Mie Prefecture… Gone Fishing
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Continuing my travels in Mie, we leave Ise and to go round the coast past Toba. Thoughts of idyllic bays with hidden beaches can be shattered though if you miss the not-so-well-signposted villages that sometimes demand a steep downhill drive from the main road. One such place, accidentally found by discarding my tourist map, gave this print. Two high-prowed, wooden fishing boats, on a deserted beach.
I was sent back in time, to an English seaside hometown, and two similar boats that worked from that beach. Those British versions, also all-wood, were built for inshore work on the North Sea… while these here seemed suited for speed and calmer waters. Deciding to ask if I could go out on one of these boats to sketch, I visited the local fishery office and then waited for their reply. Returning within the month, I had advice to wear warm clothing - as it would be an early February morning - and a friend’s suggestion to pack “something to drink that goes with fish” for “later”.
So, with all prepared - sketchbook, camera, boots, sweater, wool hat, coat, loaned waterproofs, plus instructions on what not to do - I boarded. But not an all-wood craft like in my print. Fishing boats may look small from the land but the one I was invited onto had a very wide deck, atop fiber-glass sides that curved outward, plus a very sleek prow - the one-man “bridge” with its canvas roof, was set high and two thirds distance from the bow. From this vantage point the owner-captain can control the whole boat and his five crew (also, deposited there, this artist in residence had less chance of falling overboard).
We set off at quite a pace… slicing though the water to far out into Ise Bay - but not alone as others were following. Then, dead stop, bobbing up and down until all had assembled. With engines roaring, they then created a wide circle. Silence… what were they doing?
I had many questions but everyone was busy… Where were the nets? Don’t you need heavy gloves to haul in those non-existent nets? Heave ho? No? Why? The engines roared again and two sets of interlocked, ribbed drums slowly turned on one side of all the boats, in unison. A net appeared from the bay, hauled in by these ribbed “hands”. The deck tilted alarmingly, inward. Fish appeared. These were scooped up with hand nets, sorted, and thrown into ice-filled holds. The catch was “processed” at speed as the boats moved ever closer and nets piled up on their decks.
Seemingly without any commands, all were finished at the same time and the boats plowed back across the bay for the “land-work”. As at sea, all tasks were done in good time too, with other family members assisting. I was wet through (not from sea spray so much, as from wearing waterproofs over too many layers of clothing. Sweat…) so began to feel cold.
Dusk approached… time for eating fish, and questions. A fire was lit, various brands of hot sake were passed around... and I learnt much from some great people. Yet time moved quickly on, so we were soon trooping back from the beachside and I had to say goodbye. But, I no longer eat local fish without a good appreciation of how it started on its way to shop or restaurant!
P.S. Two questions remained. Where’s that sketch? Why only three photographs? Seems it was such a good day that the reason for this fishing trip was, em, totally forgotten.
Woodblock print. 22 blocks, hand-carved and printed. Title: The Shore…
David Stones, Woodblock Printer, Okazaki.