KIDS:  CWSE Report 10

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Children's World Summit for the Environment


Koby's Report #10 - Fishing Japanese Style

Miss Blanchette had arranged for us to stay with a Japanese family for a night through a home-stay event at the conference.  We ended up (as I explained in an earlier article) being with the ambassador.

   On the second day of the home-stay we went on an out doors adventure. In the morning we piled in a bus/van and drove up the mountainside along narrow roads barely wide enough to keep us from tumbling to the cliffs below.  Liz and Sarah were squeezing towards the middle of the van trying to get as far away from the window as possible.  Neither of them liked heights and they thought if they sat too close to the edge it might tip the bus over the side.  Below us there was a river winding its way between the mountains around us.  Later we would have a closer encounter with the river, but for the moment we could only watch from above. 

{Koby and Jamie with film crew.} We stopped for a short rest at a sandy cliff.  We stretched our legs and looked at the scenery.  A camera crew followed our group everywhere we went.  They zoomed in on our faces as we listened to a native Japanese man tell us about his home in the mountains. 

As a child he had lived in a village in the valley around us.  He explained, through a translator, what the village had looked like and the kind of people who lived there.  He said that when he was young, there had rarely ever been disease.  There were few doctors and those few were rarely needed.  The medicine that was used was not the modern medicine used in more populated cities.  But he said that there was almost never a time where it was needed.  We thanked him for his presentation and walked towards the bus with the camera crew following us at an annoyingly close distance.  Sarah whispered that she wished she could just hit one of them.  

 After another short ride in the van, we arrived at a small dirt parking area surrounded by pine saplings.  We unloaded and followed our guides across a rickety looking bridge over the river.  Up a small hill, there was a large cabin with a campfire already burning out front.  Over the campfire men were already roasting small fish.  As soon as the girls saw them they all looked a little disgusted.  “That's not the only thing we can eat, is it?”  They kept asking.  Ms. Blanchette just laughed. 

 We were told that inside the cabin there were changing rooms where we could change into our swimming suits for swimming.  The girls were on the top floor and the boys were on the bottom.  Our Gujo tour guides said there were changing rooms, but I'm not sure their translations were quite right.  When I entered the cabin I was amazed to see a gigantic tree growing up through the floor and out through the ceiling.  It was stripped of its bark and had a table carved out of one side.  I searched the whole bottom floor and couldn't fine a changing room.  Finally I gave up and asked one man.  He turned me around and pointed me to a sliding wooden door.  Then he turned around and left.  Upon opening the door, I was a little confused.  The room that stood before me was not a changing room.  It was a storage closet with so much STUFF littered over the floor it looked almost impossible to walk through.  I let some New Zealanders go first.  They came out changed and then it was my turn.  I walked in, closed the door and looked back for a lock, but the was none.  Hoping that no one would walk in on me, I changed and came out ready to swim. 

  {Liz catching a fish at Gujo.} I walked down the front steps and back down the path to the riverside.  There were already people splashing and laughing in a small but deep watering hole.  A little ways past the swimming area the river branched off into a fork and came back together further down.  Across the main river and on the right side of the fork Japanese men and boys from other countries seemed to be looking through the water for something.  I asked what they were doing and they said, “Fishing.”........ But they had no fishing lines, or nets or any fishing supplies at all except their hands.  I stepped into the water and began fishing along side them, Japanese style.  This part of the river was fairly shallow and only got to be around three feet deep at its deepest parts.  This made it a lot easier, because it was shallow enough to see through.  At one opening of the fork there was a screen placed in the water.  It was meant to catch fish as they came in and prevent them from going back out.  At the opposite end was a rock wall stretching across the water.  It was for a similar purpose..... let the water through and leave the fish trapped on the other side.   But...that didn't seem to make it much easier.  The riverbed was still covered with large rocks and small rocks and medium rock, and pretty much an infinite amount of fish hiding spots.

 I looked under at least twenty rocks before finding my first catch.  It was small and only about 6 inches long.  It had a line of small red dots running along the sides of its body and the rest was a brownish gray.  It sat in a corner between two fairly large rocks waiting and {Catching fish at Gujo.} staring.  I crept up to it and slowly began to slide my hand under the rock to its hiding place.  As soon as my fingertips touched the surface of the water it flipped its tail and darted even deeper into the crevice between the rock and the riverbed.  I splashed after it and blindly stuck my hand in the crevice behind it.  There I found a slimy surface and instantly closed my hand around it and squeezed.  I pulled my hand out and saw to my excitement the wiggling body of the fish I had been after.  A Japanese man clapped his hands and made a throwing motion towards the rocks at the riverside.  I pointed to the fish and he nodded.  I raised the fish above my head and he laughed as I chucked the fish to the rocks.  There it hit the ground with a slap and lay stunned.  I was able to pick it up again and place it in a net already half full of fish. 

This went on for about another hour.  I ended up catching 10 fish with my hands and an 11th with the help of a natural Japanese fishing tool.  This tool was called a rock.  A large fish also with red spots sat trapped by the rock wall at the second opening to the fishing river.  We had been chasing it around the water for 5 minutes with no luck.  I could tell there was no way we were going to catch it with our hands so I picked up a smooth rock, aimed and hurled it toward the fish.  It struck the water with a splash.  When the ripples cleared I saw the fish lying on its side squirming.  Then it was motionless.  I had stunned it with the rock.  The Japanese man again applauded as I picked the fish up and placed it in a second net with still more fish.  Then it was time to walk back to the cabin for lunch.  There Japanese men cleaned the fish and stuck them on skewers to be placed over the fire with the rest. 

{Noodle trough at Gujo.}  While we were waiting for the fish to cook we gathered around a long skinny structure made of bamboo.  I was made of long shafts split in half so that there was a hollowed out path down the middle. From a faucet ran a stream of cool water.  It spilled through a shaft onto another and continued in a spiral until it emptied into the ground.  At the top of the small stream a Japanese lady dumped in a pile of skinny noodles.  They drifted down the water.  We were told to take our chopsticks and just stick the ends into the water.  When we did, the passing noodles collected on the tips where we could pick them up, dip them into a brown sauce and eat them.  I tried it and once I started, I couldn't stop.  It was delicious. 

After I was just about noodled out, I walked to the fire pit where the fish we had caught were just about finished.  I was handed one and I sat down to eat it.  Once I sat down, a short, thin Japanese man came up to me.  He was holding his own fish.  Smiling he pulled the fish off of the skewer and pointed at its tail and then at his stomach.  I hoped he wasn't going to do what I thought he was going to, but he was.  He opened his mouth and took a huge bite of the fish, pulling off the whole tail, bones and all.  He chewed with his mouth wide open and fanned his mouth.  Apparently it was hotter than he had expected.  I was pretty disgusted, but would have been even more if {Cooking fish at Gujo.} I had known what he was going to do next.  He turned the fish over and pointed to the head.  I was just thinking, “Oh....No!”, but Oh, yes!  He raised the head to his mouth.  I couldn't watch. I winced as a loud crunch reached my ears.  When I opened my eyes, there was nothing left of the fish except a ball of meat and bones rolling around on his tongue.  At the sight, I almost gagged.  He just laughed away.  Fortunately, I was given an excuse to leave when there was an announcement that it was time to go back to the buses.

Gujo Feast Pictures

  {Feast at Gujo.}
  {Men preparing fish at Gujo.}
  {Preparing fish for the feast at Gujo.}
  {Fish on plate at feast.}
  {Cooking fish at Gujo.}   {Group at fish feast in Gujo.}


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Content Last Modified on 1/31/2007 3:39:56 PM