Otherwise, the pass fully covers the trip. By highway bus Several overnight highway buses operate between Tokyo and Kochi. The one way trip takes about 11.5 hours and costs 12,900 yen. A round trip ticket is available for 23,200 yen and must be used within 10 days. This route is also served by discount buses companies that offer lower fares. Hotel: Booking here!!