Experiencing the Fishing Town culture on a fisherman’s boat
Fishing is the primary livelihood in Kozushima with flourishing red breams the speciality of the industry. Kozu’s location in the middle of the Kuroshio currents has ensured fertile breeding grounds, which is why fishing is so popular on the island.
We got to experience a fishing day out at sea under the guidance of local fisherman, Mr Kazutaka Hamakawa. Just like his boat, the “Daiseimaru,” Mr Hamakawa was very pleasant and friendly. He took us on a tour of his wheelhouse, where he explained how he catches a fish variety that prefers to live 400m below the surface! He has all manner of equipment, including sonar technology, to help him make an informed guess. Ultimately though, it seems the success of the fishing strategy largely depends on the fisherman’s intuition and experience. Mr Hamakawa has plenty of both and is very good at what he does!
He was kind enough to let us help out, and we assisted in reeling in a catch of red breams that he had caught earlier in the morning. I have to say there’s a lot more to the process beyond the actual fishing. Once the fish hit the deck, we placed them on buckets and carried them over to a cargo bed for transportation by car. Raising several red breams at once requires some effort, but it was enjoyable to participate in the process and see what a day is like in the life of a real fisherman.
The readying of red breams is an especially exciting affair, and if you ever go fishing in Kozu, be sure to stop by the fishery association premises to see how it’s done. Machines tend to the sorting, which follows weight and size criteria, on a belt conveyor system that looks a lot like a merry-go-round. It’s quite impressive to watch man and machine go about their work so seamlessly!
Fishing experiences in Kozu can be different according to the season you visit in, so we’d like to participate in more experience tours to get the full picture. Nonetheless, from what we saw and did, a cultural fishing village experience on Kozushima is one of a kind!
Mr Kei Nakamura leads water tours on Kozushima, and he is part of the NPO “Kozushima Moriagetai” or “Cheering UP Team” which is working to present the fun and happy side of Kozu tourism. He was the guide during our water tour, and his experience stems from years of work with the Kozushima Tourism Association. There’s not a single thing that goes on on the island that he hasn’t seen before!
Mr Nakamura told us about the mythical stories of the water distribution in front of seven statues in Maehama, each representing one of the seven gods of the islands of Izu, which have been put to together to recreate the meeting. Afterwards, we travelled to Tako Bay on the opposite end to sightsee Tako Spring. It gushes vigorously, producing water that I found to be very tasty. I don’t know if that had something to do with the minerals or the story I heard before, but what I know is that I should have brought a large, empty water bottle. The spring water was so delicious!
When he’s not out giving water tours, Mr Nakamura partners with others on a renovation project that turns vacant homes into works of art.
Hot Spring Facilities
There’s only one hot spring facility in Kozushima, and there are no restrictions for entry. The establishment features outdoor and indoor baths, with the latter separated according to gender. However, the three outdoor hot spring baths are unisex, so it’s a requirement that guests put on swimwear. One was unavailable during the November off-season, but the two that were provided beautiful views of the lovely seafront under a blue sky. We enjoyed the outdoor bath more because of the scenery, and that we could share the experience as a couple.
There are a lot of things to do in Kozushima beyond basking in a bubbling pool. You can go hiking on Mt. Tenjo for more breathtaking sights or star gazing at a night observation facility. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that because the weather wasn’t favourable on the day of the visit.
Eating at a minshuku is just as good an experience as eating out at a restaurant or cafeteria. During our stay at the Minshuku Matsuyoshi, we sampled a fantastic cuisine full of the usual favourite of simmered red bream in addition to Ise shrimps. For the shrimps, you may have to order in advance.
The meals at the inn felt nicely home-cooked, and so did the generous plating that included tasty fish sashimi. Again, the problem here was that there were no English descriptions to explain the meals. The dishes are prepared from locally-sought ingredients, and it would have been nice if we could understand the cooking process. Nonetheless, we can’t complain about the food or service!
Yamacho is a popular izakaya or bar that the locals love. The unforgettable fish sashimi and the fried chicken helped us understand why the place is popular! Besides the typical offerings, there were also many lovely delicacies we got to try for the first time like the deep-fried moray eel, and the native Iwanori seaweed. We were not disappointed with any of them!
The Kusaya, however, might not be for everyone. While we enjoyed this fermented fish because of its rich taste, some may not find its strong smell appealing. I think it all boils down to whether you like fermented foods or not, kind of like how some people adore strong French cheese while others can’t stand it. Fermented foods are popular in Japanese tradition, Natto (fermented soya beans) come to mind, and the Kusaya is a meal we’d love to try again.
Authentic Hawaiian burgers on Kozushima? I was just as surprised as you are! Kozushima’s fish is without a doubt among the world’s best, but meat lovers welcome the chance to break the monotony with some change, and these burgers did just the thing!
The local beer from the Kozushima Hyuga Brewery provided excellent escort for the sizzling meals at the Airana.
Hidden Tokyo is a joy to visit no matter the season. We had lots of fun swimming on white sandy beaches, leaping off the diving board into the sea at the Akasaki promenade, fishing in the open sea, cycling in the sunsets, and climbing Mt. Tenjo. There’s much to see and do in Kozushima, some of which we did not get to the opportunity to, but we had the best holiday even so! We left with fond memories of a paradise on earth, and I look forward to making another visit to Kozushima soon!