Road Trippin’ with Yo-chan: The Seto Inland Sea


On my birthday, which was March 4 (i.e. a million years ago in syntax time), I took the train down to Hinase with Yo-chan and various members of the Osaka shashin-bu clan so that we could ride boats and eat oysters. Hinase is a small city that sits on the edge of the Seto Inland Sea (瀬戸内海, Seto Naikai), a tranquil body of ocean water with only three narrow straights connecting it to the Pacific Ocean, on one side, and the Sea of Japan, on the other. The Seto Inland Sea is dotted with small islands that emerge from the water fully formed as discrete desires of exploration.

We took the ferry out to Kashirajima, a small island with an industry centered around shellfish and seaweed farming. The entirety of the island can be navigated on foot in a few hours. There seems to be a local population of about 300 or so, mostly living in older houses that cluster up the hillside with small asphalt paths between them that are too small for cars but large enough for scooters to navigate. When we popped by the general store for film and batteries the door was unlocked, but there was no one around to work the register, which didn’t matter anyhow since film and batteries were nowhere to be seen.

Walking along the waterfront we came upon these huge piles of hotate (scallop) shells, strung together and then mounded. I’m not quite sure why they were there, since I was told later that scallops are normally harvested in the cold waters of northern Japan, which seems to be true since there were none for sale in the fresh seafood stores at Hinase. The waterfront was relatively quiet (I think because it was a Sunday), though there were a few women — from China, I think — mending nets along the shore. This is actually a pretty fascinating situation. Japan, like France, absolutely values the localized production of its foodstuffs and there’s definitely an intense relationship with the idea of terroir here, but the declining population of Japan and the need for immigrant labor ensures that the microclimates of local production will remain always already globalized.

Of course, every working population needs to unwind and the oyster and seaweed farmers on Kashirajima are no different. This island has perhaps the world’s most awesome karaoke box. Constructed out of a baby blue shipping container divided in half, there are two small rooms with portholes inside of which you can sing your heart away once the sun goes down.

After walking through the town we walked out to the beach along the thin channel that separates Kashirajima from the neighboring island. We ate our lunches in the hot sun, looking out at the bridge — which I’m going to purposely misname the Kani-ebi-hashi — that runs between the islands . Floating bamboo platforms for harvesting and drying seaweed were spread out in the water in front of us, and we could see industrial oyster boats cruising through the channel and depositing metal clawfulls of oysters onto their noisy conveyor belts.

After our lunch, we walked up to the bridge to look out over the channel between islands. Soon we were on the ferry back to Hinase, where we went to the fish market and bought a large bag of oysters. Although there were also still-pulsing namako (sea cucumbers) for sale for only 500 yen, we concentrated on the oysters, which we took across the road where we rented a barbeque pit and all the utensils that we would need for baking and eating.


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