Saturday, February 23, 2019

Species hunting fun in Japan : Narita.

Our last few days in Japan were spent in the small hot spring town of Shibu Onsen up in the Japanese Alps. On the way there from Osaka we split the journey up with a few hours in Matsumoto to visit its castle and grab some lunch. The castle was spectacular and well worth visiting but unfortunately the restaurant I really wanted to eat in wasn't open so we settled for some fried chicken and a beer near the train station before continuing our journey north.

Matsumoto castle is Japan's oldest original wooden castle. You can take a tour inside too.

Shibu Onsen is famous for its nine hot spring baths that are only available to town residents and guests of the town's traditional Japanese inns via a special key, but there is also a famous snow monkey park where the primates enjoy their own hot spring fed bath only a few miles away from the town. In the morning after our first night in our inn its owner drove us up to the start of the path leading up the valley to the park. Despite there being signs at the visitor center advising that seeing the monkeys wasn't guaranteed they were out in force, no doubt due partly to the fact that the park staff feed them daily.

Snow monkeys relaxing around their own onsen.

After taking a forest walk back to Shibu Onsen we visited a sake museum and then decided to have some lunch before soaking in some of the town's hot springs. Soon sat on the floor of a cosy small restaurant I quickly spotted something on the menu that was a little bit unusual. Basashi is raw horsemeat and it was the dish I had been hoping to try in Matsumoto so I was pleased to see it on the menu and ordered myself some.

I've never tried cooked horse meat before so trying it raw was a bit adventurous perhaps. It's served thinly sliced and is accompanied simply with some freshly grated ginger. It was incredibly good and I'd highly recommend it.

The day before we flew home we made our way back to Tokyo on the bullet train and then caught a local train to Narita where one of Tokyo's two airports is located. Arriving at our hotel Lillian wanted a nap so I jumped on a local train and headed just out of town to have one last attempt at catching some tanago in a drainage canal next to Lake Inbu-numa. I caught a few fish, mostly small bluegills, but sadly I failed to catch any tanago. I did add two new species to my trip tally before light started to fade and I headed back to Narita.

In amongst the bluegills I caught a solitary dusky tripletooth goby...
.. and a few field gudgeon.

With an early flight to catch in the morning we went out in the evening for one last meal in Japan. We decided to try an all you can eat buffet and enjoyed unlimited gyoza, noodles, chicken curry and fried vegetables at a small restaurant called Spiral Staircase which was close to our hotel. The meal came with a massive glass of Asahi and was a great way to end our trip. If you're in Narita it's well worth a visit and at about £14 including the beer and also pancakes and icecream for dessert it was superb value too.

A nice big ice cold beer.

I loved Japan. It was such an amazing trip on so many levels and there were so many things I haven't mentioned in these reports. This is a fishing blog after all. That being said I probably didn't do as much fishing as I would have liked and it was also tough at times but despite that I managed to catch a respectable sixteen species with fifteen of them being new. Here's what I caught.
  1. Bleeker's Wrasse
  2. Bluegill
  3. Common Carp
  4. Darkbanded Rockfish
  5. Dusky Tripletooth Goby
  6. Field Gudgeon
  7. Japanese Horse Mackerel
  8. Japanese Whiting
  9. Marbled Rockfish
  10. Multicolorfin Rainbowfish
  11. Oblong Rockfish
  12. Pearl Spot Chromis
  13. Red Seabream
  14. Short Nosed Tripodfish
  15. Spotnape Ponyfish
  16. Star Bambooleaf Wrasse
Several of the saltwater species I caught were identified using the following book which I would highly recommend if you plan on fishing in Japan. It was bought and sent to me by someone who lives in Japan so getting a copy isn't straight forward.

The title is "Marine fishes of Japan". The book's ISBN is 9784635070256. Well worth the extra effort required to get a copy though.

I'd also like to quickly thank Masa for the advice he gave me while I was in Osaka and Adam for putting me in touch with him. Masa has also promised to meet up with me and take me fishing with him when I return and because Lillian and I had such a great time we have already booked our flights and will be heading back in November again. This time we will be exploring the southwesternmost of Japan’s main islands, Kyushu. It goes without saying some fishing tackle will be going to the land of the rising sun again too. 

Tight lines, Scott.