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Kochi Woman - 05

Sabi-to-Susu Craft Club

Kaori Yamasaki, Dyeing Artist
Yuri Kikuchi, Handicraft Artist

The prolific Pacific Ocean and the beaming tropical sun—the women of Kochi endowed with the gifts of nature are incredibly optimistic, tough, and committed. Kochians have a name for these women: “Hachikin.” All women who have put down roots here, even immigrants, curiously acquire those characteristics. Let’s take a look at the stories of three Hachikin.


A hub for Kochi’s women creators

The fusion diner Sabi-to-Susu, in the city of Nankoku, has earned a reputation for its South Indian cuisine—one-plate meals of 17 items ranging from curry to side dishes. Quite a few regulars are not only fans of the exquisite curry but also creators and sympathizers of the proprietor, Kazuko Yamada. In addition to being a chef, Kazuko is a prolific creative with experience in Kyoto Yuzen (resist) and Roketsu (wax-resist) textile dyeing, painting, and accessory making.

Sabi-to-Susu has a unique look that lives up to its name “rust and soot.” On the outside, it’s a hut covered with rust that appears to be on the brink of abandonment. Beyond the curtained entrance, the chaotic interior is a patchwork of special sensibilities. Several times a month, outside business hours, a bunch of creators gather here and mingle. They are members of the Craft Club revolving around Kazuko, and this is their hub.

“Here I engage in creation that has nothing to do with work. This is a refreshing moment and a welcome change of pace. When I’m working alone for hours on end, I can feel like I’ve hit a wall. But being here helps my mind relax and churn out all kinds of ideas.”

One of the members is dyeing artist Kaori Yamasaki (In the left of the photo.) She uses wax and dye to apply layers of color on cloth and create one-off expressions. Kaori initially visited Sabi-to-Susu to try the curry and ended up building a rapport with Kazuko. She launched the Craft Club’s dyeing circle and now organizes natural-dye activities. A member of that circle, handicraft artist Yuri Kikuchi, is another creator who is broadening her expressive horizons through the club’s activities.

Kaori Yamasaki’s dying techniques are beyond amazing!
Sabi-to-Susu’s dying club experiments with natural dying techniques. 

“I started out making wallets, and accessories from plastic in the ocean, but joining the Craft Club piqued my interest in dyeing. When the coronavirus crisis hit last year, I spent a lot of time collecting the plants growing around my house and using them as dye material. I also picked up plastics from the beach and gathered wild grass in the mountain. With the mountain, the river, and the sea nearby, Kochi is an ideal place for creators to source materials and gain inspiration.”

Yuri Kikuchi picks plastic from Kochi’s beautiful beaches to make beautiful jewelry.

The Craft Club consists of about 15 creators spanning different ages and fields of specialty. They bring their sensibilities and skills to the table and enjoy the chemistry that they share. In future, they also plan to sell their creations and organize workshops.

Kochians call the hard-working, optimistic, and energetic women of Kochi “Hachikin.” Then these women gathering around the table, busily moving their hands, and losing themselves in a discussion about creativity must be “Hachikin creators.” The woman in the center, Kazuko, has this to say.

“Sabi-to-Susu is a wonderful occupation that satisfies both my desire to create and my desire to make people happy. Because curry is an extension of creation to me, I don’t see myself as a curry chef. I hope to keep on creating the space for welcoming people from across borders and making them happy.”

Sabi-to-Susu promises to continue evolving both as a diner and as a hub of creativity.

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.