Originally written for the Vol.5-No.9 edition (January 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.
Kan-buri (literally “cold season yellowtail”) fishing is synonymous with winter in Toyama Bay. This winter, the season officially started on November 26th, and by December 12th, 11,970 fish had been caught. The blue-green spines, fat silvery-white bellies, and stripes of yellow line the fishing areas. They average about 10 kilograms (22 lbs.) each, and some are over 15 kilograms (33 lbs.).
In order to heighten trust that the fish are the authentic famous kan-buri from Himi City, Toyama, certificates of sale by the Himi Fishermen’s Cooperative are stuck on each fish and shipped in blue boxes with a trademarked graphic. These measures were established beginning this season in order to counter the problem of fish falsely being sold as Himi kan-buri. It has now been established that the label “Himi kan-buri” can only be claimed for buri caught by fixed shore net within Toyama Bay and sold for auction at the fish market in Himi. In addition, even fish caught in Toyama Bay may not be certified if they are too small, ensuring a high quality for fish with the “Himi kan-buri” label.
Buri are known as the “King of Toyama Bay.” The Himi coast has the largest continental shelf in Toyama Bay, and is a good spawning ground for fish. Beyond this, there are deep sea valleys rich in plankton. Fixed shore nets are placed on the slopes, and they catch the buri that come here to feed on smaller fish. The buri are then immediately placed in ice to preserve freshness and flavor, and are speedily taken to the fish market to be sold. You could say that the good taste of “Himi kan-buri” is a result of special skills and techniques as well as the dedication of the people involved in the industry.
The buri of Himi has been famous since long ago in history. Maeda Toshiie (1539 – 1599) of the Kaga Domain used to order for the buri to be salted and sent to Kyoto (then-capital city). In the Edo Period, buri was sent to Shinshu (present-day Nagano) and Owari (present-day Aichi) for New Year’s celebrations on what was known as the “Buri Road.”
In Toyama, there is a custom for a new bride’s parents to gift a whole buri to their son-in-law’s family at the end of the first year of marriage. Half of the fish is then returned, and both families enjoy a single buri and wish for good fortune.
In a country famous for seafood, the fish in Toyama is especially well-regarded. We hope that you will be able to try some soon!
Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now