Hamada – Shimane’s Port City

My first visit to Hamada City proved a fruitful one. After a brief taiko performance at a local hotel, I carried my bags to a friend’s nearby downtown apartment. She provided me with a map of the city and the keys to her bike. I was off for the rest of the afternoon.

I took Highway 9 towards Hamada’s large fishing port, then rode over the “bridge to nowhere” (as my friend referred to it) to a small island opposite the main docks. From there I climbed down to the shore to scavenge the washed-up fishing clutter for something interesting. I was unsuccessful, but made an adventure out of traversing the rugged coastline.

Before travelling to Hamada I had been given a book entitled Along the San’in written by a previous Hamada ALT. The book proved useful in suggesting several sites of interest in and around Hamada. Of primary interest to me was the mention of the 4:30AM fish market which takes place everyday. I was determined to experience it.

I stayed up all that night, waiting for the time to arrive when I could justify riding back down to the docks. I occupied myself with drawing a “life map” – outlining all of the potentials, directions, ideas and hopes for the future…

When 4AM finally rolled around I was eager to be out from under the kotatsu. I took off in the direction of the docks, alone on the streets save for a stray cat every now and then.

When I arrived at the docks I was the only non-fisherman present. Two boats were rapidly unloading their catch via wooden boxes passed along conveyer belts. Every fisherman was equippied with a single tool – a bamboo pole with a hook on the end – used to grab the boxes and drag them from one end of the platform to another, presumably in preparation for the sale.

I waited around for almost two hours, taking few photos and attempting to look “natural” in an environment I knew absolutely nothing about. I attempted a few conversations but was given short answers to my inquiries, most likely because everyone was busy and a foriegner with a big camera at the docks at 4AM was downright strange.

I’m not sure what I expected, whether it be an auction or a large group of “fish shoppers” with checkbooks and shopping carts, but it never happened. Towards 5AM there appeared several flatbed trucks, driven by men wearing hats with paper numbers attached. I’ll assume these were the “buyers”, though I never observed any real transaction.

I departed due to chilly limbs and sleepy eyes.

The next day I went to Hamada’s well-known sushi restaurant, Sushi-zou. I wanted the full experience of seeing the fish from their initial unloading at the docks to their eventual preparation and consumption at a local sushi restaurant. I wasn’t dissapointed. The fish was phenomenal, though a bit expensive. I left full and happy after 12 plates of sushi for the slightly painful price of 2250 yen (about $30).

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