This month we continue our feature on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) programs in Kochi with the Katsuo no Tataki or Bonito Searing experience, which is a must see and do when you visit Kochi. Katsuo (bonito) is one of the most famous fish in Kochi and has been savoured by the indigenous people for a long time, so it’s not surprising that Kochi has the largest annual consumption of bonito in Japan. Additionally, bonito is an important fish in Japanese cuisine as dried bonito is used to make dashi or fish stock, which is the base of many dishes in Japanese cuisine. Shaved dried bonito is also used as a condiment in dishes such as Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki.

Kochi fishermen catch bonito in a unique way known as “ippon zuri,” which is a handline fishing technique with a single baited hook. Normally, fishermen use nets to fish as they’re able to catch a higher volume, but net fishing can cause friction between the fish and the net which results in damage to the fish. The use of nets can also result in over-fishing, whereas the Ippon Zuri technique catches only what is needed, which is why it has been designated as a sustainable fishing method and earned Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries Certification in 2021.

Bonito has quite a strong flavour that takes a little getting used to for some people, even Kochi locals, but the fisherman like to refer to the proverb, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” and say that you can’t know how good the condensed flavor of bonito is unless you try it!!

The Bonito Searing program is an opportunity for visitors and locals alike to learn about the wonderful flavour of bonito. Friendly local fisherman will help you through the whole process of making Katsuo no Tataki, which starts by learning about the history of bonito and how the people of Kochi established their own gastronomy.

In this program, participants cut and sear the bonito themselves, which is a unique experience as most people get their sushi or sashimi from either a supermarket or Japanese restaurant but in Kochi it’s a real hands-on experience! After filleting the bonito, it’s time to sear it. When searing bonito, it’s done over a fine straw fire that reaches almost 1,000 degrees. The blazing heat quickly sears the outside of bonito encasing the flavour within. Another advantage to searing the fish is that it makes it more palatable for people not used to eating raw fish. Local fishermen are eager for children to join this program and experience the whole process to ensure Kochi’s gastronomy traditions are passed down to the younger generations.

If you’d like to try your hand at searing bonito, talk with our consultants at Japan Holidays.