Fishing with Akihiko
Pictured: Japanese archer on horseback, courtesy of Fuji Film Staff of Minami Ashigara
In the middle of Lake Ashi near the beautiful tourist town of Hakone, Akihiko and I are aboard a small open boat with an outboard engine. Few people know that Lake Ashi is actually a volcanic crater. Extinct I hope! Yes I think it is. Fuji is not and looks very beautiful from here. Her foggy brilliance belying her danger and power. An earthquake in this region would set her fiery bowels aflame, hurtling boulder size volcanic rock and debris for kilometres around and causing the evacuation of the Canadian-like city of Gotemba. Gotemba, is the Abbotsford, BC of Japan. The people of Gotemba don't seem to know this though, but someone should tell them. It is interesting how other places can remind you so much of home at times. I am brought back from by daydream by Akihiko.
"Today we are fishing for salmon," he informs me. "I think you mean trout don't you?" "No salmon, they put salmon in this lake, "he corrects. Apparently the sports fisherman like fishing for salmon, so salmon were added to Lake Ashi. I'm not sure if this is a good idea environmentally, but the fishermen seem happy about it. I end the day with a sunburn, but enjoy the sight of the water and the forest.
It is sunrise on a Sunday morning and Akihiko picks me up, bleary eyed from my one room apartment. It is a beautiful day, and I enjoy the drive through the woods surrounding Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture. The narrow, winding road takes us through a forest filled with large, leafy trees. I finally lose my sense of being in such a crowded country. We could be in Canada or in the European countryside. We finally round a bend and down in a small, rocky valley is the river.
My feelings of being alone in the Japanese countryside are soon dashed as it looks as though everyone in Tokyo has gotten there first. There are clearly demarcated pools with numbers clearly painted on the rocks to delineate which pool each group has been assigned to. This isn't exactly what I had imagined to be fishing in Japan, but I decide to make the best of it. Akihiko turns to me as we get to pool E-13 and says, "The fish will come at 9 o'clock." I laugh heartily. Akihiko can be such a card at times. But at 9 o'clock a large green dump truck rolls up to E-13 and the driver gets out. Papers are signed and the fish are poured into pool E-13. I am astounded. Akihiko wasn't joking. This is fishing in Japan--atleast one kind of fishing.
Our excited compatriots, all friends and colleagues of Akihiko, eagerly start "fishing." Some of the fish are caught and released again into our pool. But as the morning goes on, more and more are caught and put on the barbecue. "Today we are fishing for salmon," Akihiko kids me. And they are small salmon.
I decide to try out my slowly improving Japanese on one of Akihiko's hapless friends. I think I have said, "I used to fish in Canada too." But the woman's reaction is rather strange-- she moves away from me. Akihiko informs me that I said, "In Canada I used to be a pick-pocket too." I stare over at my conversation partner and she is checking the contents of her wallet. Fearing the police will show up at E-13 at any moment, I tell Mariko what I had meant to say. She stills seems wary, so I decide to go back and talk to the fish. They are safer; though they move away from me too.