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‘Modern Nomad’

Kochi inside out
with a view of the Pacific

Gathering Seaside

Three folks raised outside of Kochi but now living and loving it in Kochi; gathered on the spacious Hirano Surf Beach. Reiko Kiyono launched the forerunners of today’s vegan cafe in Tokyo and continues to play a leading role as an art director. Hidekazu Ichiyoshi moved from Osaka following his love of surfing, and administers Kochi Good Foods, serving as a bridge between growers in Kochi and buyers outside the prefecture. And Kyosuke Shiota returned to Kochi to live in his grandparents’ home, and works as a designer who also grows and processes herbs and manages Bonsai Cafe. Join us as we sit seaside to have a heart-to-heart on their fascinating life in Kochi.


The fascinating people, food, and nature of Kochi

—How did you come to settle in Kochi?

Shiota I worked at a furniture maker in Tokyo, and about twenty years ago, returned to Takamatsu City, Kagawa, where I was born and raised. As I took on jobs from local shopping districts, I became a self-taught designer. My plan was to eventually relocate to Sukumo City, Kochi, to the house where my father was born. I moved to my current location at the time and became a freelance designer.

Ichiyoshi I was an ordinary white-collar worker living in the Kansai region and traveled five hours one way to go surfing in Kochi. I was fascinated by the lush nature and made a lot of friends. The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 convinced me there were more important things than life in the city. I moved to Kochi and settled down permanently in 2013.

Kiyono I never imagined I would end up living in Kochi. After working in Tokyo for a long time, around 2017, I began to realize that the same familiar ways were no longer working as they used to. With my son enrolling in grade school, I was also feeling the limits of the Tokyo style of parenting and education. Because my husband and I were running our separate independent businesses, I started out searching for schools within commuting distance. But when I saw the news about a unique elementary school in Ino Town—Tosa Jiyu School, established in April 2019—I signed up for summer camp right away. While my son was away at camp, I rented a car and explored the community. My intuition told me it was a perfect match for me. My son said he wanted to attend the school here too, so that gave me the final push. We moved in 2019.

—What do you love about Kochi?

Kiyono At the time I relocated, exactly twenty years had passed since I launched the cafe in Tokyo. I had worked on impulse and found the business rewarding enough. But once I settled down in Kochi, the effect came as a surprise even to me. The past twenty years seemed to have vanished. That was how comfortable I felt. It was as if I had always belonged here, or I was reminded of a sensation I had once lost. I am really glad I moved. My son has changed a lot too. Now he goes to school and spends all day catching bugs.

Ichiyoshi The prices are low, and the residents live their lives according to a completely different sense of values from the city. When I first moved here, I thought the lifestyle in Kochi was similar to that in Spain. We started drinking before noon and took siesta-style naps—what a sweet life! Everyone enjoyed his own life to the full, and everyone else respected that. Also, the people here are friendly in general. Everyone is honest and frank. There’s no such thing as double-dealing. The generosity of the residents is a cut above the rest.

Shiota There’s a wide open, spread out feel about Kochi that probably comes from the location facing the Pacific Ocean. During the long time I lived in Takamatsu, the only sea I had was the gentle Seto Inland Sea. When I felt as if I had hit a dead end, I came to Kochi just to place myself in the dreamlike panorama. Now, I live in that world every day.

Kiyono I think the generosity of Kochi residents comes partly from the location and partly from the abundance and variety of food. The people are big-hearted because they never go hungry. When you live in the city, you work to earn an income. But here, you earn just enough to live on and spend the rest of your time enjoying life. That is the natural, established way of life here. Everyone grows rice and vegetables, everyone goes fishing on a daily basis, and everyone receives all kinds of gifts from the neighbors. You don’t need much money at all to live in Kochi.

—What do you see in the future of Kochi?

Ichiyoshi I like to call it the frontrunner one lap behind. I believe the entire future is right here in Kochi. The residents have distanced themselves from the economy-centric approach and created a distinct local culture. Each person has his own life and his own little wealth, and he works hand in hand with the next person. I see this Kochi-style happy community becoming a model for the whole of Japan. An essential element is food education. My child’s kindergarten recognizes the significance of food, and liberal schools like Tosa Jiyu School are being established and helping to raise awareness and lead the move to preserve nature.

Shiota The frontrunner one lap behind—I can sympathize with that. Sukumo, where I live, is a rural city on the edge of Kochi. It’s a stone’s throw from the Swiss Alps-style mountains, the river, the sea—you name it. But it doesn’t end there. Somehow you expect to find, say, a London-style cafe nestled in the depths of nature. There’s a feel about Kochi’s lush nature that hints at a well-balanced blank space needed by people today. Kochi has the potential to be a unique place where you can coexist with nature and yet get a taste of the world. At least, that’s my vision and my hope.

Kiyono The wealth inequality in Japan is expected to widen in the future. This is why I think the small population of Kochi presents a great opportunity. Fewer people means a greater degree of freedom. Plus, the people are open-minded, meaning they are more open to change. And to top it off, there’s a large number of immigrants equipped with flexible ways of thinking. The grade school is becoming quite mixed too, with more than half of the pupils coming from families who have relocated from areas outside Kochi. Every single kid is unique. Whereas getting along with other guardians was such a pain in Tokyo, here we can say what we really mean, so things get done quickly. I look forward to the future in Kochi. It’s so full of the potential to try new things.

On the terrace of Laki Lani on the Beach, a campsite in Hirano Surf Beach.

(From the left)
Reiko Kiyono
Art director Reiko Kiyono is a leader of the organic culture in Japan, having launched Cafe Eight and Pure Cafe, the forerunners of today’s vegan cafe. At present, she engages in design, planning, and concept creation work in Kochi. Kiyono also administers Tosa Lemon-no-kai.

Hidekazu Ichiyoshi
Locals & Co. president Hidekazu Ichiyoshi administers Kochi Good Foods, serving as a bridge between growers in Kochi and buyers outside the prefecture. He juggles his career as a food producer with coordination and PR work. Ichiyoshi is a Special Sightseeing Ambassador of Kochi Prefecture.

Kyosuke Shiota
Designer Kyosuke Shiota specializes in local-oriented design work such as the package design for Mihara Village’s Amazake. He also processes and sells the herb S/H grown in his kitchen garden, and manages Bonsai Cafe, an open space for enjoying drinks and the art of miniature trees.

In this issue we live as ‘modern nomads’ hunting and gathering our own food. And then setting up camp both Seaside and Mountainside to cook up our daily catch to a scrumptious perfection. Our two women guest for this issue are fishing professional Bun Chan (Ayana Ishikawa) and ‘traveling chef’ Nao Mikami.
text | Yukiko Soda photography | Natsumi Kinugasa