Translated from the Original Japanese Text & Illustration: Written by Misa Ono
Photo by Nobutoshi Kurisu
When large salmons shining like silver are landed, many sea gulls fly above the sea around a fish market. Also, people working at the fish market quickly get to work in order not to lose the freshness of the salmons.
Fresh fish and shellfishes are sold by “seri” one after another at seven in the morning at Shizugawa fishing port located in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture. Seri is a kind of fish auction. In other places, people show the sign of the amount of money with their fingers to bid. However, in here, people tell their bid prices in a loud voice and then, a broker who gave the highest price can make a successful bid to sell to restaurants and fish stores in Miyagi. I visited to see the auctions twice a day in the morning and daytime every day. I was rubbing my sleepy eyes, however, the brokers’ dashing voice woke me up at a stretch.
Fish that was unloaded the most today was octopuses. Here, North Pacific giant octopuses are often landed in summer while silver salmons and octopus in winter. I usually don’t eat an octopus head so much in Tokyo, however, it can be fully enjoyed in here.
Though it suffered serious damage from the earthquake in March 2011, this fishing port reopened the market only four months later. That said, there were still no roof of the market and only about ten fishing boats at that time. Now the market is still temporary construction, however, the number of boats increased to 100 and a new fish market is under construction. I’d like to say things are going well but actually the number of fishermen is on the decrease. I heard that people who had lost their boats, tools, and motivation have already moved to places far from the sea and quit fishing.
I heard that a fish catch doesn’t change in quantity compared to before the earthquake. Actually, the number of salmons has decreased because facilities, where young salmons had been raised since they were hatched and released, have collapsed. Instead, now congers and Pacific cods, which were seldom caught in the past, are on the increase. Since especially a Pacific cod has high fertility, it can be caught not only in winter but in summer. Miyagi has surely favorable fishing ports.
The sea which Miyagi Prefecture faces has a junction line between two ocean currents, namely a cold current from north and a warm current from south. There are many fish in the warm current while much plankton inhabiting the cold current feed fish. Therefore, lots of fish flock in the junction line between two ocean currents. That’s a grateful thing, however, how could such a lot of fish be preserved when people didn’t have a refrigerator hundreds of years ago? The answer is in kamaboko, or boiled fish paste.
Many years ago, fish meat was separated from its bone and stirred to a paste in a mortar. The paste was put on the point of a thin bamboo, and then it was broiled. It was called “kamaboko”. It is said that it was named due to the burned appearance resembled “gamanoho”, or a cat’s-tail plant. It is thought that the origin of boiled fish paste is around A.D. 260. Abundant fish should be preserved by heating when there was no refrigerator. Now steamed fish paste is called “kamaboko”, broiled one with a stick called “chikuwa”, and deep-fried one called “satsuma-age”.
In the past, kamaboko of Miyagi was called “bero-kamaboko”. Because its shape resembles a tongue, or “bero” in Japanese, which you can image the logo of that famous rock band. Also, it is now called “sasa-kamaboko” since the shape resembles a bamboo leaf, “sasa” in Japanese.
Located in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, “Sasakei”, boiled fish paste shop was damaged by the earthquake disaster. Though three factories were destroyed by tsunami, a small factory was reopened at the corner of the remaining shop to continue to make sasa-kamaboko. Then, the main factory was rebuilt in 2012. They sell both machine-made and handmade kamaboko by their artisans and also focus on developing other new products. Although the quantity of production and the sales are still low compared to before the earthquake, they keep making delicious sasa-kamaboko now.
Fish paste is shaped into a mold
After broiled carefully, kamaboko is packaged and packed in boxes for shipping
Sasa-kamaboko with beef tongue and satsuma-age
Although it probably will take a long time to fully recover from the disaster, I hope they continue introducing their attractive gastronomic culture.
Fishery Cooperative Association, Shizugawa Blanch
Minamisanriku-Town Regional Wholesale Market
8 Asahigaura, Shizugawa, Minamisanriku, Motoyoshi, Miyagi, 986-0733
* Prior booking essential for visiting.
Sasakei Co.,Ltd. Head office and factory
48-1 Iryu, Uematsu, Natori City, Miyagi, 981-1226
TEL: +81-022-784-1239 FAX: +81-022-784-1250