More than just a fishing trip
THE fishing boat Matsushin Maru No. 5, carrying about 20 passengers including parents and children, sails out from Katana fishing port at the southern end of the Chita Peninsula, Aichi Prefecture, at 8am.
We are here to fish for kisu Japanese whiting. The sandy waters they inhabit mean there is little risk of our fish hooks getting caught on rocks, so it is easy even for beginners to catch them.
The boat proceeds on the calm sea and reaches a point about 300m off the coast. It is difficult for me to bait my hook with a wormlike creature, but I manage and drop the fishing line into the sea. I cannot seem to get anything to bite, though.
Captain Koichi Ushida, 53, moves the boat elsewhere after 30 minutes. He knows the sea very well, and seeks out an optimum spot for fishing, taking into consideration the topography of the seabed and the water temperature of the day.
About an hour after the fishing starts, children's cheerful voices can be heard.
"I caught a fish!" says primary school student Chisho Kitai, 12, who is on the tour with his family from Suzuka, Mie Prefecture. "I caught four!" Captain Ushida also looked pleased.
After fishing for about three hours, we enjoy a seafood barbecue on the boat.
Unpeeled shrimps, whole aji horse mackerel and large asari Japanese littleneck clams - the region's speciality - are among the fare prepared in advance. We grill the local seafood on a table equipped with a stove.
As the number of whiting caught usually varies among participants, the catch is intended to be taken home.
I devour the freshly grilled seafood while enjoying the sea breeze and picturesque coastline. Small islands drift back into view above the ocean. The four-hour ride has gone by in a flash.
The sea fishing tour and deck barbecue were conceived by Takehiro Matsushita, 53, the owner of the vessel. He started the tour about 20 years ago, while working as a cook at a minshuku inn run by his father.
The concept was sparked by memories of his primary school days, when he used to make pocket money catching ainame greenling and kasago marbled rockfish, using a rod made with bamboo from a neighbouring forest.
"I want lots of kids to know the excitement of a fish taking the bait for the first time, as well as the feeling of the fish splashing," says Mr Matsushita. He combined his childhood memories with his experience as a cook to devise this fishing tour idea.
At his inn, I am treated to the subtle, refined flavour of the freshly caught whiting made into tempura. Eating fresh seafood is the special privilege of those who fish, and catching them was easier than I had expected. I would like to join the tour again and bring my family.
Take the Meitetsu Kowa Line to Kowa Station, from which you can get a Chita Bus to Shinmorozaki, which takes about 25 minutes. The port is a one-minute walk from the bus stop.
The ships operate all year round - with kisu whiting fishing between May and July; aji horse mackerel between August and November, and kasago marbled rockfish between December and April. The schedule may change depending on sea conditions. Reservations are necessary, and the ship sails when five or more people sign up.
The price is 9,000 yen (S$105) for adults and 8,000 yen for primary school students and younger children on weekends and national holidays.
There is a 500-yen discount per person on weekdays. Fees include taxes and fishing gear rental. For more information, call Matsushin at (0569) 63-1173.
OTHER ON-DECK BBQs
You can enjoy similar on-deck barbecues elsewhere in Japan. Reservations are necessary.
Matoya Bay, Mie
Participants can eat seafood, such as Ise ebi lobsters, while enjoying the deeply chiselled jagged coastline. The boat operates when there are five or more customers. For more information, contact Daito Maru Kanko at (0599) 57-2121.
Suruga Bay, Shizuoka
This tour features a feast of horse mackerel while at sea with a view of Mount Fuji. The boat can be booked for groups of 15 passengers or more. Contact Chidori Kanko Kisen Co. at (055) 943-2221.
Naha Port, OkinawaThis tour offers a barbecue mainly of meat, such as the local pineapple-fed pork, while taking in the sunset and night views. It operates from May to September. Contact West Marine at (098) 866-0489.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK