The small town of Kure in Kōchi Prefecture is not to be mistaken for the city of Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture. This little fishing town seems to capture the essence of Kōchi – the built parts are very small in comparison to the scale of the scenery, the sea exerts a strong presence, and the people are very open and friendly.
The heart of Kure is the intimate shopping street behind the port. Here you’ll find Taishōmachi Market, a covered alleyway packed with stalls, shops and simple restaurants. In 1915, the market was destroyed in a fire and 230 houses were lost. The Emperor Taishō gave the residents 350 yen to rebuild the market. That’s 2.2 million yen in today’s money. In gratitude, the market was named after the emperor.
Great care has gone into making the market jolly and lively, from the gaily painted carved signboard at the entrance, to the flags and fishing paraphernalia hung as decoration from its gabled roof. The fish stalls are fascinating. Trays packed with ice are arranged with fish of many colours and types, all separately weighed and marked with a price. You can even buy bonito hearts – nothing is wasted. The fishwives go about their business with a vivacious twinkle in their eyes. In addition to the fresh fish, there are many varieties preserved by smoking or drying. The delicious nori seaweed produced in Kōchi’s rivers is available in jars. You can take fish that you buy in the stalls and have it prepared for you to eat in one of the restaurants in the arcade.
Not far from the market is an old-school, country sake shop selling a fantastic variety of sake and shochu, all carefully labelled with explanations. You’re sure to find something to your liking here.
The port of Kure lies at the mouth of a little river that flows into a bay. Here you can see fishing boats and other evidence of an active fishing industry. Since this type of bay is particularly vulnerable to tsunami from the Pacific, the town has a number of refuge towers where residents and visitors can flee after an earthquake. These towers provide welcome shelter to pilgrims walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage. In the spring, koinobori are much in evidence. These billowing painted carp streamers set on bamboo poles are displayed to honour male offspring. In a tradition apparently unique to Kōchi, the boys’ names are also emblazoned on flags and flown with the carp.
A large part of the centre of town is taken up by the wooded grounds of Kure Hachiman-gū, a rustic Shinto shrine. The stone monuments dotted around the precinct are covered in moss and plants reminiscent of scenes from a Miyazaki animation. The most remarkable feature of the shrine is a large rock with a hole in it. It’s said that crawling through the hole mitigates the misfortune that comes at certain fixed ages of life. If you want to avoid the misfortune of having your mobile phone, camera, and other valuables broken, it’s wise to remove them from your pockets before worming your way through the hole.
Name in Japanese: 久礼
Address: Taishomachi Kure, Nakatosa, Takaoka District, Kochi Prefecture 789-1301