Saturday, July 05, 2008

Shiohigari (しおひがり)

Shiohigari (しおひがり) is a traditional activity of collecting clams at low tide in Japan. Not by the fishermen, but by ordinary people. Now it becomes one of family leisure activities. It usually starts when the weather is getting warmer, by the end of May; until Autumn is approaching.

Papa-chan is having some short holiday before leaving Japan so last Thursday we planned to have shiohigari. We started early in the morning to avoid working rush hour, but were surprised to see that there were not as many cars as expected. Seemed that nowadays people prefer to take public transportation due to gasoline's high price :p.

We went to Chiba through Tokyo Bay. It was my first time to pass Tokyo Bay Aqua Line, a bridge-tunnel combination that connects Kawasaki in Kanagawa Perfecture and Kisazaru in Chiba perfecture.

Wikipedia says:

The Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line (東京湾アクアライン tōkyō wan akua rain) is a bridge-tunnel combination across Tokyo Bay in Japan. It connects the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture with the city of Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture, and is designated as part of National Route 409. With an overall length of 14 km, it includes a 4.4 km bridge and 9.6 km tunnel underneath the bay - which is the longest underwater tunnel for cars in the world.

At the bridge-tunnel crossover point, there is an artificial island called Umi-hotaru (海ほたる Umi-hotaru), ("sea firefly") with a rest area consisting of restaurants, shops and amusement facilities. Air is supplied to the tunnel by a distinctive tower in the middle of the tunnel (called the Kaze no tō (風の塔)) which uses the bay's almost-constant winds as a power source.

The road opened on December 18, 1997 after 31 years of construction at a cost of 1.44 trillion yen (11.2 billion USD at the time of opening).

There were several shiohigari places in Chiba, and we went to the first one we found ;-). The weather was unfriendly at that time. Weather forecast said that it would be cloudy, but it was REALLY cloudy with AWFULLY strong wind!! There were only four or five cars parked, but it showed that there were other crazy people going to find clams in that kind of weather besides us hahaha. More people were coming later in the afternoon though, which made me wondering how crowded would there be during weekends with fine weather?!

We used a tool called "kumade", a small rake to dig the clams out of the sand. It was really easy and fun. There are four types of clams in that area, but only two of them are edible (because those clams can be cleaned from the sand easily) : asari (Manila clam) and hamaguri (hard clam). The owner also explained us the differences of each clam. Asari has thin vertical stripes. Hamaguri has no vertical stripes but has black dot on the center. The other two types has no vertical stipes and black dot.

This is what we got:

Looking at the bad weather, we planned to spend about 10 minutes only there. But in fact, we spent about two hours digging the sand and collecting clams (how time flied!). We brought home about 2 kgs of clams, and a liter of seawater.
We put all the clams into the seawater at home for several hours to let them spit the sand out of their shells. It was really fun to see them moving and spitting water :p. The clams I usually bought at the Supermarket were not fresh enough to move and spit that active.

I gave some asari to my friends, and that night we had this Asari Miso Soup, and the next day I cooked Asari Gohan from the remain ones (^_^).


Lady in Red said...

Hehe.. That spitting clams look fresh enough to me :D
It's fun to watch them spitting like that as I've never seen any fresher clams than frozen ones :p

Gosh, if you could spent 2 hours in the wind than it must really entertaining, this clam digging activity... I'm surprised to see you guys in shorts and shirts, but I guess it's summer there is it? I'm freezing my ass down here! :D

The Diva said...

iya 2 jam ngumpulin clams!!

Hey I didn't know that clams spit out sand in seawater!!!
Did you have to pay for the clams that you collected or did you just pick them and go home?

I just came back from strawberry picking but I had to pay, because we picked the berries from people's farm, hahahaha.
Lha kalo clams, it's from the sea, so theoretically it's nature, no?
Nobody's property, no?

Aduhhh... I'm drooling... pingin makan clams. Clams are my all-time favorite seafood, do you know that?
Even better than crabs and shrimps lho!!!!
Di Jerman nggak ada picking clams sendiri, hiks...

valens said...

Jadi inget cerita di majalah Donal, si Gober yg ngumpulin sampe di dasar2 laut :D