Asking for travel ideas [Utsumicholocal: Kei Nakao]
Hello, this is Kei Nakao from the Port Editorial Office. I live in Utsumicho, a town that lays on two islands, Tashima and Yokoshima, found in the southern part of Fukuyama City where I work with my husband doing editing and design. Utsumicho is a tiny town with a population of just 2,500 people that merged with Fukuyama in 2003. It only takes about an hour to do a complete circuit of its streets by car. The main industry here is fishing, and there is also a strong influence from the shipbuilding trade in Numakumacho on the opposite shore. The best thing about Utsumicho is that it hasn’t gone completely over to tourism yet. As long as you can find a spot, it’s definitely somewhere I would recommend going to live or stay for an extended period. I personally became accustomed to the lingo and lifestyle here after coming here to my husband’s hometown when we married. Here I’m going to introduce 10 things I learned about that I recommend trying in Utsumicho.
1. Walking the streets of the islands
The truth is that the roads running around the circumference of the islands are newer streets built by reclaiming the coastline as cars became more prevalent. The narrow lanes running through the islands are the main streets used by the locals. Back before there were bridges to the mainland, there were apparently enough tofu makers, bakeries, hardware stores, dye shops, bath houses, theaters, and other shops that the economy was pretty self-sufficient here. While things are a bit quieter compared to those days, it’s fun to walk around and imagine what life must have been like back in livelier times based upon the traces of the past that remain.
2. Go where the locals gather
Utsumicho still has several shops that hearken back to the days of yesteryear. As far as ones that would be easiest for someone not from the area to visit, I would have to say “Seiju-mise”, a business on Yokoshima that is open from 9 in the morning until 7 at night and serves as a convenience store for the island. It’s nice to pick up some ice cream in the summer (or a hot drink in winter) from them and sit on the stepped pier while taking in the sea. The conversation of the friendly ladies there is fun, too.
3. Buy fresh seafood from the fishermen
Utsumicho has enjoyed a thriving fishing industry since the days of old. There are still many fishermen here today, which means it’s possible to come across all kinds of fruits of the sea all year round. In spring you can find squid, asari, and big fish like sea bream or flounder caught with fixed shore nets, while from summer to winter there’s shrimp, crab, and small fish like nebuto sardines. Fall also sees a good turnout of pike conger and hairtail, while winter is the time for harvesting nori. You can buy fresh catches directly from the fishermen at places like the “Torepichi Live Fish Market” in Hakozaki, the fishing district of Tashima, or the Fisherman’s Shore Sale in Yokoshima. The markets might be cancelled if the weather is too poor for the fishermen to go ply their trade, so it’s apparently best to check their respective homepages before heading out to make they’re still going.
4. Go fishing
Seeing all that fresh fish naturally makes one curious about just how the fishermen bring in their catch. There are two kinds of fishing industries in Utsumicho, and it’s possible to hitch a ride on tourist boats for both of them. On Tashima you can experience fixed net fishing in April and May, and in Yokoshima they have trawl fishing. Another bonus is being able to sample some delicious fishing town cuisine after seeing how the locals work firsthand.
●Yokoshima fishery cooperative（TEL：084-986-2008）
5. Experience life on the islands
Part of the charm of Utsumicho is the lifestyle. In the south district of Tashima is an abandoned field that has now become a community farm known as the “373 Farmer’s Association”. You can find the association there at work during the morning hours of Saturday each week. Anyone is welcome to join in at any time, and after some invigorating work, everyone splits up the day’s harvest of fruits and vegetables before heading home.
●373 Farmer’s Association
*Held every Saturday 9 in the morning until 12
●Utsumicho Umibe no Tenkomori Ichi (Local Market)
6. Find out how nori is made
If you’re already out here on the islands, why not take home a suitably local souvenir? As it happens, Utsumicho boasts the greatest yield of nori in all of Hiroshima Prefecture. There are eight nori makers in Utsumicho, and one of them, Maruko Fishery, has a direct sales shop where visitors can not only select from a diverse lineup of dried seaweed, but also find answers to any questions they might have about nori. During the nori season, which runs from around late December to mid-March, the Maruko also hosts tours of their nori harvests and production areas from time to time.
7. Enjoy some of the greatest views in the world
Every island in the Setouchi Inland Sea is guaranteed to have at least one spot with an amazing view. In Tashima this would be “Ikoi no Mori” (the forest of rest). There you’ll find plenty of sakura trees, so it’s also a choice place for doing hanami. It also provides a commanding view of the Utsumi Ohashi Bridge. In Yokoshima the the best spot is “Kiriishiyama”. You can even see the Shikoku Mountains across the see from there on exceptionally clear days. The bay of Tashima and Yokoshima also offers some scenery you won’t likely find elsewhere. The best way to view it is to go to the “Akasagarbha(Kokuuzoubosatsu)”.
8. Savor the island cuisine
If you’re starting to feel hungry, then head to “zono kitchen” an Italian restaurant on Tashima. All of the dishes made by Harazono-san, who had a long stint of experience as an owner/chef in Tokyo before moving to Utsumicho, draw out the flavor of their ingredients to the fullest. He uses local foodstuffs as much as possible in the hopes of creating an eatery that brings the diner and producers as close together as possible, to the point that sometimes fishermen come with their catch straight from the service entrance. Depending on the season, zono kitchen also offers a lunch + stand-up paddleboard experience by advanced reservation.
Inquiry response time：11:00〜20:00（closed Wednesday）
9. Befriend the fishermen
I would recommend that anyone who has come to Utsumicho but has yet to meet any of the fishermen pay a visit to the “Utsumi Fishermans Fest”, which launched in April 2019. Here the fishermen that you probably don’t get much interaction with normally take center stage. Visitors can speak with the fishermen while having them cook their fresh seafood “hama-yaki” style, which refers to cooking the seafood straightaway on shore. Make friends with them and you can even name your price for them to catch some seasonal fish next time you come with friends. Maybe it’s just me, but it all makes for quite a fun life.
10. Sit back and enjoy the sunsets
While it isn’t part of the islands, “Café 59” on Numakuma-cho across the Utsumi Ohashi Bridge on the mainland is somewhere I definitely recommend checking out on the way home. It’s open from afternoon until sunset, and is the perfect place to treat yourself with coffee while watching the sea, sky, and look of the islands change as the day comes to a close.
There are still plenty of seasonal spots, events, people, and shops in Utsumicho that I have yet to introduce here. Many other new and interesting things are sure to pop up, too. I hope you all provide me with updates each time you come and visit the area.
[How to access Utsumicho]
Fukuyama Ekimae – Tenman (Tomotetsu Bus via Seto “Utsumi Nokyo Mae”, platform 6)
●Time: @47 minutes
●Fare: 750 yen
Fukuyama Ekimae − Utsumi Town
●Time: @32 minutes
Fukuyama Ekimae – Utsumicho
●Time: @32 minutes
Translation: Luke Baker