Apprehension clashed with excitement as the shop master laid the plate of sashimi before me. Less than 5 minutes ago it had been a living, swimming fish. The fish’s head, put on the plate for decoration and to demonstrate the freshness and quality, still gave the occasional jerk. The first bite of the chewy, slightly fatty but very flavorful fish erased my apprehension.
“Would you like to try some of this fuka also?” asked the shop master holding up a small shark by the tail. I nodded my assent.
Kametani Live and Fresh Fish
One would expect to find the freshest sushi possible at the Tsukiji Fish Market or some other similar venue, but I was surprised when I found the equal of Tsukiji at a countryside store deep in the mountains of Nara.
Salted and bamboo skewered fish roasted over a small coal fired grill outside a small store in Nara Prefecture’s Dorogawa Onsen. A tank full of pan-sized amago, a type of Japanese trout, on the side of building alerted me to the presence of something unique. After a word from a group of customers the store owner fished one of the amago out of the tank with a net, brought it to the kitchen and killed, filleted, sliced and plated it up.
“Amai!”[That’s excellent] burst out the customers once they’d taken a bite. “Don’t even look at it! It’s our fish!” The leader of the group teased. A tight schedule prevented me from ordering my own plate of sashimi but the memory brought back 3 months later.
The fish’s meat had changed from its summertime salmon color to a pinkish white color taken on as the fish fatten up for winter. The meat was chewier and less sweet than it would be during the summer but it was still delicious. The best sashimi I’ve ever had.
“The fish come from a farm in the river just down the valley from here,” the shop master informed me. “They’re not wild but they’re close.”
The only way to get sashimi fresher than that is to turn Smeagol and, “Give it to us raw, and wriggling!”
Kametani Live and Fresh Fish is in the town of Dorogawa Onsen far from any train line. Without a car one has to catch the bus from Kintetsu Shimoichiguchi Station in Nara Prefecture’s Oyodo-cho. The hour and ten minute bus ride costs ￥1,280. There are only 9 departures per day during the week and 10 per day weekends and holidays. Return trips number 6 per day during the week and 7 per day weekends and holidays.