Translated by Jelena Kitamura
Sundays Only! Discover The 300-Year-Old Streets Of Kochi's Nichiyo
Have you heard of Kochi's Nichiyo city? Nichiyo is a city in Kochi prefecture with a remarkable 300-year-long history. On every Sunday, the city opens its local gourmet and artwork shops for sale and pleasure.
Written by Eri Takizawa
How much do you know about Kochi prefecture?
Kochi is located on one of Japan’s main islands, Shikoku. It is known as the mountainous prefecture, as about 80 percent of its land is covered in mountains. However, it has one more special name – "the prefecture of the sea", because of its wide Pacific Ocean coastline.
These terrain characteristics have made it possible to grow various vegetables throughout the prefecture, and at the same time, to be rich in sea products as well – delicious food is one of Kochi’s main traits.
The city, where these Kochi specialties assemble every Sunday, is in the prefecture’s very center. Its name is Nichiyo, and it has a splendid 1.3 km long display of local shops built along the road.
It is one of the events you definitely shouldn’t miss if you’re on a tour throughout Kochi, especially because of its location and its amazing 300-year-long history. And here’s what we’ll do to make sure you don’t forget about this attraction – we will tell you all about the charming Nichiyo city and recommend some of its greatest gourmet food!
Point No.1: Seasonal Vegetables and Fruits of Kochi
First, let us tell you about the vegetables. You can buy most of the vegetables directly from the people growing them, and the best part is that they are always fresh, since almost all of them are products of the local farms.
Have you ever seen the vegetable on the left side of the picture? That is shihochiku (a type of bamboo), and that is one rare plant, we can tell you that! Actually, it is mostly grown in Kochi prefecture only. Famous for its slightly bitter flavor, and just-right chewiness, it will make for a great ally should you decide to give your dish a real texture-twist.
Try the vegetable on your right, ryukyu, and you will never get over how crispy it tastes! Just make sure you get as much as you want here because you probably won’t be able to find it anywhere else – this vegetable is the specialty of Kochi and Tokushima prefectures only.
But leave room for the fruits as well, as Kochi prefecture is rich in fruits, too!
The grapefruit look-alike in the middle of the photograph is suisho buntan (a type of pomelo). Just like its famous cousin, the grapefruit, it is a citrus fruit, but rest assured – it’s easier on your taste buds since it’s not as bitter as grapefruit, and it has a somewhat sweet flavor to it.
What you can see in the back of the picture, is niitaka nashi (a type of a pear), and you might already have noticed its notable difference from other types of pear – its extravagant size. When it comes to its flavor, it’s less sour when compared to others, so you can enjoy its powerful, natural sweetness.
If you prefer to have a little something “on-the-go” while exploring the area, we have great news for you! There are shops selling grapes, cherry tomatoes and more, for you to enjoy your fresh meals anytime, anywhere.
But, we haven’t revealed everything just yet! Actually, Kochi is well-known for its wonderful sweet tomatoes, too!
Point No.2: They Even Sell Fish!
There are various fish species in Kochi prefecture because of the vicinity of the Pacific Ocean. However, since there aren’t any refrigeration devices in the shops, the locals mainly sell their fish dried.
This is chirimen jako, dried small fish that will leave your mouth overflowing with their enriched flavor with each bite, even though it’s seasoned with only a pinch of salt. Should you give in to temptation and buy some for yourself, they will come in a plastic bag so you can have it on-the-go.
Point No.3: The One and Only – Nichiyo’s Imoten!
We present you imoten, one of the finest products of Kochi prefecture. It is a sweet potato delicacy, cut into bite-sized chunks and coated with flour batter, then deep-fried in oil. Eat it right away, and savor the crispy and soft flaky sensation, characteristic of freshly baked sweet potatoes. If you, on the other hand, choose (or give it your best and try) to wait, the coating will become softer and you’ll be able to relish the gentle and more distinctive sweetness of the potato too.
But, just as you’ve perhaps expected – there are always people waiting for their little bundle of imoten joy, and, of course, there are also many people who are enjoying it while walking down the streets of Nichiyo city.
Point No.4: An Ice-Cream? A Sherbet? No, It Is Aisukurin!
We bring to you Kochi’s trademark – Aisukurin.
Because of the low percentage of dairy ingredients, this delicacy seems more like a sherbet than an ice-cream – with the texture and refreshing richness similar to that in a sherbet.
The only problem is that you won’t be able to stop once you get a hold of this cooling dessert, especially during the hot summer days, since the texture and the taste are extremely gentle on your mouth and your stomach.
Point No.5: Pottery and Cutlery, Old Artwork As Well!
The cone-shaped bowls you can see on the front of the picture are bekohai and sorakyu, both types of a sake cup, characteristic of Kochi prefecture. Their most peculiar trait is definitely the shape – should you try to put them down, both would turn over, that is why you have to drink up every time somebody pours you a drink. It is said that people of Kochi prefecture can hold their liqueur – now that you’ve seen these fascinating bowls, don’t you get the same impression?
You can also take a look at the shops selling Tosa uchihamono. Tosa uchihamono (cutlery) is cutlery produced in Kochi prefecture.
The waters of the Pacific Ocean near Kochi are inhabited by many whales, so much so that whale watching became a regularly organized event for visitors and locals. That is why they proudly make their knives in the shape of a whale, as you can see in the picture. Just look at this innocent face, isn’t it cute? This is a small knife so it’ll come in handy when cutting paper or similar items.
There are shops which sell these kinds of old art products as well.
It is up to your inspiration – you can use these items for interior design, or buy them for someone else as a souvenir. So, now you know what to do when you come to Kochi prefecture on a Sunday! Head for Nichiyo, where you are bound to discover a charming, relaxed crowd far different from the busy cities.
Address: Kochi prefecture, Kochi city, Otesuji
Hours: April-September 5:00-18:00, October-March 5:30-17:00
Open: every Sunday (except January the 1st and the 2nd, August the 10th and the 11th)
Available Credit Cards: None
Languages: depends on the store (mostly only Japanese)
Menus/Pamphlets in Other Languages: None
Nearest Station: JR Kochi Station
Access: head southwest from Kochi Station; walk for 10-15 minutes
Price: depends on the store
Website: Nichiyo City (Official Website of Kochi Prefecture)