By Sherilyn Siy
Do you like squid? Well, the people of the Oki Islands do! Many Japanese visitors enjoy feasting on sweet, slimy squid here in Oki and some visitors from overseas do too! Even if you don’t like eating squid, there are many places where you can go “squid hunting” in Nishinoshima!
Yurahime Shrine is located just a five minute walk from Urago Port. Here you can visit Yurahime-no-mikoto (the god of fishing) and search for squid in the harbor, in the forest and in the carvings around the shrine. The fishing industry is very important to the people of Nishinoshima, and so is this shrine. It is said that squid come into this harbor during autumn – winter every year to greet the fishing god. There have been occasions when hundreds and thousands of small squid have come into the harbor – finders keepers! Many local fishermen have made a lot of money selling these squid. Giant Dotari-ika (10 – 20 kg) also come into the harbor in pairs. It is said if you catch the female first, you will also be able to catch the male (because he is loyal and searches for his partner), but if you catch the male first, the female will swim away! There are many interesting tales of fishing and mythology in Nishinoshima.
The local town mascot is called Kacchan. She is very popular with the locals, and tourists think she is super cute. Maybe you will meet her in Nishinoshima? Wherever you go, you will see squid characters on manhole covers, bus stops, public toilets, local buses etc. Even if you do not like eating squid, I am sure the many squid-characters around town will make you smile. Pick up a souvenir sticker or buy a squid-design polo shirt from the Nishinoshima Tourism Association office at Beppu Port. www.nkk-oki.com (TEL 08514-7-8888).
How about making your own squid snacks? There are many local women who love teaching visitors how to slice up a squid, dry it in the sun, and make dried squid snacks known as ichiya-boshi (soft dried snack) or surume (hard, chewy dried snack). This hand-on activity costs 1000yen and can be booked through the Nishinoshima Tourism Association
If you want to sample some squid delicacies, then stay at one of the local minshuku, ryokan or hotels. In the autumn and winter, when squid are in abundance, you can enjoy raw squid sashimi, fried squid and many other delicious treats. I recommend you stay at Oki Seaside Hotel Tsurumaru. The hotel serves excellent meals made with local ingredients (not just squid, but a large array of fresh fish, seafood and Oki beef) and they are located right by the sea. http://oki- tsurumaru.com/ (TEL 08514-6-1111).
While squid might not be your favorite thing, the interesting squid all around the island will make you smile, and give you something to remember your trip to the Oki Islands by!
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