Kochi’s cottage food and travel industry gets a bump from international residents

kochis cottage food and travel industry gets a bump from international residents

Although they may be the thinnest of silver linings, the new ubiquitousness of working from home and worries about living in areas with high population density are prompting people to leave Tokyo in droves for more spacious and nature-centric locales.

While relocating to the suburbs or popular locations such as Nagano — the top destination for domestic moves nationwide for three years running — is certainly a change, it takes even greater courage and vision to decamp to somewhere like rural Kochi Prefecture.

Yet, an increasing number of international residents have decided to call this Shikoku prefecture home, taking advantage of the rich soil, pure water and pleasant climate to focus on producing top-quality food and drinks.

Blue Brew: Kenneth and Masako Mukai started Mukai Craft Brewing after several years of exploring possibilities. | CHIARA TERZUOLO

When speaking in terms of sheer leaps of faith, Kenneth and Masako Mukai may well take the prize. The former teachers moved from California in 2019 to the tiny village of Niyodogawa (population 5,132) to realize their dream of starting a beer brewery. They first founded their company Mukai Craft Brewing, and then opened Blue Brew Taproom on Nov. 1.

“It all started during one of our frequent visits to Japan, in summer 2016. We were having drinks with some Kochi friends, and were discussing all the empty buildings we noticed around the countryside. I mentioned that if I had a space like that I would start a brewery, and one of my friends was enthusiastic about the idea,” Kenneth explains. “Once back in Los Angeles, I forgot about it, until I got a call from that same friend, telling me he had found a building I could use in Niyodogawa!

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