Exploring Itoshima’s Fishing Villages – Uotabi Tour #2

November in Itoshima is when winter seafood starts to come into season and people can enjoy the delicious delicacies the region has to offer. Oyster huts, which have become a winter tradition in Fukuoka, start their winter-only operation around November at various fishing ports, and many people from far and away, as well as locals, come to enjoy the oysters of Itoshima at the huts.
▷ Itoshima Kakigoya – Oyster Hut Guide 2021-2022

Also, for eight years in a row (!!!) Itoshima boasts the largest catch of wild sea bream in Japan, and fresh, fatty sea breams are available directly at local prices.

Itoshima’s wild sea bream, 糸島の天然真鯛は切り身でも販売

Itoshima’s wild sea bream, 糸島の大きくて新鮮な天然真鯛

This is also when Spanish mackerel, a popular fish both at home and in restaurants, is in season. Every year, Fukuoka Prefecture boasts one of the biggest Spanish mackerel catches in Japan, and Itoshima accounts for a large portion of this. This is the time of year when you can pick up large Spanish mackerel laden with fat.

Spanish mackerel high-grade brand called “honsawara” 糸島の姫島で揚がるサワラは条件が揃うと「本鰆」という高級ブランド魚になる

Amid this busy season for fishermen when the fishing ports are bustling with people, the second Jizakana Bank Uotabi Tour was held (see here for our first report).

The tour was organized by Takashi Mabuchi (President of Itoshi no Itoshima Co.), who is energetically working to increase the value of local fish and promote locavorianism in Itoshima. Jizakana Bank, which Mabuchi heads, is a collaboration of local businesses, including fishery workers and culinary researchers, that carries out a wide range of activities, including the Uotabi Tour.

The starting point for the second tour was Kishi Fishing Port, where you can experience Itoshima during its prime fishing season.

Kishi fish port in Itoshima, 糸島の岐志漁港

Kishi, which faces Hikitsu Bay on the Genkai Sea, one of the world’s richest fishing grounds, is a port with gentle waves that has existed for so long that it was even written about in the Man’yōshū (Japan’s oldest anthology of poetry). Nearby there is a large stone that is said to be the stone monument dedicated to Empress Jingu (170~269, according to the Chronicles of Japan; wife of Emperor Chuai, the 14th legendary emperor). The stone is also called Ryuguishi or Jinguishi, and the custom of offering food to the gods and praying for a good catch of fish still remains.

Next to the monument is Hanakake Shrine, where Empress Jingu is said to have hung flowers to enshrine the deity Sumiyoshi. (The shrine used to be located in the Shima-Nishikaizuka district of Itoshima.)

Hanakake shrine in Itoshima, 糸島の花掛神社

Not far from the fishing port sits a fishing village consisting of a cluster of fishermen’s homes equipped with workplaces. These combined workplace-residences reflect the lifestyle of the local people, and may look different to the outsider.

The former Doira residence, an old traditional house that remains in Kishi

The former Doira residence in Kishi, Itoshima, 糸島の岐志に残る古民家、旧土井良邸

Of the eight fishing ports in Itoshima, oyster huts open in the four ports of Kishi, Funakoshi, Kafuri, and Fukuyoshi, but Kishi has the largest number of huts.

Oyster huts in Kishi, Itoshima, 糸島・岐志漁港に立ち並ぶカキ小屋

Oyster cleaning behind each oyster huts, カキ小屋の裏では牡蠣を水揚げして磨きます

Grilled oysters are the main item on the menu, but oil oysters and other processed goods are popular souvenirs. (Time to eat!)

Kishi Fishing Port provides access by regular ferry to Itoshima’s only inhabited island, Himeshima. The city-run Himeshima Ferry makes four trips a day to the island, which takes 16 minutes one-way. With a circumference of 3.8 km and only 150 residents, the island is small, but it has a flourishing fishing industry and the islanders all know each other. On this tour, we took boxed lunches to Himeshima and had a picnic.

Departing for Himeshima, 糸島市営渡船「ひめしま」で姫島に行ってきます!

16 minute ferry ride to Himeshima, 岐志漁港から姫島までは市営渡船16分

Spanish mackerel caught in Himeshima, 水揚げされる姫島の鰆(サワラ)

Weighing over 2.5 kg each, the fatty Spanish mackerel caught from November to March are humanely killed on the spot and packed in ice for six hours to ensure freshness. Fished treated with this procedure, which has undergone continuous improvement and is now fully manualized, is sold as the high-grade brand tokusen honsawara.

Weighing over 2.5 kg each, the fatty Spanish mackerel 高鮮度処理方法で処理された2.5kg以上のサワラはブランドがつくので計量も真剣です

It’s finally lunch time!
One of the real pleasures of the Uotabi Tour is the food. Jizakana Bank prepared a special boxed lunch made using local fish caught in Himeshima for this tour.
・ Bento Lunch: Spanish mackerel rice, fried mahi-mahi, Spanish mackerel grilled in koji (rice malt), octopus dumpling, Itoshima vegetable side dish

Special boxed lunch made using local fish caught in Himeshima, うお旅特製の弁当、メインは姫島の地魚

Special boxed lunch made using local fish caught in Himeshima, うお旅特製の弁当を囲んでFukuoka Nowのモニターも笑顔

After filling up on food, it was time to take a walk around Himeshima.

We headed to Himeshima Shrine, which is also the origin of the island’s name. It is located on a small hill, and when we looked back over the houses below, the view of the ocean beyond the roofs added a little something extra to make this trip special.

View from Himeshima shrine in Itoshima, 姫島神社から眺める引津湾

A short walk from the shrine, there is a monument and the restored jail cell where the poet Nomura Botoni was imprisoned during the upheaval at the end of the Edo period. Eventually, after about six months in exile, she escaped thanks to arrangements made by the samurai Takasugi Shinsaku, and it is interesting to note that one of the acts of the Meiji Restoration took place on the island of Himeshima.

Monument and the restored jail cell where the poet Nomura Botoni in Himeshima, 姫島の野村望東尼御堂

Himeshima is also home to a wooden school building, Himeshima Elementary and Junior High School. Here there are displays of materials that tell the history of the fishing industry and the fishing methods that support the island’s economy. We were given a special tour of the displays for the Uotabi Tour. (In fact, these displays were handmade by the locals!)

Wooden school building, Himeshima Elementary and Junior High School, 姫島小学校、姫島中学校は木造校舎

Displays of materials that tell the history of the fishing industry and the fishing methods in Himeshima, 姫島の漁業を伝える模型(漁法や漁具)

Displays of materials that tell the history of the fishing industry and the fishing methods in Himeshima, 姫島の漁業を伝える模型(漁法や漁具)

The climax of the second tour was a cruise around Himeshima on a fishing boat.

On the north side of the island, opposite to where the village is located, you can see steep terrain, including strange rock formations like Bozu no Kubi (so named because it looks like the shaved neck of a monk) and two 10-meter-high holes called Ubu no Ana (“birth holes”), which are said to be the birthplaces of the island’s gods. Neither of these can be seen on the ferry trip over to the south side of the island.

cruise around Himeshima on a fishing boat, 漁船で姫島一周クルーズ

steep terrain including strange rock in north side of Himeshima 姫島の北側は集落がなく地形は険しい

On the cruise, members of the Itoshima Fishing Cooperative, who are knowledgeable about the sea around Itoshima, explain the fishing methods of Himeshima and Itoshima.

On the cruise, members of the Itoshima JF guided Himeshima and Itoshima, 糸島漁協のスタッフと漁船に乗って姫島クルーズ

The small mackerels caught in the fixed nets are farmed and raised until they are large enough to be shipped. They are fed with fish fry that is also caught in the fixed nets.

Farming local fish around Himeshima, 姫島の地魚を養殖

After observing how the fish are caught and the fishing grounds where they are raised, the next step is to get hands on and learn how to cut fish. Shoko Sato, a culinary researcher with ties to Himeshima, carefully demonstrated how to cut and descale various types of fish.

learn how to cut fish, 地魚の捌き方ワークショップ

The cornetfish is a flute-mouthed, brightly colored fish. Despite its striking appearance, its sweet white flesh is delicious. It is a high-grade fish that is rarely seen in stores but sought out by high-end Japanese restaurants. She also taught us how to prepare thread-sail filefish, by mixing the liver with soy sauce to make a sauce.

Itoshima local fish, 糸島の姫島で獲れた地魚。口が長くて赤い魚はヤガラ

Back at Kishi Fishing Port, we had dinner at Ekimae no Bar, which is another meeting place for Jizakana Bank activities. Here, we tried our hand at making sushi. After a toast to get us in the mood and a lecture on sushi by Mr. Mabuchi, we were ready to practice.

Making sushi with Itoshima local fish, 糸島の地魚を使った寿司握り体験

Naturally, all the ingredients were from Itoshima. On the day of the tour, the local fish and seafood caught using environmentally friendly and sustainable fishing methods included: Squid (shrimp trawling), konoshiro gizzard shad (fish trap), flounder (shrimp trawling), sunfish (pole-and-line fishing), clam (hand-digging), red sea bream (surrounding net fishing), Spanish mackerel (pole-and-line fishing), wavy-back skipjack tuna (pole-and-line fishing)… and more!

The large, fresh and fatty Spanish mackerel has a transparent white, sweet flesh that is delicious when eaten as sashimi. It is a popular red fish because it can be eaten seared, grilled, fried or even marinated in miso. (Although the flesh looks white, it is classified as a red fish like tuna.)

Seared Spanish Mackerel, 本鰆の炙り

Guests who celebrated their birthdays during the Uotabi Tour were treated to a sushi cake made with local fish from Itoshima.

Sushi Cake made by fish 糸島の地魚を使った寿司ケーキ

Day 2! Morning broke on the second day of this fish-filled tour, and the atmosphere of Kafuri Fishing Port felt different than when we visited yesterday.

Kafuri fishing port in Itoshima 朝の加布里漁港

Not to mention, it is a stone’s throw away from the front door of Rakuten Stay House.

Itoshima Rakuten Stay House in Kafuri fisher port 糸島の加布里漁港にある宿泊施設 Rakuten Stay House(楽天ステイ)

Making sun-dried fish, 魚を干している干物作りの棚

Morning walk around Itoshima fishing port 糸島の加布里漁港を散歩

Guests enjoyed a special Uotabi Tour breakfast at Shima no Kaisendonya located inside Shimanoshiki, which is operated directly by Itoshima JF (Japan Fisheries Co-operative).

The menu was adjusted suddenly to add freshly caught large amberjacks.

big amberjack 志摩の海鮮丼屋のキッチンでヒラマサさばき

Itoshima local fish at the direct sales market, 志摩の四季は糸島の地魚がたくさん

The tour ended with some souvenir shopping.

This time, the Uotabi Tour focused even more on local fish, and the schedule was adjusted to make it more leisurely. Going forward, the tour organizers will continue improving the tour to make it even more enjoyable for more people. Keep an eye out for our next report on the third test tour to be held in December.

Jizakana Bank member, 地魚BANKうお旅の締めは志摩の海鮮丼屋で記念撮影

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Published: Dec 10, 2021 / Last Updated: Dec 10, 2021

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