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Friday, September 21, 2018

Let’s hear from the head proprietress at Hamachou, one of Kochi’s traditional restaurants! What exactly is a “hachikin”?

 
Head Proprietess Kayo of
Hamachou
  After I began working as a proprietress, I started hearing “what is a hachikin?” from customers coming from outside of the prefecture. When I searched through write-ups, I found the word being described as a woman who only thinks about 80% of her actions before acting, and is able to handle four men at a time. This is where the “hachi” (meaning eight) of “hachikin” (literally meaning eight testicles) comes from. Kochi women will say what they feel whenever they want, without listening until the end. A hachikin acts fast, is strong, works hard, and is very clear on their likes and dislikes. This is also a reason for Kochi’s high divorce rate, says Head Proprietress Kayo. The women of Kochi will do their best for their men, but if they feel that it is not going to work out, they are also quick to take action - which means getting a divorce. However, they do not request for settlement money, and even if they do, it is a small, insignificant amount. It seems as if it works out to something like, “I will work and raise my children, so you too live a good life”. Although these characteristics of being forward-looking, strong, independent, and full of confidence are connected to divorce, it is said that just like how Japanese ladies are seen as well-mannered, this confidence that Kochi women have is naturally picked up from a young age.

Unexpected! Sawachi cuisine (many foods served together on a large plate) and hachikin
   In Kochi, the men would go fishing in the seas for months, work away from home and the like. Therefore, it was usually the case that they were not at home and the woman had to look after the house. Due to this situation, the people in the neighborhood would present their home-cooked specialities on a large dish, grab a pair of chopsticks, a plate and alcohol, and go out to eat together with everyone in the area. This was somewhat like our modern day buffet, and was especially common during ceremonial occasions where the women would be busy. Children would have all their food, from the appetiser to their dessert, on a huge plate placed in front of them. This meant that during rituals at home, when the women would entertain their guests, their children could also be present. Thus, in a household where the husbands are usually not at home, the wives would bring their cooking to a potluck gathering when they would entertain guests. It was from this that hachikins
were formed, explained Proprietress Kayo. There is indeed an unexpected connection between the sawachi cuisine and hachikins.
 
The entrance made with Yanase cedar, the forest of
 which is deemed one of the three most beautiful in Japan
Catching a glimpse of hachikin from the history of Hamachou
   Hamachou started from a small oden shop before the war in 1936. Proprietress Kayo’s father, Hachirou, increased the scale of his shop by taking in “geikos” (another term for geisha) who returned home from war. Then in 1985, their Japanese inn was made into the present Hamachou, a traditional Japanese restaurant with geikos. In 2001, when government officials entertaining other government officials with the use of public funds was banned, they closed their business for a period of time. Then in 2007, they started a luxurious traditional Japanese restaurant in earnest, which featured maikos (apprentice geisha) in their elaborate costumes. Currently Hamachou has only three male staff; the chef, a cleaner, and a waitor. All the other staff are female, and there are at least 20 of them. Managing all the female staff requires a lot of effort as they are all hachikin ladies of Kochi, says Proprietress Kayo, who has 37 years of experience. When asked how she does it, she replied that the key is to draw out each of their personalities and talk to them until you understand them. “In order to allow for the full potential of each individual to shine, you should not give everyone a common goal. Instead, you need to change the way you interact with each person and talk to them until you understand them. If you do not understand their point of view, they won’t budge a single inch” says Kayo.
 
Recent happenings with the head proprietress’ daughter
   When we asked if the head proprietress’ daughter Misako had any “hachikin episodes”, she laughed and said “It happens every day. She is someone who takes action without caring about profit. She overwhelms our staff, but thanks to her we made it this far with this. She is someone who really goes through with what she has decided. I really feel that she is living out the ‘only thinking about 80%’ written about a hachikin.” The same can be said for head proprietress’ mother. “My father asked my mother to choose between her life and money. He said that aiming for both is impossible and that if she wanted her life, doing this business is not going to work. My mother however still pushed on.” Kayo remarked, saying that it is this highly decisive attitude which supports Hamachou today.
 
Interviewing Head Proprietess Kayo
Welcoming visitors of many nationalities and being an Ambassador for Kochi Prefecture
   Hamachou is popular amongst cruise visitors and tourists from overseas. Foreigners are extremely surprised by the women of Kochi with their hachikin personalities as they are rather different from the typical Japanese female image. Proprietress Misako is also one of the ladies that helped liven up Kochi. The Yosakoi team “Hamachou Hanakagura” led by her and started in 2010 has won several awards since. Furthermore, thanks to this, the image of a spirited Tosa women is now spreading abroad.

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