Focus on the heritage of the hometown with Satoshi Takahashi (Pt. 1): Trawling for the “gift of god”
Japanese photojournalist Satoshi Takahashi, renowned for his photographs of political unrest in Cambodia over the past decade, recently focused on the diverse heritage of his hometown, northern Akita Prefecture. The Mainichi will carry its new series, starting with scenes on a commercial fishing boat chasing the “hatahata” or sandfish with sail, a soul food savored in various ways: grilled, baked and fermented in gravy or dried for preservation.
At 7 a.m., the freezing winter was typical of a Sea of Japan port in Oga City, Akita Prefecture. The trawler I had taken on, the Daihachi Choyo-maru, left Wakimoto harbor, and on the rough waters, the wind picked up and the snow slammed my cheeks.
This is the beginning of the “seasonal hatahata fishery”, which lasts extremely short. Huge schools rise from the seabed to spawn near the coast each year around December, when lightning heralds the onset of the cold season. Folklore states that the creature is a gift from the god of thunder. Seafood is an indispensable part of the local culture.
The fishermen, respecting the ocean, faced the icy and angry waves to bring back the “fish of god”. Tears filled my eyes as I took pictures of this life-threatening expedition, overwhelmed by the steadfast desires of the people of my hometown.
Moored again, the men’s farewell words, “Come back next year,” were spoken in the nostalgic Akita dialect. Their warmth still lingers in my heart.
Yes, I want to revisit them this winter, while wishing for another good catch.
(Japanese original by Satoshi Takahashi)
Satoshi Takahashi was born in Akita City, Akita Prefecture in 1981. Residing in Cambodia from 2007 to 2018, his photos captured Cambodia’s social issues and have been published around the world. In 2019, his publication titled “RESISTANCE” (the subtitle roughly translates to “Cambodians’ unshakable spirit”) won the 38th Domon Ken Award sponsored by Mainichi newspapers.