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My Harbor: Kaminokae, Kochi

Kami-no-kae in the town of Nakatosa sits right on the Pacific coast of Shikoku between Kochi City and the Shimanto River. It’s a tiny fishing village that is almost off the map: our car navigation system said it wasn’t there even though it had successfully guided us up and down mountain roads barely wider than tracks. There’s no AU or PHS mobile coverage around the area either. You see nothing but beautiful, scarcely populated coastline and woodsy mountains coming right to the ocean. In a way, the drive along the Shimanto River, then along the shore heading to Kaminokae reminded me of Northern California along the Russian River and Route 1.

What they have in the little town is a fishing co-op that runs programs for visitors to experience anywhere from a half day to one-and-half day activities with fishermen. In addition, as part of the program, participants can actually bid in the fish auction alongside wholesalers or restaurant owners where all the boats in town bring in the day’s catch in the early afternoon.

We participated in the one day program in late March a couple years ago and even to this day, this is still the most memorable experience we had since moving back to Japan.

The program

Although we got lost so badly, almost to the point that I thought we would never get to the little harbor, we finally arrived and were greeted by two ladies with big smiles.

First, we were introduced to two fishermen in their sixties whose many years experience showed in their deeply tanned faces. We learned how and what they fish on the Pacific side of Shikoku Island, especially in a protected bay area around Nakatosa. Then, sensei taught us how to make weights using rocks and braided threads for their special fishing method using a long rope that will stretch near the bottom of the ocean.

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Kaminokae, Nakatosa, kochi, shikoku

Next, our trusted sensei taught us how to tie the big rope before we took off on the boat to the protected bay and cruised about 10 minutes to pull up crab traps they had dropped the night before. They said there’s no guarantee what we might find in the nets! But, it was quite an adrenalin rush as we pulled up crab after crab and a few other prime catches.

Lunch with local fishermen

We zipped back to the harbor to clean today’s haul and just in time for lunch. We sat with the two fishermen, or our sensei for the day. One guy had been on tuna ships going all over the world down the years and the other guy had been a local fisherman and a hunter when he was not out in the ocean. Both had so many stories about their adventures and life that I don’t know where to begin to describe the conversation.

Kaminokae, Nakatosa, kochi, shikoku

In the afternoon, we were ushered to a little boat to learn to paddle a wooden vessel in old way. I should not call it old way, since they still use these boats to get to the area where they farm cuttlefish and seaweed rather than using modern day motorized boats.

Then, it was time to go check the fish auction where I was told to feel free to bid for anything I liked. Around 2 pm, standing with a couple people from the co-op and about ten bidders going around checking out the catch in baskets or just on the carefully cleaned spic-and-span asphalt floor, the auction started. Looking at shining tachiuo or cutlassfish, I thought I might get one for my mother. I was not sure how much I should bid for it and looked around. By then, it was too late. Other things like flat crabs and any akauo or red fish which command really high price and are mainly used at high-end restaurants were snatched up in a second. It was just a matter of a blink of an eye, or in this case a flap of a fin, and all the fish were gone.

fish auction at kaminokae, nakatosa, kochi, shikoku

Fish auction with locals in Kochi

Finally, pictures and a farewell: I felt as if we were visiting relatives and we were about to say good-bye to them. “Come back!”, the ladies from the co-op and fisherman’s wife called in such a way as to make us already feel like we missed them.

Thinking back to that day with the fishermen and their wives in Kaminokae, the little adventure of pulling the traps was really fun. But, more than that, the day and the time with them made me think of a lot of things, such as Japan’s aging population, sustainability for fishermen, and the bipolarity of the city dwellers’ life and country life. Revisiting this unforgettable experience, I hope a lot of people get a chance to see the country life like in Nakatosa, up-close and personal.

English Travel Information about Nakatosa and Kaminokae Fishing Co-op Program

Kaminokae Fishing Co-op, Nakatosa, Kochi
approximately 90 min drive from Kochi Airport
Hours: 8:30 am-5:00 pm
Closed on weekend
TEL: Inquiry in Japanese 0889-54-0111
Japanese only web site: http://www4.ocn.ne.jp/~k_gyokyo/taiken.htm

Japanese is a must to fully enjoy the program. If you do not speak Japanese, but are interested in visiting the area and would like to join a tour, please let me know.

Discussion

8 Responses to “My Harbor: Kaminokae, Kochi”

  1. Etsuko, this is such a sweet post! I remember when you guys went on this trip.

    Great job on the Nihon Sun articles, by the way! Very informative and enjoyable.

    Posted by Melinda | May 2, 2009, 7:01 am
  2. Thanks! It may not be the most romantic place in Japan, but is is one of the best spots I’ve been to.

    Posted by Et-chan | May 2, 2009, 1:03 pm
  3. It looks exactly like my idea of a perfect town. I love old-timers, they understand living so much better than the rest of us.

    Thanks for the write-up!

    Posted by supreme nothing | May 26, 2009, 2:45 am
  4. Thanks! The whole area make you feel a few decades back and all natsukashii, and the people are so wonderful!

    Posted by Et-chan | May 27, 2009, 10:58 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] how to tie ropes, fish using rock weights tied to the rope, and row an old style fishing boat. See how you can sign up for such experience.  In the afternoon, watch local guys bring in the fish and auction it off to a dozen local [...]

  2. [...] presents My Harbor: Kaminokae, Kochi posted at Tokyofoodcast, saying, “First time to join matsuri. [...]

  3. [...] time to submit a post to the Matsuri and my pick was, Kami-no-kae in Kochi that I called “My Harbour“. What’s your favorite place in [...]

  4. [...] I loved everything that night, but I have such a soft spot for Kochi from my trip to Kami-no-kae. My favorite pairing for the night was a bit of lightly-warmed Tsukasa Botan Hacchu Funasaku with [...]

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