I was recently invited by Soeng to join in some some fishing with Mr. Ohira and some of the people that we did the chrysanthemum farming with last summer. This sounded great to me, since I had never done anything of the sort, and what better way to embrace the weekend. On a cold, clear Sunday morning, we drove across the prefecture to meet him at his house in Manno. After he outfitted us with some rubber boots and Japan’s standard issue work gloves, the three of us drove off to meet the others. It was as this point where I asked where we would be fishing, to which he corrected my word choice; it seemed we would not be using poles. Apparently, we were going to be doing something a bit more like fish harvesting and then sorting based on type.
We drove to a rural area, nowhere even close to the ocean, to where the rest of the crew was already hard at work. The group of men had a net fixed up over an outlet from which a reservoir was draining. The net captured all the fish, and incidentally leaves and muck, which they would dump periodically onto the ground or into buckets for us to sort. While they had been out here since morning, the reservoir was just now drying up, and the ‘fun’ was kicking into high gear.
Here you can get the gist of the operation
There were already a couple of massive flopping koi tossed into crates. Being quite a large fish they are the easiest to pick out, but also have the power to Magikarp splash themselves right out and back onto the ground. The others that we sorted for were some medium sized fish and small, narrow type called wakasagi that often make an appearance in our school lunches. There were tons of fish, but they required us to put on some gloves and root through the buckets to separate them into their own container. This wasn’t very difficult, but the thin gloves were soon soaked with slime, and against the stiff gusts of wind and wisps of snow we struggled to keep at it without losing our fingers to the cold. We were only out here for a half hour or so, but that was certainly enough.
Wakasaki, Shrimp, Tadpoles, OH MY!
In addition to all the fish that were pouring into the net, there were also a seemingly endless supply of tadpoles and shrimp. We had to sort as many of the shrimp into buckets as possible, since they make a tasty snack, but the tadpoles were a different story. They were just delicate lumps of guts that needed to be returned to the water, since we had no use for them. The water would eventually flow into the ocean where the freshwater creatures would undoubtedly perish, but we took solace in knowing that all frogs go to heaven.
In addition to the scads of aforementioned fish and frogspawn, we would occasionally get a turtle or frog that got sucked through the shoot and into our clutches as well. We dubbed one such turtle Mr. Samuel and brought him home as a pet. After carrying on unhappily in my bathtub for about a 2 days, and remaining unwilling to touch the greens that I had so graciously bestowed upon him, he took a toll on my willingness to host him any longer. He has been returned to whence he came. One of the other creatures to come through and wow me was without a doubt the largest frog I have ever seen. Let’s name him Wallace.
After we had finished draining the pond and sifting though all the fish we could actually use, we carried the tubs of livestock over to a small truck. After a short drive down the road, we stopped at a sort of event lodge were we set the table and got things ready for our feast. We set up a couple of pots filed with oil and readied some bentos that offered sushi, sashimi, and tataki. After pouring some beers from the tap, we all sat down to enjoy a fine Sunday lunch consisting largely of our freshly caught fish.
Soeng got one too. Good Job.
These men were all a really kind bunch, and represent the farming lifestyle at its best. The first time that I met them at that chrysanthemum farming event, I was wearing a Messi jersey. They have since irrevocably affixed that name to my face, and can never recall my actual name. I don’t mind being called Messi though, since I’ve certainly had less desirable nicknames than that. After a few little while, I actually started responding to the name, instead of just assuming that they were talking about cooked rice.
After being washed, the fish were ready to eat. They were dropped whole into the hot oil, and after simmering for a moment were plucked out and eaten just like that. Dipping them in salt added a nice touch. I’ve gotten used to eating entire fish – head, fins, guts, and all – so this was no problem. I could see why these fish are so sought after though, since they are indeed delicious and the bones pose no threat to the throat. I ate no less than 15 of them, along with some salad and about a million of the little shrimp. The bite-sized crustaceans were often tossed into the pot while still alive and well, but we appreciated their sacrifice.
Men in the Kitchen
Conversation and food carried on for a while and we were filled up at last. However the threat of snow and slick roads had Soeng worried about her safety on the return trip. We decided to take off a little after 3, but were gratefully for the hospitality and the interesting experience. We agreed that while neither of us had gotten the fishing trip that we were hoping for, we did indeed do something quite unique. Not sure if I’ll ever have the chance to do this again, but I’m not so sure I would even take it…