BY Michelle Wigianto, Marunouchi High School ex-ALT from USA
It’s only been about a week since I’ve left Kochi but I already miss it. Seeing Ryoma everywhere, the sound of the tram and trains, even the hint of fish odor in the air were a part of my life for the last three years I lived in Kochi City. In that time I learned so much, not just about living abroad or living by myself but about who I am as a person and I discovered that I like tomatoes.
I was never a very big tomato fan before I moved to Kochi. They are hard to cut. The texture is weird; wet, mushy, crispy? The taste is unpredictable, ranging from tart to sour to bland to the occasional sweet tang. But in Kochi all of these complaints are rendered moot because in Kochi the tomatoes that grow there are what nature intended tomatoes to taste like. Wonderfully crisp skin and soft, fleshy, juicy meat that truly straddles the fruit/vegetable line in regards to taste. With a good Tosa knife they are a breeze to cut and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes for your eating pleasure.
As much as I love tomatoes though I would be remiss in not mentioning the abundance of other amazing produce in Kochi waiting to be discovered and eaten at Kochi’s famous Sunday Market! I was never much of a cook or foodie; if it didn’t come with instructions I wouldn’t know how to prepare it, but living in Kochi with such easy access to locally grown and tasty produce I knew I’d be missing out if I didn’t at least try. And try I did: eggplants, bell peppers, yuzu, mikan, even swiss chard (I’ll be honest I had no idea what it was when I bought it!)
There is so much out there to eat and enjoy I’ve often wondered how Kochi farmers do it. I’m sure that there is a reasonable explanation. There’s probably something in the water or the Kochi dirt but more than likely it’s the patience and care that the farmers of Kochi have to ensure amazing quality. That same patience and care can be found in the people of Kochi who helped me along my journey in Japan. Even more than Ryoma or the fishy smell or even the tomatoes, I’ll miss the people I’ve met who helped to cultivate me into the tomato-loving individual I am today. Thank you and goodbye Kochi!