Wednesday, July 13, 2005

My Favorite Place - Hirome Ichiba -

View from the South Entrance of Hirome Ichiba

Hirome ichiba (market) is one of my most favorite places in Kochi. This spot is often introduced as a “food court” on the net, but in my opinion, it is much more than that. It is where you can encounter things new to you, and people new to you, and at the same time feel somewhat at home.

Local goods (salad dressings, soy sauce, salt, etc.) on the shelf at a souvenir shop

I stumbled into this place for the first time when I returned to Kochi in 2000 after living in Kansai for about 20 years. According to its official website, Hirome ichiba was founded in 1998 as a new sightseeing spot. In addition to making it a place to introduce local cultures to both visitors and local people, they wanted it to be a place for people to socialize in a friendly, down-to-earth kind of atmosphere. So among the more than 60 shops in this market, you see shops like a greengrocer, fish shop, meat shop, souvenir shop, craft shop and even a small computer school as well as izakayas and various eateries.

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One of our local traditional sweets: Imo Kenpi (Deep-fried potato strips) with various flavors incl. yuzu, sesame, coffee, garlic, green laver flakes, etc… and they say deep-sea water was used somewhere in the cooking process.)

Deep-fried fish cakes in different shapes and colors

In the food court section, there are big wooden tables and benches surrounded by eating/drinking establishments offering variety of foods ranging from typical Kochi cuisine to spicy Southeast Asian dishes. It is a convenient place for locals to drop in alone and have lunch or supper (with some drinks if it's after work) for a reasonable price. For tourists, it is also a convenient place that is close to the 2 popular sightseeing spots, Kochi castle and the Sunday Market, and offers most of the local specialty dishes for a reasonable price.

You can taste typical local dishes at Hirome, including 鰹のタタキ(Katsuo no tataki or seared bonito, the ultimate local food that Kochi is famous for). One shop that recently opened in the market even shows the searing process to the customers. It is said that burning rice straw produces the best temperature for searing bonito, and at this place you can see the cook throwing some straw into fire to make a big flame to sear your bonito. For more adventurous tourists, they have delicacies like ウツボの唐揚げ(Utsubo-no Karaage: deep-fried moray eel), どろめ (Dorome: raw baby sardines, usually served with dressing made from miso and garlic-leaf paste) and 酒盗(Shuto: salted bonito guts). I have never tried any of those.

A menu and the map of the market are placed on each of the big wooden tables there. You can choose from the menu and go to any of the eateries (they have menu and often food photos/ samples there) and order what you want, then if they're not too busy, they may ask you where your table is and “deliver” the food to you when it’s ready. One shop even lists their phone number on the menu so that you can call them with a cell phone from your table and order food. Unfortunately they don’t have any English menu in Hirome yet. When you finished eating/drinking, you can just leave empty dishes and glasses on the table. Those on dish crew would come around with a cart and pick them up.

The place turns into a more friendly place with somewhat "borderless(?)" atmosphere at night as many drinking places in the market open. People drink and chat cheerfully with their friends, and sometimes even with those who they met for the first time there. That’s the magic of the place, I think… I don’t know if it’s the size and alignment of those wooden tables and benches that make people feel easier to mingle?? Anyway, except for the very crowded times, I feel comfortable just dropping by and taking a seat there all by myself to have a drink. A couple of times, a cheerfully intoxicated person came to talk to me, and I didn't feel disgusted or scared… I just enjoyed chatting. There’s something in the atmosphere there that makes me feel it’s OK for such things to happen.

Or maybe I feel so attached to Hirome ichiba because I’ve been to the big dance parties held there several times a year. Every year they have events like Halloween party, St. Valentine’s Day party, etc. starting at around 11:30pm after closing the shops in the market, and all the partygoers, both non-Japanese and Japanese, get together to drink, dance and have a ball.

Hirome Ichiba Market
2-3-1 Obiya-machi, Kochi
Kochi 780-0841
Official website --- (Japanese only)


Anonymous said...


Ohayoo! Hirome Ichiba Market looks like a very interesting place. I especially liked the shot of I guess the evening crowd having drinks and appetizers!! Unfortunately we don't have places like that here where I live so I am really envious of the opportunity you have.>_< My question for you today is....Is Kochi like a Shimane or is it smaller or larger? 

Posted by kyle

Anonymous said...

is this place some sort of a night market ? 

Posted by Patrick Leong

Anonymous said...

> kyle --- That's my favorite shot, too :)
You know what? I just took a look at the "population ranking" and "area ranking" of prefectures in Japan on the net. Population-wise, Kochi ranked 45th and Shimane, 46th. Area-wise, Kochi was 18th and Shimane, 19th. (2004 data). Birds of a feather?

> Patrick --- Well, I wouldn't call it a night market because it's open from 8:00 to 23:00 and it's a popular place among locals for eating "morning set" or lunch.  

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

What an interesting looking place.... so much to see and eat!!!!! It looks very large. I would like to visit.... 

Posted by Carlyn

Anonymous said...

This IS an interesting place, but it isn't very large, to tell you the truth. Actually you'd laugh when found out how small everything is in this market. 

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

What an interesting place.. :) I love all the snacks..!

Posted by MrsT

Anonymous said...

Hehehe... we have some weird dishes there that even I don't have the courage to try...;) 

Posted by obachan

Anonymous said...

Thanks obachan for putting something up for Hirome Ichiba...It my favourite place in Kochi. I miss Hirome and the edamame and the nama biru...