Summer is a great time to visit Kochi Prefecture. With plenty of outdoor activities (e.g. hiking, swimming, rafting), festivals that feature spectacular fireworks, delicious food, and local culture nearly every weekend – including the famous Yosakoi Dance Festival in August – along with the beautiful scenery, it’s easy to keep yourself busy. Want to know what you certainly shouldn’t miss out on if you happen to be in Kochi this summer? Ice cream!
Ice cream is a part of summer in many places. I remember eating ice cream at the park on Canada Day as a child; when I visited France I tried French ice cream, which is richer because it’s made with egg yolks; and in Italy, I had an affogato (espresso poured over gelato) for the first time. Kochi too has its own version of this refreshing treat.
At first, I was a bit hesitant to try flavors like roasted eggplant, sea salt, and chestnut, but on the recommendation of a friend, I eventually bought a cup of roasted eggplant ice cream at Yasu Park, a beach near Kochi City.
It was delicious.
And it wasn’t just the unusual flavor that got my tastebuds’ attention, but the overall quality of the ice cream. I found out later that the ice cream maker was the local company Kochi Ice. Kochi native Fumiya Hamamachi decided to set up his own ice cream factory in 1995 after years of working as a traveling sales agent for a Japanese ice cream maker.
He first began making “ice crin,” a Kochi specialty that is considered a “water ice” because the butterfat content is less than 3%, giving it a consistency somewhere between sorbet and snow cone. Ever since then, Kochi Ice has been producing a delicious variety of sorbets, gelatos, and ice creams made from ingredients sourced within Kochi Prefecture. Flavors include citrus fruits such as yuzu and pomelo (buntan), tomato, and green tea (matcha).
Along with fresh local fruits and vegetables, Tosa Jiro eggs are another key ingredient in Kochi Ice’s products. Tosa is the old name for Kochi and the “ro” comes from Rhode Island Red. Tosa Jiro chickens are a cross between Tosa and Rhode chickens and are considered a natural monument because of their cultural significance. There is even an organization that specifies how these chickens are to be raised (i.e. what they are fed, how much space and sunlight they must have) to ensure the health of the chickens and the quality of their eggs.
If you happen to be near Ino Town, or just feel like venturing outside of Kochi City, you should stop by the Kochi Ice Cafe. You can enjoy the famously blue waters of the Niyodo River while sampling their Shimanto (an area in western Kochi) black tea ice cream with pancakes or any of the other scrumptious items on their menu.
Kochi Ice is a company with strong roots and a passion for introducing all the flavors of this often-forgotten prefecture on Shikoku Island to the rest of Japan and to foreign visitors. After spending a sunny day hiking in Shimanto, kayaking on the Niyodo River, or being wowed by the dancers at the Yosakoi Festival, why not chill out with some yuzu ice cream?