Learn how to enjoy the sea’s treasures and its gem — salt.
Sightseeing in Kochi, Japan’s most distant prefecture, is an experience you won’t forget. To really understand and appreciate the culture of this very varied region, you’ll need to be willing to put in the time and effort to work with some of the region’s most dedicated producers.
Looking out over Kuroshio’s rocky coastline, Saltybe, a salt-making workshop, is just 15 minutes north of Shimanto’s central business district in Kochi Prefecture’s southeastern corner. The workshop offers stunning views, delicious culinary experiences, and hosts who embody the warm Kochi hospitality tradition.
Saltybe is a family-run business that specialized in “sunshine salt,” or Tosa no Shiomaru. This is a natural, unrefined sea salt that is gathered by hand using only sunshine, patience, and plain ol’ fashioned hard work.
Saltybe’s tactics may be conventional, but its ideas are anything but, as seen by their proclivity for cooperation and openness to the public. Takumaru Yoshida manages the facility, which is one of the few public salt production workshops left in Japan. Watching it all play out against a background of pounding waves is an unforgettable experience.
Making salt is a huge task.
To get to the sea, a network of tubes extends only meters from the little producing facility. Before it reaches the drying chamber, it goes through a drip-processing system to separate the saltwater from the salt.
Here in thee drying chamber, which resembles a greenhouse, is where the crystallization occurs, and where the magic happens. The drying chamber, often known as the enigmatically called “Crystal House,” is a fascinating environment that houses trays upon trays of crystallized salt.
Even though it’s designed to aid in the evaporation process in winter, spending time in this translucent tent in summer is unbearably hot for us mere mortals — but the men who work here are on a whole other level.
The fate of salt is sealed during crystallization. As Yoshida explains, “The more you mix and stir the drying salt flakes the smaller they become.” Salt with rustic rockier chunks is preferred by some professional cooks over the finer powdered flakes typically offered for residential use.
Attend a workshop if you have the opportunity.
Visitors of all ages and backgrounds are welcome to participate in Saltybe’s weekly 90-minute salt-making classes. There is an educational talk on how saltwater becomes salt followed by a hands-on activity where visitors mix crystallized salt and package their own Tosa no Shiomaru grain jar to take home once they have completed their tour of the facility.
Additional bitter tofu-making sessions let visitors try their hand at the unusual sensation of using saltwater that has been separated from its salt content, if they choose to go that far.
Sweet and salty snacks
Since then, they’ve partnered with other culinary families to create innovative hybrid delicacies like their mouthwatering baby blue salt ice cream. It’s a deliciously refreshing way to reward oneself after a gratifying two hours of salt harvesting, combining smooth, milky-sweet ice cream with just a trace of salt.
Fee & Reservation
The cost of the program is ¥1,500 per person, which includes the salt that each participant will take home with them. At least three days’ notice is necessary for reservations at this establishment.
The owner, Yoshida, can communicate in a little English and some Thai. http://siomaru.com