• 養殖職人の体力を支えるあおさのパワー

    荒々しい海では育たず、海流が穏やかな内海で育つ繊細な海藻「あおさ」。

    この性質を利用して、あおさの養殖をはじめたのが、美しいリアス式海岸で知られる、三重県志摩市です。

    志摩市の代表的なリアス式海岸である英虞湾(あごわん)は、陸地に近づくにつれ波が穏やかになり、静かな日はまるで湖のような神々しい静けさになります。

    あおさの収穫も最終期を迎えた4月、その英虞湾であおさ養殖職人の2代目をつとめる、田端圭一さんを訪ねました。

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    穏やかな英虞湾の内海に、竹の柱のようなものが、規則正しく埋っています。実はここが、あおさ養殖の現場。

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    この竹の間に、太いロープでできた網を渡します。その網にあおさが絡み付いて育つのです。

    養殖は毎年8月ごろから始まります。 あおさのゆりかごとなる網を、30枚ほど重ねてあおさのタネをつけます。 あおさは英虞湾の静かな波の満ち引きとともに、夏から秋にかけて ゆっくりと育ちます。

    その間、田端さんは毎日様子を見にきては、30枚の重なった網を、少しずつ、最後は1枚になるまではがしていきます。 網をはがすタイミングを見極めるのが職人の技。あおさが大きく育つ前に はがしてしまうと、上手く育たないのです。

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    海水がたっぷり染み込んだ太くて重いあおさ養殖用の網を ゆっくりとはがす作業は重労働です。

    そして収穫作業は1月中旬から4月初頭。 身を切るような厳しい寒さの中、たっぷりとあおさがついた重い網を持ち上げ、ボートに積み込む田端さん。 収穫の時期は、朝の5時30分から夕方まで休む暇なく作業に没頭するのです。

    さて、収穫したあおさは、まず摘み取り機で網から外します。

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    枯葉などのゴミを取り除き、洗います。

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    その後水を飛ばして、脱穀機でほぐします。 そして乾燥。乾燥機で7時間、水分を取り除き、はじめて商品になるのです。

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    ここまでの作業はすべて手作業。 田端養殖場では、圭一さんとお母さんの2人でこの作業をこなします。

    「収穫の時期は1日も休みがありません。でも、自分の作ったあおさが 高い評価をもらった時は嬉しいですね。」と田端さん。 この美しい英虞湾で、どこにも負けないあおさをもっとたくさん作りたい、と語ってくれました。

    さらに田端さん、最近は牡蠣のブランド化にも力を入れており、驚くような大きく身のしまった牡蠣を「華牡蠣」として売り出しています。

    あおさや牡蠣の養殖、そして夏は趣味のサーフィンにも精を出す、元気いっぱいの田端さん。 「風邪ですか?ひいたことないですよ(笑)」

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    その体力を支えているのは、もちろん、あおさ。 手軽にあおさを取れるお味噌汁。さらに「あおさそのものの味がよく分かりますよ」と、田端さんお勧めの食べ方、天ぷらや三杯酢。

    海の男の体力を支えるのは、やはりあおさのパワーだったのです。

  • The power of Aosa to support the physical strength of the people who cultivate it

    Unable to grow in rough sea waters, delicate aosa seaweed grows in coastal inlets with gentle currents.

    Taking advantage of this feature, it was in Shima City in Mie Prefecture, an area well known for its beautiful coastal inlets, that the cultivation of aosa began.

    Ago Bay is the most distinctive ria coast in Shima City. The gentler the waves become as the inlets move further inland, and the area is pervaded by a mysterious, awe-inspiring tranquility like that of a lake on becalmed days.

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    Harvesting of aosa ends in April, which was when we visited Keiichi Tabata, who cultivates aosa at Ago Bay as successor to his father in the same occupation.

    What look like pillars of bamboo are buried at regular intervals in the tranquil inlets of Ago Bay. This is where aosa is cultivated.

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    Netting made of thick rope are straddled between the bamboo. Aosa grows after getting entwined in this netting.

    Cultivation of aosa begins in August every year. Thirty or so nets that serve as the cradle for the aosa are laid out on top of each other and seeds are then attached to them. As the waves ebb and flow gently in Ago Bay, the aosa slowly grows through the summer and autumn months.

    At this time Mr. Tabata comes along every day to see how the aosa is developing. He gradually takes away each of the thirty nets one after the other until only a single net is left. Deciding exactly when to remove the nets is a question of skill and experience. If the nets are removed before the aosa has had the chance to grow to a considerable size, it will no longer develop well.

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    Slowly removing the aosa, thick and heavy with sea water, from the netting involves hard labor.

    The aosa is harvested between the middle of January and early in April. In the bitter cold of winter, Mr. Tabata raises the heavy nets with aosa attached all around and loads them into his boat. The work of harvesting goes on day in and day out without a break between half past five in the morning and evening.

    The harvested aosa is initially removed mechanically from the nets and is then washed after dead leaves and other unwanted matter has been discarded.

    Strong jets of water are then directed towards it to hull the aosa with the aid of a hulling device. The aosa is then dried mechanically for seven hours to remove all the water, after which it can be made available for commercial use.

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    All the work up to this stage will have been done by hand and is carried out at this particular spot by Mr. Tabata and his mother.

    “I can’t take a single day off during the harvesting season. But I’m really happy when the aosa I’ve produced is reckoned to be of high quality.” Mr. Tabata is determined to produce aosa that’s second to none in quality here in the beautiful surroundings of Ago Bay.

    Mr. Tabata has also been concentrating recently on the commercial production of oysters and has begun to sell these oysters, with their astonishingly large and firm bodies, under the name of Hana Oysters.

    He is a man of enormous energy who, as well as cultivating aosa and oysters, devotes himself to surfing during the summer months. “I’ve never caught a cold in my life!”, he boasts.

    _UEA4839_UEA4965_UEA5160Needless to say, his robust health is due in no small measure to aosa, which he eats as one of the ingredients in miso soup or, in accordance with his own particularly tasty recommendation, in forms such as tempura and dipped in sanbaizu (a mixture of soy sauce, mirin and vinegar).

    It’s the power inherent in aosa that underpins the physical strength of these men who gain their livelihood from the sea.

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