Friday, November 23rd, 2001

Another beautiful day today; we’ve had a string of four or five days with clear, deep blue skies, lots of sunshine, and temps in the sixties. They keep telling me that we’ll be up to our noses in snow any minute now, and that the earthquakes knock you right off your feet, but what have we had so far? A flurry that hardly amounted to a dusting and two temblors that hardly slopped the water our of our glasses. Feh. There. That ought to jinx me good.

We went a couple miles south to Shimoda today to do a little shopping, some of it for us, some of it for Christmas gifts, thank goodness. Sean gets wound so tight about buying gifts that his head just about pops off and flies spinning high into the air; I think we loosened him up a bit with this trip. In one store I bought a set of soup bowls the size of bathtubs, porcelain soup spoons, and tiny little dishes that you pour soy sauce into for dipping. When I brought my meager purchases to the cashier’s counter, three check-out girls rushed to attend to me with many thank-yous and much bowing. I’ve never been to Tiffany’s my darned self, but I’ll bet the service there is shabby in comparison to this common department store. With three of them working furiously, it still took them at least five minutes to wrap them in more newspaper than you usually find in a Sunday edition of the New York Times.

Christmas shopping in Shimoda | 9:39 am CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags: , , ,
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Saturday, November 10th, 2001

Picture a shallow pool filled with about 200 salmon, big ones, about ten-pounders. A siren sounds, and about a hundred people jump into the water and try to catch the salmon with their hands. That’s the Shimoda Salmon Festival, our latest cross-cultural experience.

Shimoda’s just a little way from here, so we figured if we bundled Tim up tight and brought along a change of clothes to keep him warm and dry, he’d be all right. The air was brisk all day, but when the sun came out it was toasty warm, and the Japanese had little fires going all over the site where you could stop and warm your hands or any other part of you that had gotten wet. There was also plenty of yummy festival food to warm you up from the inside.

Catching the fish was lots of fun. At least that’s the way we felt about it; I’m sure the salmon felt differently. They all crowded into the far side of the pool as we lined up along the edge, so they must’ve known something was up. When the crowd waded into the water, the salmon went absolutely batshit and took off in all directions, slamming into our feet hard enough that I thought somebody was kicking me. Sooner or later they stop for a breather, though, and that’s when you reach down and yank them out of the water. Grabbing them by the tail seemed to work best, although a couple people put the fish in a bear hug. You could spot the experienced fishermen in the crowd, hooking their fingers in salmon’s gill slits.

We left about ten in the morning and had such a good time we didn’t get home until about four that evening, when we were faced, of course, with CLEANING THE FISH. I’d paid about ten bucks to have some farmer’s wives clean them for me, but their idea of cleaning fish and mine are worlds apart. My method leaves behind neat, clean fillets prepared with tender loving care; theirs is a high-speed hacking, and the gore-smeared fillets look more like the victims of a sociopathic axe murderer than a meal. Barb and I spent about an hour cleaning and wrapping, after which we put a really big fillet under the broiler and sat down to salmon and rice at about supper time. Delicious stuff.

[Julie Arnzen wrote:] Oh you found the Salmon Festival. Isn’t it FUN! Have we ever told you about our trip? We went along with our lovely Japanese landlords who decided to treat us to lunch whilst we were there, you know those food stalls they have there, well they treated us to squid on a stick, the biggest tentacles you have ever seen too, and couldn’t possibly turn it down and be impolite, so we ate it, all except PJ who quite loud enough for our hosts to hear, said OH YUCK! PJ and I did the catching of the fish, or at least I attempted to, but fell in, tripping over a heap of bouncing fish, got completely soaked and a few days later was treated for pneumonia ha! but we did actually come home with a fish too, ours bit right through the plastic bag that it was placed in, they’re pretty tough fish! taste good though.

Shimoda Salmon | 6:41 am CST
Category: daily drivel, festivals, travel | Tags: , ,
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