The fire is supposed to be searing my skipjack tuna, but I feel as if it's my cheeks that are cooking instead.

Turning away from the intense heat, I extend my arm as far as it can go while still keeping my speared hunk of fish in the flames. The young employee manning the grill at Tosa Tataki Dojo — a restaurant complex on the fringe of Kochi city in southern Shikoku — stokes the fire with yet another armload of straw and gestures for me to flip my fish. I brace myself for the wave of heat and mentally count down the last few seconds of this scorching yet quintessential Kochi experience.

The Kuroshio current that runs just a few kilometers from my lunch locale brings the meaty skipjack tuna to Kochi's shores. This oceanic phenomenon has made katsuo, the Japanese name for the species, one of Kochi's biggest industries. Raw, seared, dried and shaved into the flakes known as bonito that are used in nearly every preparation of dashi (broth) around the country, there seems to be no wrong way to consume the famed fish. While I've already picked up my obligatory bag of bonito at Tosa's adjacent shop, I'm keen to try a fresher version for my main meal.