The fish market

Not long after moving here, I stumbled upon a gem tucked in some back alleys and warehouses near Nagoya Station. I’ve been around Seattle long enough to know what it means when you see men running around in rubber boots and carrying Styrofoam boxes full of ice: it must be a fish market. After a few days of walking past and trying to catch a glimpse inside, I finally worked up the courage to venture into the fray. Hanging around Pike Place Market in Seattle doesn’t prepare you for the utter chaos that is a high-volume wholesale fish market in Japan. Restaurant buyers are placing huge orders, men are carving tuna with 3-foot-long “knives”, and orders are being rushed to and from trucks on speeding carts.

Visits to this morning market have become a real treat for me over the past six months. I always make a point of taking visitors there, since it is such an “authentic” experience. I’ve grown from being too nervous to check it out to becoming a regular customer… I even have “my guy” that always gives me a discount on a small package of tuna from that day’s fish. I love it.

Today I visited the market with my camera in hand, hoping to capture some of the experience in order to share it with you. Warning: there are a lot of dead animals in the following blog post. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
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Fire, birds, and boats (or, how to go fishing)

When I was little, my favorite book in the whole world was “The Story About Ping.” It was the best kind of children’s story: a tale full of mystery, suspense, loss, redemption, and of course a happy ending. Ping is a young duckling who gets separated from his flock on the Yangtze River and encounters all kinds of strangers on his big adventure. In one scene, he meets strange black diving birds that are catching small fish for the handler on the boat. This was such an unusual idea that I became intrigued by these exotic fishing birds.

Fast-forward twenty-some years and here I am in central Japan where, much to my delight, cormorant fishing has been practiced on local rivers for over 1300 years. Seeing this spectacle (and fulfilling a childhood fantasy) immediately made my to-do list.
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Kamikochi and the rainy season

This is the continuation of the tale of our weekend adventure in the Japan Alps. In case you missed it, you can find part one linked here. We began our trip into Kamikochi with the requisite bus ride from the overnight parking lot. The light rain from overnight had turned into a steady drizzle, but we were not to be dissuaded. After all, we’re from Seattle – what could the rainy season possibly have on us?
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Road Warriors

We finally felt courageous enough to rent a car and venture onto the roads. Okay, I guess it was just me that was reluctant, as Joe wasn’t the least bit concerned about the whole “wrong side of the road” thing. Truthfully, I wasn’t at all nervous about heading out into the country, either… it was the pedestrian dodging and right-turn arrows and one way streets of downtown Nagoya that had me in a cold sweat. Nevertheless, this weekend was our introduction to Japan from behind the wheel and I must say that it completely changed my perception of this country – yet again. I finally got to see the back roads and lesser traveled stretches that, in reality, occupy far more land area than the cities and congestion do. It was beautiful.
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Fast food and guilty pleasures

The food in Japan is very, very good. No two ways about it. When you have a culture that prides itself on attention to detail and has an appreciation for only the freshest ingredients, the only possible result is delicious food. On the other hand, the food in Japan can be very, very expensive. There are times when I don’t feel like cooking but also don’t feel like breaking the bank at a restaurant… so we take those opportunities to hit the local fast food joints. I’m only a little ashamed to admit that I’ve become somewhat of a connoisseur of Japanese fast food. Continue reading

Giant salamanders and 48 waterfalls

For some reason, the vast majority of the rivers that we’ve encountered in Japan are lined in concrete. I understand that the city waterways need to be confined to canals, but why do the beautiful rivers up in the mountains need to be cemented into place as well? For someone who prefers the wilderness over the city, all that concrete can be exhausting – so we set out in search of something a little more natural. Continue reading