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Aji Gekijo Chika

Kōchi Prefecture is known for its quality sake and its fine food. It’s a great place to visit an izakaya.

Aji Gekijo Chika

Kōchi Prefecture has the highest alcohol consumption of Japan and is known for its quality sake and its fine food. It’s a great place to visit an izakaya.

Izakaya are Japan’s traditional casual eating and drinking establishments, something like a pub-restaurant. They’re a place where you can eat a tasty Japanese dinner with a few rounds of beer or sake. The menu typically features some regular dishes and some daily specials making good use of special seasonal produce. You can order items from the menu as you go until you’re full. It’s a relaxed and enjoyable style of eating that visitors to Japan find irresistible.

Aji_Gekijo_Chika_1

Photo: Irwin Wong

Kōchi has some of the very best food in Japan, thanks to its mild climate and its long Pacific Ocean coastline. The warm Kuroshio Current brings a bounty of fish to Kōchi’s coast, most notably katsuo, or bonito. Visiting an izakaya is the best way to enjoy Kōchi’s produce served fresh and prepared with consummate skill. The town of Nakamura to the south-west of Kōchi city has many izakaya, of which our favourite is Aji Gekijo Chika.

Photo: Irwin Wong

The blank, windowless walls of the building’s exterior give no hint of the dramatic scene inside. Pass through the door and you enter a theatre of flavour, just as its name promises (aji = flavour, gekijo = theatre). Several storeys of curved balconies surround and overlook a kitchen area where the cooks work like devils to meet the stream of orders from the customers seated around and above them. Sassy waitresses patrol the seating keeping everyone’s tables full and recommending this or that as a follow-up. Guests seated at ground level are handed their orders directly by the kitchen staff. To supply food to customers on the balconies, a tray on a pulley is deftly hauled up and down by the owner. It’s quite a sight.

Photo: Irwin Wong

If you don’t know what to order, there’s food on the counter that you can point at, and the waitresses speak some English. They’ll be happy to recommend something and they’re very knowledgeable about everything on the menu, including the sake. A visit to Chika, as it’s known familiarly in Kōchi, is sure to be memorable.

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