Many mountain streams empty into Kochi’s seas, bringing an abundance of nutrients with them and producing a fishing area that yields a variety of shellfish. The locals have long prefered eating shellfish, and there are many varieties with unique local names.
Scallops in Kochi are commonly known as “chotaro”. The name is thought to have come from the fisherman who first found them. They have surprisingly vivid colors; reds, oranges, and purples, appearing as if someone painted them. These shellfish are known for their sweet melt-in-the-mouth taste when eaten as sashimi. They’re also superb and full of flavor when grilled. Strawberry conch, or “magaki-gai” as it’s commonly known elsewhere in Japan, is called “chanbara-gai” in Kochi. The name translates to “sword-fight shellfish”, as the part that acts as a lid to this shell is sharp like a blade, and its movements resemble a samurai swinging his sword in battle. It is most commonly eaten boiled with salt, or in a sweet-and-salty sauce made with sake, sugar, soy sauce, and mirin. It is a popular snack paired with alcohol. Maigo-gai, called “nagarami” in other parts of Japan, has a spiral shell like a snail. In the past, children used to play with their beautiful shells as shogi pieces or in a traditional marble game called “ohajiki”. They’re often eaten boiled with salt so their natural flavor can be fully enjoyed. Kamenote, capitulum barnacles in English, are creatures that attach to rocks on the beach. At first glance they appear to be shellfish, but they’re actually a type of crustacean. They’re so named because their appearance resembles a turtle’s (kame) feet (te). They’re boiled with salt or used to make a stock for soups. The most popular shellfish in Japan is the abalone, but the nagareko (a sub-species of abalone) is said to be even more delicious. Appearing like a smaller version of the abalone, and it is commonly known as tokobushi in other parts of Japan. It is very popular and cooked in a variety of ways, such as steaming, boiling, and frying, as well as served as-is as sashimi. As you see here, you can enjoy an astounding variety of shellfish in Kochi.