Kochi is the largest producer of the citrus fruit yuzu in all of Japan! Yuzu is basically a staple in Kochi's cuisine, being used in cooking, beverages and even being turned into a variety of condiments.
Why Kochi's yuzu are the best in Japan
One of the most popular citrus fruits in Japan, the characteristics of yuzu are it's refreshing aroma and strong acidity. A little different from other citrus fruits, yuzu grows better inland in slightly more mountainous regions, rather than warm coastal areas. Kochi Prefecture is 80% forests, making it the perfect environment for yuzu cultivation. From the 1960s, Kochi turned its attention away from the logging industry and concentrated its energy to the cultivation of yuzu. These days, the mountain slopes are covered with yuzu orchards, and the region has become the biggest producers of the citrus.
You can see orchards and learn the history of yuzu on Yuzu Road in the Chugei area of eastern Kochi Prefecture.
In Kochi, the biggest producer of yuzu in Japan, yuzu is an extremely important ingredient in local cooking. The entire fruit is used, with the juice, known as Yuzusu or Yunosu, being used in a similar way to lemon juice and the peel as a seasoning. Yuzu offers a refreshing flavour and adds colour to a dish. You can purchase yuzu at a street market like the Sunday Market or in any supermarket. The people of Kochi love yuzu so much that it's made its way into many of the local dishes, and therefore onto the menus of the restaurants in Kochi.
One local favorite is inaka-zushi (lit. country sushi). Yuzusu is used in place of vinegar to coat the rice, with fresh mountain vegetables and mushrooms replacing fish. Yuzu is perfect in desserts and confectionery like cakes and cookies and the peel is also eaten as a snack. The slightly sweet yet sour flavour of yuzu snacks makes them a favourite among the locals.
Beverages featuring yuzu
In Kochi, there is a large variation of drinks using the juice of yuzu. In liquors and shochu (a Japanese spirit), yuzu offers a balanced refreshing, yet gentle bitter flavour that can be enjoyed straight or on the rocks. There are many soft drinks made with yuzu, each with a slightly different flavour depending on the maker. Yuzu drinks are popular with both kids and adults, and beverages made with yuzu make for a great souvenir. One of the best points is that Kochi yuzu are made in Kochi, offering a sense of security.
You can purchase many of these products at souvenir and convenience stores, and supermarkets etc. all over the prefecture.
Condiments made with yuzu
Condiments highly perfumed with yuzu make great gift ideas!
Ponzu is a kind of vinegarette made with citrus, vinegar and soy sauce and widely used in Japan. In Kochi, yuzu ponzu is the commonly preferred type and goes well on tofu, fish and in hotpot recipes etc.
Yuzu kosho, a spicy and peppery paste made from chilies, yuzu peel and salt, is another popular condiment and can be used in a wide variety of cooking like hotpots or tempura, adding an extra accent to the dish.
Yuzusu, 100% yuzu juice, is another fantastic staple condiment in Kochi. Yuzusu can be used in multiple ways like replace vinegar in recipes or mixed with sparkling water and other beverages and consumed as a drink.
Made in Kochi! Tour a factory that makes yuzu products
In Umaji Village, the village of yuzu, you can tour a factory that makes beverages using yuzu. See both the production and packing process. After touring the factory, take a rest in the lobby with a refreshing beverage made with yuzu. There is a direct retail store on the grounds of the factory selling many goods made with yuzu.
Umaji-mura Nokyo - Yuzu-no-Mori Factory
Address: 3888-4 Umaji, Umaji Village, Aki-gun
Hours: 8:30am to 5:00pm
Open year round (except for the period around New Year's)
Tour Cost: Free