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"AGIYAH", the traditional fishing method of Sarahama

10 o'clock in the morning, Inshano eki Sarahama(Irabu Fishery Cooperative Association facility)is located in Sarahama port of Irabu Island. They are displaying a model of the traditional fishing method "Agiyah" here, we headded here today.

What is "Agiyah"

When I talk to at the office on the second floor, I was taken to the room where a model showing the state of Agiyah fishing was exhibited. While watching the model, a person of the union staff explained to me the fishing method.
The fishing method called Agiyah in the dialect is a traditional Okinawa-based drive fishing with a team of 7 to 8 person, using a long large net and some tools.
They aim for catch a school of fish "Gulukun" (double-lined fusilier), a depth of 20 meters or more offshore.

They go aboard a few small vessels "Sabani" and find a big school of gulukuns, and install a large V-shaped net wall about several hundred meters long on the seabed nearby the school.
Then, fishermen make sounds with a special stick "saffhya", they put a school of fish into the central big net bag, and when the fish gathered enough, they were enshrined by the net and pulled them up.

What is "Gulukun"

Japanese name Takasago, about 25 centimeters in length fish. In Okinawan near sea, they are swarming and inhabit all year round.
Gulukun is designated as a prefecture fish in Okinawa Pref., and is widely used by the people of Okinawa as a delicious white fish which can be eaten at an affordable price. They lined in the storefront, has a red color, but originally has a bluish green body in the sea.

Here in Miyako, it is a traditional cooking method to eat gulukun whole deep-fried.
You can usually see fried gulukuns at the supermarket's prepared food corner, and is an indispensable item especially for events and celebrations.

The Last Agiyah fishing village

Okinawa fishermen 1945 - Okinawa Prefectural Archives

Agiyah fishing seems to have been seen all over Okinawa once, but it is taking place only Sarahama here in Okinawa even now.
In the old days there were no oxygen cylinders or wet suits, they wore wooden goggles and used to dive tens of meters deep.
There were other exhibits such as photographs and old tools in the display facility of the Irabu Fishery co-op, and I was able to know the history of the fishery of Sarahama place.

I left the facility and found a Sabani at the back of the boat landing.
The reason why the body is painted blue is to prevent it from being found when approaching Gulukuns.

A problem with the successors

Agiyah fishing has problems of aging of fishermen and lack of successors with the times.
Currently, 8 to 10 active fishermen are engaged in fishing, and there are 80-year-old active fishermen who are the oldest.
The unions are working to preserve this culture, and will continue to organize events to enhance the exhibition booths and keep them informed.

I just encountered a place where the bonito and tuna are being landed.
They are sorted by size and distributed throughout the island such as those shipped to Okinawa main island, supermarkets within the island, and processors.

"Obanmai Shokudo" offering fresh sashimi dishes

Lunch is served on the first floor of the co-op facility, Obanmai Shokudo, and you can eat dishes around 1,000 yen using fresh fish purchased directly from the co-op such as skipjack and tuna, sashimi set meals and seafood bowls.

Name Inshano eki Sarahama / Obanmai Shokudo
Address 〒906-0000 Sarahama fishing port inside,Irabu Ikenazoe, Miyakojima City MAP
business hours exhibition room(2F) 11:00am〜4:00pm(Mon-Fri)/
Restaurant(1F) 11:00am~3:00pm(irregular holiday)
phone 0980-78-3119(the Irabu Fishery co-op)
Parking Lot plenty
Reference "Sarahama fisherman's day〜Agiyah〜" Sarahama district fishery village activation meeting publishing)