I paid a quick visit to Washo Ichiba, a sizeable fish market in Kushiro near the city hall. Some of the best and freshest seafood in Japan comes from Hokkaido, and there's plenty of it here. Many of the stalls at Washo Ichiba sell shoyu-cured ikura (salmon roe) made from locally-caught fish (duh). I desperately wanted to bring a jar of ikura back with me to Kyoto, but I still had a week more of traveling, so I had to pass.
Salmon spawning season is almost over, and the salmon in the photo above were the last of the autumn salmon – huge, clear-eyed blue-silver specimens lying gawk-eyed on tables. According to one of the fishmongers at Washo Ichiba, this year’s salmon season was ending a little later than usual, possibly because of the recent weather. Likewise, the sanma (Pacific saury) season is also past its regular peak time. It's a recurring theme I hear from people in the fishing industry while I'm in Hokkaido. Climate change is taking its toll and disrupting the seasons in very tangible ways.
I really liked Washo Ichiba, and spent a few happy hours there eating and chatting with the fishmongers, who were genuinely friendly and very opinionated. Every vendor I spoke with answered all of my questions with a barrage of opinions and information. Living in Kyoto, I rarely visit fish markets, but this was pretty unmissable while in Hokkaido. I came away from my visit realizing how little I know about the seasons, the varieties of fish, and seafood in general, and wishing I could stay longer in Kushiro.
KUSHIRO WASHO ICHIBA
13-25, Kurogane cho