Do you like having people round for a dinner party?
One of my favorite comics is “A Bride’s Story” by Mori Kaoru. The background is West Turkestan in the 19th century. In the story, people sit down round on beautiful carpets and eat food on big platters. In the present, people around the world who have traditions of eating from a big plate have to change their way of eating.
I live in a small prefecture called Kochi, in western Japan. Its old name is Tosa and it is known that most people love drinking and eating together. Today, I’ll show you my favorite tradition in my area.
Here in Kochi, inviting guests to a banquet is called “Okyaku”. It will be held for weddings, funerals, family or class reunions, such as happy and sad events. We say “ let’s do Okyaku!” Okyaku literally means guests. It was held at home before, but some people use restaurants or hotels for big Okyaku.
We prepare big platters of food at Okyaku. They are named “Sawachi”. The plates we use are around 40 cm in diameter. They are big and heavy, and very colorful. There are sashimi and raw seasonal dishes such as ‘bonito tataki’, sushi dishes, simmered dishes, salad, fried dishes, sweet dishes, and fruits for children on big plates. You can have anything you want. Children often eat sweets and fruit a lot!
So, it is said that women in Kochi can stay longer in the party room than in other areas in Japan. Some women in Kochi are very good at drinking! Such ladies are called Hachikin in old Kochi dialect. It means energetic women who can work and have a way with words the same as men. Even though Hachikin ladies used to serve food and alcohol or wash dishes until now and it was a gender problem, but it will be changed in the near future.
During the past 2 years, I haven’t had Sawachi at all. Of course, it is because of Covid-19. Eating and drinking with many people are not allowed for a while.
In Japan, the numbers of infections of Covid-19 are decreasing now. I hope we can do “Okyaku”, which means that we have a party and eat and drink with Sawachi dishes soon. Seeing the world, it would take more time to settle down. But I know we will eat and drink together after this disaster ends.
See you soon, my friends and Sawachi!
A traditional Sawachi dish:
Copyright by Kochi Shimbun newspaper