July 19, 2010

Ok, the cooler-box was almost empty of fish. The catch was much smaller than expected (like every time). Here's a brief recap of what happened.

The morning started with 4:15 wakeup after which I was to meet the boat owner at 5:00 in front of he's store. Still door shut at the above photo, the store is the oldest fishing supply shop in Oita.

The shop has been passed on along three generations. The present owner Mr. Kouriki (the rare name means God's power), had taken over the business from his father who had suddenly died.

His grandfather had established the store in Miyakomachi, currently a well-known for its bars, restaurants and active nightlife. But at the time when they opened doors in early Showa period, the area was totally different: there was no sign of the red light district atmosphere neither were there salary men wandering wasted in the early morning hours.

Kouriki has run the store for 17 years but on the side he does fishing trips with his boat. His parents had bought the boat in the turn in mid-80s when massive fishing boom had hit Oita.

The boom was created when two local fishes: Aji (horse mackerel; piikkimakrilli) and saba (mackerel; makrilli) were specially branded and sold with a price of about 10,000 yen (88 eur) a piece, which is 6-10 times higher than same fish caught elsewhere.

Anyways, before the nineties the fish were abundant, and though the boat had cost a sum equal to two detached houses the fishing business was so good that the investment had soon paid itself off.

Where 648 tons of saba only was caught in 1984 from the area that surrounds Saganoseki peninsula, in 2006 the figure was 99 tons. Today are now times when no fish is caught in single day. Two major reasons have accounted to the drop: intense fishing and overall higher water temperature. I would bet on the first one and add up the industrial zone that processes iron and steel, oil, and chemicals.

So the above was an attempt to explain our modest catch, because at least the equipment was top-class. Actually the technology was too good. Sonar scanner probing for fishes 40 meters below the surface. Then the electronic reels, that indicate how deep is the bait at any given time. On the photo the lure is diving at 27.2 meters, where we had earlier seen some movement from the fishfinder.

But even with the help of modern technology plenty of luck is needed. Three hours of without a catch except, except hundreds of  these kind of jellyfishes. No wonder people call it jellyfish because as soon as you lift one up to the air its starts to melt down like jelly (see the slime dripping down the jellyfish).

Quite different from what I've used in Finland: the bait; several frozen blocks of tiny shrimp that during the course of our trip first melt and then started to brew nicely under the burning sun. Natto, the fermented beans are nothing in comparison to the infernal stink of warm fish bait.

After spending a day at the sea it was time to return. Fortunately we didn't have to return completely empty-handed. Personal catch of the day: 1 saba, 4 tais (red seabream; pilkkupagelli).

All that was left after being exhausted, covered in the stink of fish, and badly burnt by sun was cutting and cooking.

Saba, ready to be diced in to pieces of sashimi. Result below.

And the salted tais before grilling. OK. That's about it of the day. Except for one more photo.

That's only a part of the burnt skin... I tell you, it hurts a bit.

July 17, 2010

Fishy Sunday

A person whom I was glad to get friends with runs a fishing store downtown Oita City. For some time we've been planning a grand fishing trip with his boat.

Finally, Tomorrow (Su) at 5:00 am it is time to head off to the sea (map location here) in hope of catching some big fish. Saying that, we will probably end up coming back empty-handed; excitement replaced with disappointment.

However, if it so happens that we get something to be proud of I'll promise come up with some photos (Marius, forgive me in advance. I know you never were a friend of seafood).

Fingers triple-crossed for tomorrow!

July 15, 2010

Yikes! Whose shoes are these?!

Have you heard what it may mean if you find a pair of unattended shoes in Japan? Before I reveal it, allow me a short detour off the story.

Lately it has been raining like crazy, and when it rains I walk to work. Though I'm quite skillful at dodging ponds and such, it's difficult to avoid damp shoes. Later at office it is irresistibly cozy to the take the shoes off and wriggle toes freely under the desk in the midst of work. I bet many of you have done it and even more have wished to.

As it happens, the office floor is coated with a wall-to-wall carpet so that it is easy to walk around, get a refill of coffee, take a copy or go to the room next door, and at the same time leave behind the soggy shoes.

But behold! leaving shoes unattended in Japan can trigger a drama. I heard that one afternoon a cleaning lady had been vacuuming this office floor and suddenly freaked out screaming in a loud voice "Eeeek! Someone’s shoes are lying on the floor!!" but why?

Maybe you've guessed. A lone shoe-pair suggests that the owner of the shoes has committed a suicide! Nobody had jumped off the building that time but only visited another room. However, hearing that made me wonder why to take off your shoes before attempting a suicide?

In Finland, I suppose a typical thing to leave behind would be an empty bottle of vodka or a burnt-down sauna if anything – but no, not shoes. Then why Japanese have taken such a practice? Maybe you know but I didn't so I went through some discussion boards to see if there is a sensible explanation and found out the following:

1. Mythology: Japanese deem that ghosts (the spirits of the dead) don’t have legs. After dying a person can leave shoes off because he’ll become a legless spook. But do the ghosts wear any clothes in the first place? And why are they legless?

2. Religion and housekeeping: upon entering a house it is customary to leave shoes to the porch as means to avoid carrying dirt inside a Japanese house (tatami, the straw mat floors must have been difficult to clean before the revolution of vacuum cleaners), in other words coming from filthy space (outside) and entering a pure space (a house). Similarly that could symbolize the context of intended death: coming from filthy space (concrete world) and entering a pure space (heaven or a paradise). Hence, one reason to remove shoes might be a mean to avoid taking filth to the afterlife. If so, with all do respect, how about removing socks as well, for they tend to be just as stinky.

3. History: Continuing with tatami theme, since the tatami rooms were used for ceremonial purposes, they were the rooms were the samurai would commit hara-kiri whenever they screwed up something big-time. Think about it: you go into the clean room to kill yourself–spilling your guts all over the tatami floor–that's okay. But don't you be wearing your dirty shoes when at it.

4. Practicality: If some one finds the shoes it will be easier to track the body, especially if bloodhounds are available or if the shoes are pointing to the direction of corpse "Looking for me? Follow the direction of the shoes, please."

5. Media influence: Japanese TV-dramas commonly indicate a suicide by showing a scene where a pairs of shoes lie neatly on the ground.

6. Thoughtlessness: At the point where one has decided to take his life, thoughts are uncontrolled and less directed by justification. So one wouldn't think "Ok, at this point I'll remove my shoes" or the like, but it do it by intuition.

7. There is no reason: In any event, an act of suicide lacks of all logic so why to look for a sensible reason out of such trivial ritual!

Be as it may, suicides are not a matter of joking. In 2009 over 85 shoes pairs were left without owner everyday in Japan (relying on WHO stats), making also the traumatic reaction of the cleaning lady more understandable.

Conversely what could happen if one forgets the shoe ritual when making the final move? Then, meanwhile falling down from the 36th floor, a sudden recall: “Oh! Damn it! I’ve still got my shoes on! Uh, maybe I can still untie... SPLAT!”

Ok I’m off to look for a brighter sense of humor. Bye!

地獄めぐり パート3










July 14, 2010

地獄めぐり パート2










ここは、こんな感じの灰色の熱泥が沸騰する様子が見所なのですが、それしかないという印象でした。 他には足湯もありましたけどね。






July 13, 2010

地獄めぐり パート1

















July 5, 2010

Camping meanwhile the sky fell down

I went camping with the company employees. It rained and thundered like the end of the world was at hand but that didn't matter. Some 13 of us spent a night, stuffed in a lodge, eating, playing, talking and wishing there was a TV (to view soccer).

Near the campsite cascaded a slid-kind of waterfall. At first look it looked much fun and everyone wanted to ride down the smoothened rocks.

Closer look changed our mind. The people were bouncing down like loose stones - getting smashed to the stones and more or less hurt. Later it resolved that each year the slide demands casualties.

For awhile nobody wanted to follow their painful example but soon we grew stupider it and went to try it out. Result, red and blue skin and wet clothes and a heap of laughing.

The only way to the water fall was this mossy oldish tunnel. Looking at people walk through it seemed somehow supernatural and spooky, and reminded me of a popular TV-serie from the 90s, The X-Files.

The evening went on, and some of us including me stayed up talking until five in the morning. Nice time, nice people. The people who I work with are awesome but why working in Japan has to be so dull. There's no good without something bad, I guess.

Meanwhile, we were having all the fun and Germany was hurdling Argentina in South Africa the heavy rain caused landslides, floods and other nasty disasters in various locations of Japan.

In Kyushu part of road fell down the mountain face. When cars came around the curve they had no time to see the collapsed part and break but just drive straight off the cliff. In Tokyo streets turned to lakes.
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