I’m currently in Kochi Prefecture for a few days, a place I visited several years ago but not to any great extent. On that visit, we of course enjoyed an obligatory castle stop – Kochi-jo is one of the twelve original castles remaining in Japan – and ate some excellent tataki (seared bonito). Aside from that, however, not much about the city sticks in my mind. And I certainly don’t remember stumbling across this colorful manhole cover outside the Kochi Yosakoi Information Exchange Center.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the fish on the left of the cover is bonito. 🙂 It’s not much of a stretch, as Kochi is known for its bonito, or skipjack tuna. It’s served both seared (tataki style, as mentioned above) and also dried, smoked and – in some cases – fermented into that staple of Japanese kitchens, katsuobushi.
The wave is fairly self-explanatory as well – when most people think of Kochi, they think of its coast. However, Kochi is surprisingly one of the most mountainous prefectures in Japan, with over 80% of its land taken up by high hills and forests.
The objects in the middle of the cover are naruko, the wooden clappers used by dancers during the city’s Yosakoi festival in August. These clappers were once used by farmers in the region to scare birds from their fields. Apparently, every team’s naruko are different (shape, color, design, etc) and even the way they hold and maneuver them to achieve the click-clacking sound varies from team to team.
If you pay a visit to the above-mentioned Kochi Yosakoi Information Exchange Center, you can not only try your hand at using naruko, but you can design your own naruko (English instructions provided).