Cuttlefish Fishing
Cuttlefish Fishing
Webmaster's Column : Shimonoseki Present & Past No.6

Onboard Harukaze Maru No.3
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Hello again! How have you been? Today I will take you to the world of blue water and ... sepia ink !

At the beginning of March every year, fisherpersons of Shimonoseki start fishing of cuttlefishes as they (the latter) enter breeding period. This year, local fishermen's union kindly invited me to one of their boats, offering me an unusual opportunity to directly experience this seasonal tradition.

"Ikashiba" or Cuttlefish Trap
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The boat had a name that perfectly fitted the situation of that peaceful sunny day : "Harukaze Maru No.3", or "Spring Breeze 3" in English. She was owned, managed, operated and navigated by Mr. and Mrs. Yamaguchi, a happily married couple who went fishing alone always. It reminded me of a Japanese Enka song titled "Husband and Wife on a Boat".

The method of fishing - or trapping, more precisely - is unique. At special spots off Chofu, Shimonoseki, each fishing boat lays "cuttlefish baskets" on the bottom of the sea, using a 1,200m rope with 60 baskets attached. These trap nets have a special high-tech device called "ikashiba" (literally "squid brushwood" in English. Do not confuse with Toshiba) : a bundled branches of Japanese bush clover and pussy willow, which imitates seaweeds with cuttlefish eggs laden on them. When a poor breeding invertebrate catches ikashiba in sight, it is irresistibly attracted by the trap and gets caught in basket - if you believe Mr. and Mrs. Yamaguchi.

Catch of The Day - 300 Cuttlefishes !
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Under clear sky and on calm water, I could spend a comfortable and enjoyable time on the boat. With skillful maneuvering of the fishing rope and Harukaze Maru No.3, inhabited traps were pulled up one after another. One, two, three... one hundred ... two hundreds ... the catch reached no fewer than 300 cuttlefishes finally ! As every mollusc emitted a jet of ink when it was drawn out of the sea, I could even enjoy taking black ink showers quite a number of times. To my surprise, there was also an octopus in a basket. it entered the trap to charge previous visitor and could not get out - if you believe Mr. and Mrs. Yamaguchi again.

After 3 hours of superb experience on Spring Breeze, I left the boat with a plenty of fresh cuttlefishes that the fisherpeson couple had presented to me. I would like to thank 300 times Mr. and Mrs. Yamaguchi and the other members of Chofu Branch of Yamaguchi Fishermen's union. The union hosts morning market at Shimonoseki every Sunday from 6 o'clock in the morning. You will find a wide variety of fresh fishes, including cuttlefishes of course, for bargain prices. There is also a restaurant, where you can taste fresh seafood caught earlier on the same day. Why won't you try next time you come over to our place ?

Okay, it's time now. See you next time ! [2008/05/13]

Want to know more about Shimonoseki and its vicinity ? Read "Shimonoseki Present & Past" back numbers !

[Photo & Text by T. Miyoshi except B&W cuttlefish photo © 2006, David Iliff, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5.

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