Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Eating an ecosystem

The Christmas/New Year blogapause seems to be ending around the world. Japan doesn't really do Christmas (although parents of young children increasingly give them some toys "from Santa-san"), with the holiday focussed instead on the start of January. We've just spent a few days on the local sub-tropical paradise of Oshima, cycling a little and eating a lot.

Although Oshima (also written Ohshima) is technically part of Tokyo City, we headed off in the opposite direction towards Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture, where the most convenient ferry runs from. The boat is some sort of hydrofoil thing that sounded and felt more like a plane.

We were staying in posh hotel in a famous seafood area, so of course they pushed the boat out for our first dinner - and scoured the rock pools too, it seems. We counted 15 distinct species, more than half of which were shellfish. Each of us was wholly responsible for 8 deaths, and had a part share in many more. The piece of resistance was some abalone thing flipped on its back and cooked alive over a naked flame. Of course having dropped a live lobster and bags of mussels into boiling water I've no real excuse to be squeamish but it wasn't the most appetising thing to see at the table. It didn't even taste of much (yes, we ate them). By the end of the meal, the table resembled nothing so much as a battlefield strewn with corpses.

I didn't take my camera to dinner that night, but here's what we ate on a subsequent evening.

Yes, that thing at the right hand edge is a whole fish, sliced up into sashimi which was neatly arranged on the remains of its body. It felt like we'd been served the set dinner for 12, and the breakfasts were similar (but thankfully a little smaller, with a higher proportion of it cooked).

The cycling was fun - the New Year holiday is a great time for a short cycling holiday in Japan (outside of the seriously snowy regions) because it's the one time that the roads are pretty much guaranteed to be clear. The downside is that many hotels and restaurants etc are closed, but with a bit of planning (and the foresight to always carry some food!) that need not be an insurmountable problem. On our first day, we climbed up and round the main volcano - Miharayama (which last erupted in 1986, causing a 1-month evacuation of the island) - and then on the following day circumnavigated the whole island (all 45km of it, but it's fairly hilly).

Lots of blue sky on this day, but it was windy (this was on the lee side of the island, hence the lack of waves) and rather cold!

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