Fishing Hatahata – The symbol of God’s gift in the cold winter –


thumb__DSC5897_1024My stereotype before the trip
Before came to Akita, I only knew little about hatahata, a locally famous fish with delicious fish roe. My preconceive idea was that hatahata in Akita was the same as the squid in my hometown, Taiwan, Keelung. They make the squid as a gimmick only to attract tourists. After actually involved in a hatahata fishing trip, I found out that things was not the same as I thought.

This activity mainly aimed at the promotion of Akita’s local culture. Since I heard we can go hatahata fishing, I was so happy and went to apply for it! In this spring-like December there were only some big sea waves and showed no signs of bad weather on the ocean. We chose Yurihonjo (由立本莊) which is located at southern Akita as our destination of this fishing trip. I had a preconception that both Japanese and Taiwanese can have the same enthusiasm for eating seafood. But when we walked closer to the harbor, I was so shocked by the huge crowds of people. And this scene also made me wondered what kind of magic attracts Akita people come to fish hatahata. thumb__DSC5862_1024Inside and outside of hatahata’s name
The kanji of hatahata can be written as ‘鰰’ or ‘鱩’. Such name has a close relationship between their spawning habitat and the winter climate of Japan Sea. The spawning season of hatahata occurs during end of the autumn and the whole winter. During this period they will move from continental shelf to coast and lay eggs by attaching them on sea weeds. Be attracted by the delicious hatahata, people discovered that they have the habitat to gather near offshore area in the winter. Also this time, the weather often accompanies lightning and thunder on the sea. So the name of hatahata is given, which means the thunder onomatopoeia in Japanese. On the other side, the kanji of hatahata can be separate to ‘魚’ (fish) and ‘神’ (god) or ‘魚’(fish) and ‘雷’(thunder). It’s not difficult to understand that from past Akita people gave the god of thunder’s spirit to hatahata, and they are the symbol of god’s gift in the cold winter. The biggest selling point of hatahata is their delicious eggs. Golf-like fish roe condenses the best flavor of whole fish. The chewing texture, sticky taste and the eggs burst with each bite make Akita people have loved hatahata for these long times.ハタハタ (1)ハタハタ (2)Difference between rookie and veteran
Back to the harbor, the best fishing spots were almost occupied by the experienced fisher. So we randomly found a place and began to tie fishing knot on our equipment. We used the artificial bait and tried to know how it works. Just throw hook and lure into the water. Swaying fishing pole and peeling the line make the fake bait become live, and hatahata will appeal to the lure and trace it. Since we didn’t get any fish at the beginning fishing spot, we changed to another place and hoped to get some. Finally there was a place behind the water-break; some sea weed also grew here which attracted hatahata. An old man stood beside there, “Come! Come! This is a good place!” he said. After several cast at this new fishing spot, First hatahata in my life was caught! Pulling the vibrating rod I can’t find any words to describe the happiness at that time. After that the fish were biting very well. But we can’t catch up the old man beside us; he seemed to be very experienced. As long as he cast the fish rod, there might get some fish hooked.

After fighting for two hours, we totally caught 22 hatahata. I got some of them and made a Japanese style dish. I boiled the fish with soy sauce, cooking sake and garlic. The tender texture of hatahata mixed with the delicious taste of soft roe and became as the seasonal flavor of Akita. If you have the chance to travel around Akita, you must need to enjoy the delicious of hatahata!thumb__DSC5771_1024thumb__DSC5781_1024The love between Akita people and hatahata
Besides the fact that hatahata is the prefecture fish of Akita, I want to know more about what kind of meaning hatahata has for Akita people. I suggest that hatahata accompanies with local people’s life, which makes them become more than a dish on the table. They represent as Akita’s local culture, and also an important element of the New Year. A saying also goes that without hatahata local people can’t have a normal New Year. Through personally involved in the daily life of local people, I can get closer to understand Akita. Since the main goal of travel is to have a full view of the place, this kind of local activity is an appropriate approach to reach this goal. Now come back to the question when I saw the huge crowds of people beside the harbor: ‘What kind of the magic attracted Akita people to fish hatahata?’. I thought the answer was the love between Akita people and hatahata which strongly ties them together.

Written by 賴羿均(Taiwanese)