before my business trip I managed to get in a sea fishing trip with colleagues from work. One particular boat we sometimes charter has a tie-up with the local onsen, where you fish till 2:30pm and then head back to port; on reaching moorings the onsen has a coach waiting to carry you to the inn, and you hand over all your catch to the owners and then jump in the baths. Whilst you are having a dip in the hot spring waters the inn chefs whip up a meal with your fish, and when you emerge refreshed and pink from the baths your dinner arrives, usually a great many courses, and your first nama beer is free (invariably a greater number is consumed)!
We went fishing for croakers, or ishimochi in Japanese, and even the most inexperienced anglers among us took a hatful – with a stiff northerly breeze and a handy making tide, neither too quick nor slow, from 9:30am, the fish put up a good show. The only incident of note was when we arrived at port and as it came to my turn to disembark, the ship gave a little shudder as she rode to her moorings: with my rod case in one hand and heavy ice-chest in the other and my pack on my shoulder, I had no hands free and fell flat on my face into the scuppers like the greenest, most flat-footed, slab-slided landlubber on earth. Although no-one called out Butcher! and the skipper remained po-faced as ever, simply taking my chest from me and handing me over, a girl on board decided the best way to proceed would be to squeal, loudly, but fortunately and most curiously the only injury I suffered was to my pride and despite such a tumble I could not detect any physical harm to my person. One of my fishing buddies stove in two of his ribs in exactly the same fashion a few years ago, so I can count myself lucky. Anyway, the hot waters of the onsen rapidly diverted my attention to the prospect of dinner; croaker is generally not considered a fish good as sashimi (I don’t mind it) but being a very white, flaky fish easily takes up sauces and flavours and can be cooked a variety of ways. Well the dishes came up hot and hot from the kitchen and we were not disappointed; we ate croaker deep-fried, grilled, stewed in soy sauce, à la meunière, filleted and served with a spicy tomato salsa, and to round everything off, as we polished off a bottle of shochu firewater, clear fish soup. It was a day to remember on the grounds of gluttony alone, but the onsen is always a great way to end a day’s fishing particularly when it is cold out. Also, although I like to pride myself on cooking my catch, there is something to be said for occasionally having a professional cook a meal for you, and hopefully these photos will attest to this.
Deep-fried whole fish.
Seasoned with nothing more than sea salt and then grilled over a fire; served with grated daikon radish.
Croaker cooked à la meunière; these disappeared very rapidly.
Fillets served with tomato and olive salsa.
The clear soup, to finish proceedings. Many thanks to Esamasa-maru, sailing from Haneda, Tokyo and the New-Land Onsen!