Snapshot 4: The Early Bird Catches the…….Fish?!

The Early Bird Catches the…….Fish?!
Wajima being a fishing port on the Japan Sea, it is little wonder that there is a fish auction every morning, or at least when it is possible to land a catch.  The fish are sold in lots to local and distant traders as well as to the owners of eateries and establishments providing traditional accommodation in the town.  Some fish even go as far as Tokyo on the Pacific coast.

Black Kites and Crows on the look out.

Not having ever lived by the sea, I was surprised to see so many Gulls, as well as a handful of the large indigenous Crow, a lone Heron and a considerable number of Black Kites.  Where I live in England we often sea Red Kites which are now thriving having been reintroduced some years ago after a long absence.  On the Noto Peninsula, however, the Black Kite is never far from view, often to be seen circling in twos and threes high overhead.

All the birds were waiting for scraps or fish which were discarded for being too small or too damaged to go to auction.  The Black Kites swooped low over the sea-water drenched concrete wharf to grab fish, while some of the bolder Gulls snuck into the shed to nick a bit of squid or even to gulp down small fry before someone came too close for comfort.

Flying Fish counted off by the weighed basket.
All eyes were on the boxes of shrimps.
Equally eager to see what was being offered were the traders.  They gathered in small groups to discuss and peruse the days catch which had be divided by variety or size of fish into ice-laden polystyrene trays.  At six-thirty an auctioneer and assistant appeared.  Both were representatives of Japan Fisheries and unexpectedly young.  Both also wore their baseball caps back to front and added an almost comical and relaxed air to the proceedings.  They moved along each row of trays surrounded by the keen buyers who were ready to cast a bid or even a joke or two. The auctioneer had a stick to identify the tray that was being auctioned, while his assistant diligently recored who had bought which tray.  The small swarm of buyers, some with their registration number fixed to their head gear, followed shouting their bids.  Those who had made a purchase quickly removed their buy to a waiting trolly, bicycle or light truck.  And before long the auction was over and everybody dispersed.

A large cluster of Gulls bobbed on the water of the harbour, the Crows were nowhere to be seen and the Kites were already distant specks in the cloudy morning sky.  The Heron had probably left to search for frogs in a distant rice paddy.  The excitement was over for another day.

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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