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The Sustainable “Great Lakes”
The Five Lakes of Mikata, Mihama Town & Wakasa Town
May 22nd, 2017
by Yuri Iwasaki

Located just a 40 minutes’ drive south from Tsuruga Station, you’ll find the Mikata Goko (the Five Lakes of Mikata) within the Wakasa Wan Quasi-National Park. Yes, these majestic lakes are beautiful to look at, but there is more to them than meets the eye. Read on to find out more…Looking at them, you will notice that the lakes are different colors. Another mysterious name for them is “the Lakes of Five Colors.” This is caused by the varying levels of salinity and ratios of fresh water, brackish water and sea water in each lake. It is this variation that gives each lake unique characteristics, especially in relation to fishing and local traditions.

However, the Five Lakes of Mikata were not exempt from the environmental pollution which resulted from rapid economic growth. They also had to face the destruction of ecosystems caused by alien species that careless fishermen released. Traditional fisheries of the Five Lakes of Mikata attract experts on environmental issues as ideal models for sustainable societies.

Let’s see the traditional fishing style and culture of each lake.

Mikata Lake, which is the second largest of the five, is known for groups of local fishermen catching carp in a most unusual way. Visiting it in the early winter morning, you will see them hitting the surface of the lake and making big splashes. In this way, they make the fish slow down so that they can be more easily caught in the nets. This method, which originated in the early 20th Century, is called Tataki-Ami: “Tataki” means “to hit” and “Ami” means “net.” Team work is essential for successful fishing of this style because four or five fishermen work together to chase carp into nets. Spend some time watching the fishermen at work and you will see carp being caught fresh out of the water, right before your eyes.

Suigetsu Lake and Suga Lake are well-known habitats for a tasty Japanese delicacy: eels. Usually, eels live in fresh water, but uniquely, these lakes have a mixture of fresh and salt water, which has a surprising effect on the eels; these conditions produce eels that not only taste better, but are also less smelly when cooked! Fishermen use a traditional method of catching them; they place bamboo tubes down into the water to trap the eels, because they know that eels like to hang out in narrow spaces. Since fish hooks are not used in this method, there is less chance of the eels being damaged when they are caught. If small eels get trapped, they can easily be released back into the water, to help sustain the eel population.

Clams live in Kugushi Lake, and from late summer to fall you can watch fishermen wade into the water looking for them, using traditional methods. They scrape the bottom of the lake with a special rake that has a bucket attached, collecting the clams. Clam shells have been unearthed during archaeological digs here, indicating that people fished for clams as early as the Jomon era (approximately 3rd to 5th Century BC). Things don’t get much more traditional than that!

In mid-January every year, Hiruga Lake is the scene of the Suichu Tsunahiki, a 380-year-old traditional festival where local men jump into the water to compete in a tug-of-war competition. This is where the lake meets Wakasa Bay, and crowds come from all around to witness this popular festival. The folk tale says ancient people placed a thick net in the water to capture a giant snake that appeared from the lake. This tug-of-war festival is the most important event for locals to pray for successful fishing and happiness of families.

The number of fisheries in the Five Lakes of Mikata is decreasing, as is the number of fishermen who maintain traditional fishing methods. Local communities encourage people to eat more fish and shell fish in order to preserve the environment of the lakes. There are plenty of fish restaurants dotted all around the five lakes, making it very easy for you to sample local seasonal fish dishes. These include grilled eels, carp and crucian carp cooked in a pot or served raw as sashimi. You can eat all these, safe in the knowledge that the foods are fished locally using traditional methods, which contribute to the sustainability of these wonderful lakes.

[ 抄訳 ]
敦賀駅から車で40分のところに三方五湖という5つの湖が若狭湾国定公園にある。もちろん、見るだけでも大変美しい湖であるが、それ以上の魅力がある。続きを読んでみてほしい。

海に近いために海水、汽水、淡水と湖ごとに水質が異なり、そのために湖面の色が微妙に異なって見えると言われ、五色の湖という神秘的な別名もつけられている。この水質の違いによって、それぞれの湖に個性があり、漁法や地域の伝統にその特徴が出ている。

しかし三方五湖でも現在、経済成長の代償としての水質の悪化、心ない釣り人が放流した外来種による生態系の乱れといった問題が起こっている。その中で、魚を捕りすぎない三方五湖の伝統的な漁法は、環境の専門家たちから「持続可能な社会の形成モデル」として評価が高まっている。

それぞれの湖の漁法などを見てみよう。

冬の朝に二番目に大きい三方湖を訪れると、漁師たちが背丈よりも長い竹ざおを水面にたたきつけているシーンに出くわす。「ばっしゃーん」という大きな音とともに、朝もやが立ちこめる湖面から水しぶきが上がる。「たたき網漁」と呼ばれる伝統的な漁法で、冷たい水の中で動きが鈍くなったコイやフナを驚かせて網に追い込む。20世紀初めに始まったと言われる。漁師は5人ほどのチームで獲物を追い込むため、漁の成功にはチームワークが欠かせない。漁師たちが水面をたたき続けるうちに、目の前で獲物が釣れるのが見られるかもしれない。

水月湖と菅湖は夏から秋にかけてウナギがよく捕れる。ウナギの蒲焼きは人気の和食として広く知られている。ウナギは一般的に淡水域の魚だが、水月湖、菅湖は海水と淡水が入り交じった独特の環境。そのためにウナギが食べるえさもほかの産地とは異なり、水月湖、菅湖のウナギは臭みが少なくてうま味があると有名で、県内外から多くの観光客が湖畔のウナギ料理店に訪れている。水月湖と菅湖では、狭い場所を好むウナギの習性を生かして筒を湖底に沈めておくという、昔ながらの漁法でウナギを捕っている。針を使わないのでウナギの体が傷みにくく、小さなウナギをそのまま返すことができて資源保護にもなるのだ。

久々子湖では夏の終わりから秋にかけてシジミが捕れる。漁師たちは胸まで湖に入って、熊手の先にカゴをつけた特注の漁具で湖の底をひっかくようにシジミを捕る。三方五湖の湖畔にある縄文時代(紀元前5~3世紀ごろ)の遺跡からシジミの貝殻が数多く出土している。この地では、太古から人々の暮らしとシジミは密接に関わってきた。

唯一、海とつながる日向湖では、約380年前から続いている伝統行事「水中綱引き」が、今も受け継がれている。毎年1月中旬、湖と湾をつなぐ冷たい運河に地域の男たちが橋の上から飛び込み、わらで編んだ太い綱を水中で引きちぎる勇壮な祭だ。その昔、湖に現れた大蛇を退治するための大きな綱を張ったことにゆかりがあるとも言われ、1年間の豊漁と家族の無事を祈る地域で1番大切な行事となっている。

三方五湖の漁獲量は年々減少し、それに伴って伝統漁法を守る漁師も減っている。地元で数年前からは積極的に湖の魚や貝を食べることを通じて、湖の環境や伝統を守ろうとする動きが起こっている。地元の環境保全団体の一つはコイやフナを美味しく食べるレシピを作り、子供たちにその味に親しんでもらおうとしている。湖周辺の飲食店でも、季節ごとの魚を提供しているので、旅行者でもフナやコイの煮付けや刺身、ウナギの蒲焼きを味わうことができる。食を楽しみつつ、伝統を受け継ぐ日本の漁師の姿に思いをはせてみてはいかがだろうか。


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