The Nearshore Beach Fishermen of Yachigashira, Japan:
First Encounters


Coming on this beach scene at dawn was like approaching an impressionist's still life painting: soft colors of boats on a dimly lit beach, and shadowy figures seemingly frozen, but moving slowly through the fading darkness.
In one moment, the static scene sprung to life. Suddenly, I was aware of the dull skidding of wooden hulls being launched surrounding me on both sides, from places I could not yet even see. Like phantoms slipping through the cracks of dawn, the colorful long narrow boats were threading their way out through the openings in the rocks and jetties all along the Yachigashira coast. I was no longer seeing just one or two idle, slowly and deliberately moving fishermen, this whole beach community was coming alive!
(Click to Enlarge)
Over the days that followed, I visited the Yachigashira fishermen many times, and came to understand some of their traditional fishing gear, vessels and ways. Even after many visits though, much remains a mystery to me. Like the rest of Japanese culture, they were unabashed about borrowing modern western ways - electric trolling motors were used along side the traditional flattened "kai" oars - but this is definitely a small scale artisanal fishery that appears to be thriving amidst the hustle and bustle of Hakodate, a modern, sophisticated Japanese city. Nowhere else in the world could you find this contrast!

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Contact:  Fritz Funk (fritzf@alaska.net)