”Onagawa Fish Market” – An important fish market where saury professionals gather

”Onagawa Fish Market”
- An important fish market where saury professionals gather

The importance of the buyers – saury professionals

The fishing industry of Miyagi is No. 2 in Japan, following Hokkaido. There are many famous fishing ports such as Ishinomaki and Kesennuma, and these ports provide us with many kinds of seafood.

On this occasion, we visited Onagawa fishing market. The specialty of Onagawa is, needless to say, saury, a seasonal delicacy of fall. Other fishing ports of Miyagi have different specialties; Kesennuma is famous for pole-and-line bonito, Ishinomaki offers a wide variety of fish caught using ground haul netting, and Shiogama has large landings of tuna, caught in the nearby sea. The fishing boats arrive at the ports, and the fish is sold to the buyers via the fish market. In every fishing port, there are buyers who specialize in each kind of fish.

”Onagawa buys at the highest price”, a fisherman told me. The buyers at Onagawa purchase at higher prices than other fishing ports. So most of the saury fishing boats head for Onagawa. Of course, the buyers at Onagawa are very strict connoisseurs of saury. Each fishing boat tries their best to land the freshest fish, so Onagawa has the best quality of saury. Onagawa ranks among the top 3 in saury landings in the nation.

Gradually adding facilities after the natural disaster

Onagawa used to be a very big fish market, with sales of 17 billion yen per year, but sales gradually declined as eating habits of the Japanese changed. Fish was not being consumed as much, and this had a serious effect on sales. On top of that the Great East Japan Earthquake happened, greatly impacting Onagawa.
According to Kato, the senior managing director of Onagawa Fish Market, who showed us around, ”we lost everything”.
After the disaster, the market reopened somehow, and the fish landings have resumed little by little. However, what was most needed was the refrigerating facilities. Only 30% of the fish landed at Onagawa Port is shipped to other ports as fresh fish. The remaining 70% must be kept frozen for later processing. Therefore large capacity refrigeration system is absolutely essential.
The town was hard hit by the quake, and lost the refrigerating facilities, and landings had to be limited in 2011.

At the time of the visit, the facilities were being re-built little by little. There was construction to build the biggest pier. In October 2012, a large storage facility was built with support from Qatar.
We were shown the brand new facility, and noticed that it was designed to serve as a shelter in case of an emergency, based on lessons learned from the tsunami. Most importantly, the facility was designed to protect lives, so that people can work safely in the coastal areas.

The most delicious way to eat saury fish

“We were able to reopen thanks to the support from all around the nation. We are ever so grateful. But, you know, the best support is having consumers enjoy our fish.” said Kato. So Nakata asked, ”what’s the most delicious way to eat saury?”. ”Sashimi”, he replied.
””Sashimi ”is definitely the best. The fish is so fresh. It tastes better than tuna ”sashimi”! Also, you can chop it in small pieces and mix with green onion and ”miso”, that’s delicious too.”
Hearing him talk made our mouths water. The most basic dish may be grilled saury, and that’s good too, but minced fish balls in soup is also a favorite of the locals. The season for saury runs from early September till late November. There are many people waiting for this delicacy Onagawa is so proud of.


Onagawa Fish Market
87 Miyagasaki aza Miyagasaki, Onagawa-cho, Oshika-gun, Miyagi