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Travelogue: Himi, a city blessed by the sea


One day in March, I got off the train at the railway’s final station, Himi, in the calm evening rain.  It was not as cold as I expected. Himi-  氷見, whose kanji in Japanese  mean “ice” and “see” respectively-is located to the west of the Toyama gulf.
I visited this fishing port city in order to assist a writing workshop. This article is about my impression during my stay in this small city.

The first destination of mine was the Himi Fishery Network Gallery Totoza.
Toto, written as 魚々 in Japanese, means fishes(many varieties of fish). It was easy to find that fishing and fishery is crucially important for Himi when I got to know the name of the small folklore museum/community center.

On the roof of Totoza, a lot of black-tail gulls were crying “mew”. I unexpectedly smiled at that. Here I am, facing the sea. As an urban resident, I felt relaxed and amused by the scenery, the smell and breeze of the sea and the gulls’ mew sound.

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I came to Himi for a workshop organized by Kabusu, Himi’s local online magazine.
This online magazine’s name actually doesn’t allow even Japanese people to understand its meaning, except local people in Himi.
Kabusu means fishermen’s share of the daily catch. Fishermen make hot soup with the share after fishing in the very early morning.
Kabusu soup contains various kinds of seafood, so it is very flavorful.

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The Toyama gulf has a very rich sea with a deep and complex seabed. Nutritious water also comes to the Toyama gulf from the Tateyama Mountain Range. Thanks to this geography, fishermen can catch many different kinds of fish throughout the year. When I was in Himi in the middle of March, we had very fresh sardine sashimi, squid sashimi and eel grill. They were JUST AWESOME.

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Let’s return to talk about what the online magazine is like. Among a bunch of local areas’ online magazines, Kabusu focuses on each individual living there and its writers are quite unique:

A shoe maker reports her challenge to make shoes with fish skin. A student majoring in fishery and currently living in Himi as a local promotion coordinator (there is such a program because of a national policy to support rural communities in Japan.)

Just like fishermen’s kabusu, online magazine Kabusu is also a mixture of various people related to Himi. In particular, 2 videographers are involved in it so we can watch videos of Himi’s culture and sea creatures. These video works help even non-Japanese speakers to be able to understand what Himi looks like. It is also interesting that such characteristic people like Kabusu writers have a certain community in a rural area, which does not have as many opportunities or as much diversity as Tokyo or Osaka. If it is a feature of modern Japan to change to be more generous to human diversity, the future of Japan might not be as dark as is thought.

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The writing workshop was 4 days long.
After 2 days of basic writing skill training, participants interviewed the chief of the local fishermen association and the last traditional wooden ship maker in Himi. Both of them had a lot to talk about. Himi’s fishermen have been doing fishing with fixed nets through the generations as the area’s main fishing method. It is a comparatively sustainable way of fishing and the sea is still very rich. Himi yellowtail is a famous and expensive fish nation-wide. Himi’s fishing industry is not in danger to disappear like other areas, yet people are suffering from lack of young people, particularly for small-scale fisheries. The ship maker doesn’t have an heir either. Workshop members did some research in advance and asked deep questions with their knowledge. It seemed to have led the interviewees to tell their frank opinions. The interviewers must have felt a lot from the experienced local contributors. I’m writing this just after the workshop so I’m looking forward to reading what they told, written through the writing workshop participants’ eyes.

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To be honest, Himi is small and does not have a lot of touristic attractions, the sea is scenic though. It’s often cloudy, and is very cold in winter. Yet in such a climate, there is rich nature, great fishing sites and warm people. It would be great if you can get into the local community deeply, once you visit Himi. There are young Japanese migrants in Himi. Some Himi’s natives came back to their hometown after living in urban areas in Japan and overseas. There are some wooden traditional ships exhibited in Totoza, I remember. They were made by an American ship maker who got to know about Himi’s wooden ship for some reason and took the trouble to come to this remote place in Japan. His passion and efforts were fruitful during a wooden ship making workshop and his works are still leaving strong impressions on visitors. They have soil tolerant enough to generously accept strangers in Himi.

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The final day of my stay was very clear. I enjoyed the sea breeze in the warm sunlight after successive rainy days. The Tateyama Mountain Range greeted me from the other side of Toyama gulf. With a relaxed and calm mind, I said farewell to the locals and got on the final train of the day to go home, thinking, I am coming back to Himi like Himi people’s favorite fish- the wandering yellowtail.

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Contributor: Haruka Tonegawa (Photographer and writer)

 

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A curious, sincere (and a little shy) versatile life owner, she started photography and writing in 2010 and is currently a freelancer. She has traveled around more than 45 countries, and is now often traveling around Japan with her point of view which was gained through her globetrotting. She is a foodie and sake drinker. She likes painting, wearing kimono and learning languages too.