November 29, 12 | Takako Chiba
The game is processing the fish as soon as they're brought in, and the fisherman at Matsumae Sakura Fishery are pros. But when handling bluefin tuna, usually called just "Matsumae Tuna," their disposition is completely different.
When I arrived at the fishery in the morning to gather information for this article, I was met with a strange series of greetings...
"Oh no! Why didn't you come yesterday?!"
"You shoulda come by yesterday!"
"Why are you here today? Yesterday was the day you should've been here."
It seems my timing was a bit off, as the day before my visit Matsumae Sakura Fishery had brought in a massive catch of nearly 600 tuna!! The last boat of the day brought in around 90 tuna by itself.
I wasn't disappointed, rather I was looking forward to the possibility of another big catch that morning. Around 9:30 a.m. the boats began returning to the docks.
▲ The tuna are unloaded quickly but carefully, so as to avoid damage.
▲ Matsumae Sakura Fishery has 38 ships. To record which boat brought in which catch, tags with the boat's numbers are affixed to each tuna.
Matsumae Sakura Fishery's boats use a "longline" fishing technique and once the tuna are on the deck they are quickly processed. Very quickly. The blood is drained, the nerves are removed, and the internal organs are disposed of before the fish is dropped into a hold filled with ice. The speed at which this task is completed contributes to the great taste of Matsumae Tuna.
▲ "See? By the time we carry em' over here there's no blood at all! That's because of how fast we process em'!"
▲ After recording their size and weight, each fish is put into ice water. The tuna will then be boxed up and shipped across Japan to be sold in various locations.
"The speed with which we process the tuna means that the lean meat stays firm. That lean meat is even more delicious than the fatty portions!" explained a marketplace worker. I asked his tuna recipe recommendation. "Well I'd have to say sashimi, of course!"
I asked the fishermen what they thought of the days catch, and they replied with "Eh, so so..." I can only image what yesterday must have been like.
After taking a short breather the boats that had come in in the morning headed back out to sea. "Are they going out fishing again?" I asked.
"Nah, their headed out to catch some bait (squid) for tomorrow's fishin'"
If you're ever in the supermarket and see the "Matsumae" logo (松前産), be sure to give it a try!
Of course, if you visit Matsumae Town you'll be able to try the delicious fish at many of the local stores, but for those of you who are located a bit farther away, mail order is available! (Please see the link below.) If you want to know what real Hokkaido tuna tastes like, you definitely have to try Matsumae tuna at least once!
Also, Matsumae tuna started shipping single raw tuna, "as is," from their website on October 3rd!
An 8 to 14 kilogram tuna costs between 39,800 and 69,800 Yen. You don't have to dream about preparing tuna in your own home anymore! For those interested, please be sure to check it out at the site below!
(Matsumae Sakura Fishing Cooperative "Kitamae Ship Matsumae")
Mail Order Site: http://www.sakura-maguro.com/ (Japanese)
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)
(Photographs provided by 仙北慎次写真事務所プロボ 仙北慎次)