Sightseeing in the remote prefecture of Kochi is unforgettable. But to understand and appreciate the culture of this naturally diverse area, you’ve got to be ready to roll up those sleeves and get to work with some of the area’s most passionate producers.
Looking out onto the rugged, rocky coastline of Kuroshio, on the southeastern corner of Kochi Prefecture just 15-minutes’ drive north of central Shimanto, is Saltybe, a salt-making workshop with incredible views, wonderful culinary experiences, and hosts that embody that warm Kochi hospitality.
A family-run affair, Saltybe specializes in what they call Tosa no Shiomaru, also known as “sunshine salt.” This is a pure form of sea salt naturally sourced directly from the sea and harvested using only sunlight, patience and good, old-fashioned manual labor.
Saltybe’s methods may be traditional, but with a penchant for collaboration and willingness to open themselves up to the public, their ideologies are not. It’s run by Takumaru Yoshida and is one of the very few salt producing workshops open to the public. It is here you can watch it all in action with the beautiful backdrop of the crashing ocean waves.
The salt-making process
The salt water is pumped through a network of tubes that reach out into the sea just meters from the humble production plant. From there, it runs through a drip-processing system, which separates the seawater from the salt, before making its way to the drying room.
Resembling a greenhouse, this drying room is where the crystallization — the real magic — happens. Housing tray upon tray of salt in various stages of crystallization, the drying room aka the mystically named “Crystal House” is a curious ecosystem.
Built to advance the water evaporation process in winter, a little time in this transparent tent is a welcome relief from the crisp sea air, but in summer, it reaches sauna-level temperatures unbearable for us mortal beings, but the guys that work in here are on a whole different level.
During the crystallization is when the destiny of the salt is decided. As Yoshida explains, “The more you mix and stir the drying salt flakes the smaller they become.” Smaller powdery flakes are typically sold for home consumption, while some commercial chefs prefer their salt in more rustic rockier chunks.
Try a workshop
Saltybe runs regular 90-minute salt-making workshops for guests of all ages and backgrounds. During the experience, guests are given a tour of the facility, an informative but engaging lecture on the process of how to turn seawater into salt, before getting hands-on with stirring the crystallized salt and packaging their own little take-home jar of the finest Tosa no Shiomaru grain.
If you want to go even further, there are additional bitter tofu-making classes where guests can try their hand at the unique experience which utilizes the excess seawater that’s separated from its salt content.
In more recent times, the company has teamed up with other culinary families to craft uniquely delicious hybrid treats, like their eye-catching baby blue salt ice cream. A balanced combination of soft, milky-sweet ice cream with just a hint of salt, it’s a delightfully refreshing way to treat yourself after a rewarding two hours of salt harvesting.