We are Kochi-ke: Takumaru Yoshida

Salt is life itself

“When I’m making salt, there are times when I feel a greater power. In Japan, we traditionally believe that there’s a god in every sea, mountain, tree, and even rock. So, when I’m making our tenpi (100% sun-dried) salt that requires constant adjustment to and communication with earth’s ever-changing elements like the wind, humidity, climate, and season, I feel like I understand that divine omnipresence. That’s also related to why I’ve never really identified with the word ‘shokunin’ (artisan) because I don’t consider myself the creator. Kochi’s nature is the main character of this salt-making narrative, and I’m just here to take care of the process as an omori (protector). In a sense, it’s just like child raising–I have to be there for my son, but also give him the space he needs. I have to leave him alone at times, but that doesn’t mean neglect. Trying, failing, adjusting, succeeding, and learning…salt-making too, is all about achieving harmony through balance, just like many things in life.” 

“The most important aspect of this craft is having a clear definition of my ideal salt. Its flavor profile, hardness, how much time it takes for the grains to melt away in my mouth–with all of these answered, then, it’s all about trial and error until I succeed. Every day, I strive for salt that lasts on the tongue for about four seconds, where you first have sweet and umami (savory) sensations. Then, the saltiness should slowly appear, along with hints of acidic and bitter notes. Finally, the flavor should circle back to the sweet umami tasted in the beginning.”

“It might come as a surprise to those who have only identified salt with one of the five basic tastes before, but depending on how big or small the crystals, how fast or slow they form, how humid or dry the air…each batch can hold a universe of flavors that is different each time. That can be especially true in this process where everything is done by hand and left to the power of nature where no two seconds of mere sunlight are the same. For me, it’s important to ride with the rhythm of nature’s changes, while simultaneously striving for a sense of consistency with an unwavering image of my ideal salt in mind.”

“Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to make salt when I grew up. It was a nariwai (lifework) that my parents found for themselves in Kochi, which meant I got to witness the process up close. I still remember when customers sent us thank you gifts like homemade bread, miso (traditional Japanese seasoning) and sweets that incorporated my parents’ sun-dried salt. Naturally, I dreamed of one day becoming a part of that beautiful circle of joy too. Interestingly though, my parents strongly disapproved of my desire to pursue salt-making. I didn’t understand it then, but now, I know it was because they wanted me to find my own purpose in life, independent of theirs. But even after various soul-searching, my answer always rested with the ocean.” 

“Millions of years ago, before we evolved to survive on land, we lived and breathed in the ocean. It’s possible we still hold memories of our ancestors in our subconscious, which perhaps explains why so many of us still feel comforted by the sea. Just listening to the rhythmic waves, or observing the expansive horizon can be soothing–even healing–to us. Studies also show that mothers’ amniotic fluids closely resemble the mineral balance of ancient seawater. In these ways, a piece of the ocean lives inside of us–in memory and body–while also serving as the home from which we came, and perhaps, the destination to which we return. So the act of consuming salt–a blessing from the ocean–means directly connecting to the very essence of life itself. Some might call it romanticization, but that’s the kind of philosophy I cherish, as I pour my heart and soul into this craft every single day.”

“We are Kochi-ke (Kochi family)” is all about highlighting the stories of the people who make us proud to call Kochi our home. Whether you are living in Kochi now or have only visited once, you are part of the Kochi family

Takumaru’s saltery in Kuroshio Town called Saltybe is one of Japan’s only places that exclusively specialize in making 100% sun-dried salt (without using firepower). If you reserve in advance, you can sign up for a hands-on salt-making workshop led by Takumaru himself! 

Learn more about Saltybe: https://visitkochijapan.com/en/activities/10140
Official website: https://siomaru.com/
  • We are Kochi-ke: Takumaru Yoshida

  • We are Kochi-ke: Takumaru Yoshida

  • We are Kochi-ke: Takumaru Yoshida