Now Reports

The Fish Heralding Spring’s Arrival

Several flora and fauna herald the approach of spring in Fukuoka. These include the plum blossoms in Dazaifu and the arrival of the black-headed gull at the Naka River and Ohori Park. Yet another is the fish known as the ice goby. Every year from February to the beginning of April, the fish swims from Hakata Bay to locations near the mouth of the Muromi River, which empties into Hakata Bay at the border between Atagohama in Nishi Ward and Momochihama in Sawara Ward, where it spawns. Another sign of spring is the sight of fishermen using fencing, called yana, to surround and pen in the ice goby. The only spot of color on these five-centimeter-long, transparent gobies is the black part of the eye. Their flavor is as plain as their shape. One popular way of eating them is called odorigui. In this method, dozens of the fish are allowed to swim in a large and deep white bowl. They are scooped up in a net and swallowed whole with vinegared soy sauce.

The fish seem to dance in the mouth, or odoru in Japanese, which is how the method got its name. It is not that the fish is particularly delicious, but that the manner of eating it calls to mind the advent of spring. Other spring foods include broths, egg soup, and grilled oysters. These dishes can be eaten at restaurants near the mouth of the Muromi River, as well as small prefabricated huts set up for the season on the riverbank. A park was built on the banks of the Muromi River as a recreational area for the city’s residents, and it is used by many joggers and walkers. There are mudflats near the mouth of the river, and in the spring many people gather to hunt for shells at low tide. Despite the fact the Muromi River flows through the center of the city, it is home to the ice goby, shellfish, and more than 100 species of wild birds. The river is a treasure for Fukuoka City. It seems that with each passing year, the goby, shellfish, and birds are dwindling in number, but it is a natural environment that we should continue to protect.

Originally published in Fukuoka Now magazine (fn110, Feb. 2007)


Art & Culture
Fukuoka City
Published: Feb 1, 2008 / Last Updated: Jun 13, 2017

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