Dear Friends,

A few months ago, a former co-worker virtually introduced me to a wonderful couple. After a few email messages, it was my pleasure, two weeks ago, to meet M and E at Starbucks for coffee and tea, then an hour later, traipse to a nearby traditional Japanese restaurant in Kayabacho for a traditional lunch of miso soup, fish (saba), rice, tofu and green tea.

We spoke of many things, but most importantly that M is a professional fisherman, has traveled all over the world fishing, has a fishing company in Tokyo, and goes fishing every weekend. They invited me to join them at their weekend home in Chiba (two minutes on foot from the beach, and two hours by bus from Tokyo), an invitation which I accepted with much enthusiasm. (You may remember on my twelve things to do wish list that I posted in March, number eight was to go deep-sea fishing: http://lettersfromval.com/2012/03/21/my-last-first/ ).

At eight o’clock on Friday morning, I met M‘s employee H, at Tokyo Station, and we rode the bus together to Chiba to stay at M and E‘s home. At Tokyo Station, when I reached for cash to pay for my ticket, H informed me that M had already taken care of my roundtrip ticket. When I asked why, she told me that’s how people host in Japan, to which I replied that’s not how we host in America. If you come over for the weekend, you better pay your own way, and bring a gift. A good one.

M picked us up at the bus station at ten, and drove a few minutes to where he and some of his other employees were trolling for crabs. Catching crabs, it turns out, isn’t a pretty business. They cut off the heads of fish, stake them, and tie them to a stick. Seems crabs like fish blood.


H and I left the guys looking for crabs to explore Oko no Shima, an island a minute away. Approaching the island, Lord of the Flies kept running through my mind. The island had a forbidden look; one you wouldn’t want to get stranded on with any unruly schoolchildren. I figured I wouldn’t starve– I could fish and eat crabs, but then what? Thankfully, after we toured the island for an hour or so, we were able to leave it.

Touring the island with H was great fun, because she, like me, gets pleased and amazed about the size of tree trunks, that “shells” are alive and moving in the water, that the sea ranges from crystal to midnight blue, and that nature puts us in our place.

On Saturday morning, we woke up at 5am, after a somewhat late evening of chatting. The first words I wrote in my journal were, “It’s 5am. I don’t want to be a fisherman.” The early morning rise so crucial to fishing is antithetical to all that I believe in. (And, I only believe in three things!) Yet, I dragged myself off my futon, and vowed to be quiet until I could put a decent sentence together that didn’t include the words, “Want. Bed. Go Back.”

The minute we reached the port, I knew it’d be an amazing day. The sky, expansive and blue. Seagulls in full flight. A slight breeze rising off the water. An old man, sitting on a stool, slowly cutting his pink fishing net. A row of fishing boats waiting for their owners to take them to sea. If you’ve fished, and enjoyed it, you know the rush and the excitement you feel when there’s resistance on your line. When you reel the line in, and see several fish, it’s thrilling. There was a moment when I felt a bit guilty, as in: I’m killing these creatures, but then the thoughts that tumbled behind were: I’m not going to stop eating fish, if the disciples were fishermen, it can’t be all that bad, and everything has to die at some point, let’s just make it painless.

After the five of us caught a sizable number of fish, and it started drizzling a bit, we decided to pack it in and head back to shore. It was 10am, so we went back to the house to sleep for a few hours.

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Let’s flash forward:

E, Y, and M, worked as a team to clean, prepare, and cook the day’s catch(es). They fileted, and souped, and steamed, and sashimied, and sauteed, all things crab and fish. They made a feast; a delicious, bounteous seafood feast.

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As the evening wound down, M put on some Norah Jones, bottles of Nabeshima and sho-chu were opened, and E fried some thin strips of fish. To say the evening was delightful, filling in all aspects, and a wonderful treat, would be an understatement. M told me the important thing about fishing is to “Be easy. Be gentle. Be slow,” the reward comes.

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See you soon,

Val