Winter is the best time for catching octopi in Shimotsui, which is located in the southern part of Okayama prefecture at the foot of Great Seto Bridge.
Known as Shimotsui octopus throughout Japan, from autumn to winter the octopi are called kandako (‘cold/ midwinter octopus’). They have the leanest most flavorful meat of the entire annual octopus catch.
At the fishing port located in Shimotsui, you can see octopi drying with their tentacles spread out, exposed to the cold wind – a typical winter sight.
Looking in the direction of the Great Seto Bridge, this is the sunrise seen from Shimotsui district. Fishing boats continue to pass by from early morning…
With the charm of the old days remaining strong in the surrounding townscape, the three fishing ports of Tanoura, Fukiage and Shimotsui are connected in Shimotsui district.
A well-known typical winter sight in Shimotsui is drying octopus! After spreading the tentacles of these large octopi, some of which that can be up to 60cm in length, they are exposed to the cold wind.
Looking at the drying octopus and warming up by the drum stove, I talked with the fishermen.
Dried octopus is a very popular product and, although it also depends on the weather, they usually dry in about 3-4 days.
This was originally thought up as a way to preserve food. Nowadays, in order to make them easier to eat, the octopi are not dried to the extent they were in the past.
The way to eat the octopus is very simple; after soaking it in water for around 2 hours it becomes soft. Simply fry it, add mayonnaise and soy sauce or other spices and enjoy. It’s an ideal snack to accompany a drink!
In addition, made with the same principle as takikomi-gohan (rice cooked with various ingredients), octopus-rice (‘tako-meshi’) is also said to be delicious.
This is Mr. Oka, chairman of the Tanoura-Fukiage fishermen’s union. He showed us how the octopi are up to dry. First, a round bamboo plate is inserted into the head of the octopus and some cuts are made to make it easier to spread out the tentacles.
Next, he sets up a horizontal bar to spread out the tentacles. With a practiced manner, the octopi are set to dry within moments.
Lastly, he cuts the tentacles, if they are too long, to ensure the right form. And it’s done!
Like this, three more octopi were set to dry at the foot of Great Seto Bridge!
You can see octopi drying at all of the ports in Shimotsui district – It’s fun to take a walk around the port areas and search for the dried octopi.
As long as you don’t get in the way of the people working at the port, anyone is free to come and watch. If the fishermen have time on their hands, you may also hear some interesting stories!
Wouldn’t you like to visit the wintery sight of drying octopus??
Location: 1 Chome-1-8 Shimotsuitanoura, Kurashiki city, Okayama prefecture
Guide Homepage: http://www.okayama-kanko.jp/sakana/pickup_2/
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Hironobu Matsuoka
Hironobu Matsuoka / Photo-writer Born in 1974 in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and currently living there, Hironobu is the president of Mediapolis Inc. "I travel around the country in Solar King, an eco-camping car that has a solar power generator, and film the beautiful scenery of Japan in high-definition. I want to move around the country as much as possible and leave behind videos of precious Japanese nature and scenery for future generations to enjoy. Although I travel all over the country, I love my home area of Setouchi." 'Healing Japan TV' - Traveling virtually around the country through 'healing videos'.
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