A versatile field of outdoor activities
—You’re an immigrant in Kochi, Mr. Ono. How do you like living here?
Ono It’s great. The best part is that now I have time to spend with my son. I came here on pure intuition, and it turned out to be the right move. The people of Kochi are cheerful, good people regardless of age or generation. On principle, they are keen to embrace new challenges and suggestions. Also, the food is so good that I’ve been gaining weight steadily since I moved.
—And you’re originally from Kochi, Mr. Nakagami, and Mr. and Mrs. Takahashi. Have you ever thought about living somewhere else?
Kota Takahashi I have never thought about leaving Kochi to begin with. I love the nature, and above all, I love the atmosphere. After graduating from university, I sought a job at a mountain hut and moved to Nagano for about five years. But my mind was made up from the start that I would eventually come back.
Nakagami After going surfing up and down Japan and across the globe, I’ve found that nothing beats the waves at the mouth of the Niyodo River. They’re really the best in the world. And Kochi is not only rich in nature, but it’s also rich in people. If I were to set surfing aside and take a fresh look around, there is always a new attraction to rediscover. Life in Kochi has been good to me. At the moment, I have no need for other options.
—What outdoor activities do you enjoy?
Nakagami I started surfing at the age of sixteen and really immersed myself in it after graduating from high school. Right now I run my own restaurant, so I surf during the day and work at night. In the autumn and winter, I also go mountain climbing. The Ishizuchi Mountain Range is my favorite. I especially like climbing Mt. Miune from the Kochi Prefecture side. It’s home to the most dynamic nature in Kochi.
Kota Takahashi I like Mt. Miune too. I have also gone climbing up and down the country, but my favorite in the whole of Japan is still the ridge between Mt. Miune and Mt. Tsurugi. The best time is on a night with a full moon. Nowadays, my activities center around our pet dog. Together, we go camping and walk the Tosa Salt Road—the 30-kilometer-long trade route between the old salt production region and the hinterland. It’s a lot of fun. There are always new local discoveries.
Kyoko Takahashi Recently, we also started fishing. That’s my favorite activity. We moved to a place only a 15-minute drive to the coast. So we finish work, go night fishing in the ocean, and have our catch for breakfast the next morning. Fishing has become something of a daily ritual.
Ono My son is still small, and we live right by the Niyodo River, so playing in the river is our daily routine during the summer. The Niyodo River is an attractive location for bicycle touring, too. My previous job took me to famous touring courses in the East Kanto region, but there was seldom a place where life along a single river basin was so diverse. Along the Niyodo River you find sake breweries and the homes of fishermen, and yet none of that takes away from the amazing clarity of the water. The Niyodo offers a nice variety of riverscapes. And thanks to this river and the ocean and the mountains, Kochi is a versatile field of outdoor activities. I hear there are notable bouldering spots too.
Kota Takahashi I suppose some people like to stick to one thing—mountain climbing, for instance—but I like to try my hand at all kinds of activities. Having nature so close by, within daily reach, is a big highlight of Kochi. I might as well take advantage of it.
Ono In the sense of an outdoor activity that enriches my daily life, I’ve also become hooked on kitchen gardening. I discovered the joy of working my own soil, you know. Kochi is a fun place because professional growers are close by and the food is incredibly abundant. You can source every conceivable ingredient in Kochi Prefecture alone. That includes rice—I never would have guessed that!
Nakagami I source nearly all the ingredients for my restaurant in Kochi. And when possible, I buy directly from the growers. The bounties of the river, the forest, and the farms—everything is close by. I can purchase ingredients before noon and serve them that night. From vegetables to fruits to fish, everything is packed with freshness and vitality. And through the process of purchasing, I fall even more in love with Kochi.
—What are your future goals in Kochi?
Ono When my son gets a little bigger, I want to go packrafting, and my wife, who grew up in Yokohama, says she wants to go camping and expand the kitchen garden. Also, I heard that even in an environment as favorable as Kochi, children tend to lose touch with nature as they grow up. So I’d like to work with local businesses and run an after-school curriculum of river activities for junior and senior high schoolers.
Nakagami My goal is to promote circulation in our human lives. The mouth of the Niyodo River produces really wonderful, clean waves, and it does so thanks to the beautiful river and forest. Circulation is important in nature, and it’s important at a personal level too. Using locally sourced timber to make surfboards, composting wood processing residues, and buying vegetables from responsible growers—these are some examples that I practice. My hope is that many a little will make a ‘mickle’, and circulation will grow into a movement that spreads throughout Kochi.
Kota Takahashi I hope more people will take advantage of the nature around us and consider outdoor activities less of a special event and more of a daily routine. I don’t buy the idea of working on weekdays and blowing off steam in the mountains on the weekend. We sell climbing gear, but we also carry compact, convenient tools that can be used every day. I want the store to develop into a hub and inspire a community of people to get in touch with nature.
Kyoko Takahashi Back when I lived in the rural town of Shimanto, there was a neighborhood granny who had a knack for doing everything, from cooking wild vegetables to working the farm. She taught me through example that living in the cycle of nature makes people strong. She continues to be my inspiration today. I hope to be a neighborhood auntie who knows all about the local nature, and I hope to relay to our customers that living in the cycle of nature will make them strong.
Kochi-born Junya Nakagami is a surfer of some 30 years. He is the head of Yoiyo, a restaurant popular for dishes that bring out the flavor of the ingredients, and Mouth Wood Work, a line of handcrafted surfboards using timber sourced in Kochi.
Kota & Kyoko Takahashi
Kochi-born Kota and Kyoko Takahashi produce and sell clothing and gear comfortable for all scenes of daily life under the brand Juni-no-yohinten (Juni supplies shop—Juni stands for twelve months a year). In December 2020, they opened the diner Juni-no-shokudo within their flagship store. The couple are a family of three counting their pet dog.
Born in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa, Yoshinori Ono relocated to Ino Town, Kochi, with his family in April 2017. After joining a national program for internal migrants to cooperate in revitalizing the local economy, at present Ono has expanded to running a cafe renovated from an old Japanese-style house, and developing and selling the craft cola Sawachina.