Thursday planned to be an amazing learning day jam packed with activities and traditions that we were always going to remember.
First of all a visit to the harbour where the local ama divers dive for pearls. The tradition has been around since the early 1900’s where the women of the town free dive anything up to 10m deep with out the aid of snorkel or any breathing apparatus.
The women hold their breath for up to 1 minute whilst free diving in their traditional standout white garments with a bucket attached around their waist to store the pearls or seaweed found every time they dive. The old tradition used to be a husband and wife team would dive with the women diving as they have a bit more body fat and cold withstand the cold waters better than the males. After diving and finding their treasures the lady would tug on the rope and the husband would then pull them back up to the surface.
We also learnt about the way of cultivating pearls with in end produced a higher yeald of gradeable pearls with a higher value to them.
We then took a boat to a local island to visit their local fish market and also learn how to make traditional nori seaweed. The seaweed is harvested from the nets it is cultivated on then frozen straight away to keep the freshness.
Once back on land the seaweed is defrosted and chopped finely by hand until it becomes and thick black paste. No seasoning is added, infact the complete opposite.
The seaweed is washed in tap water changing the colour of the seaweed to a slight red tinge going through it. The seaweed is then scooped over and onto bamboo mats into the traditional square shape of nori seaweed. All the gaps and corners have to be filled in with no holes in the seaweed.
The mould is lifted and another bamboo mate placed in top and pressure is applied to drain as much water out of it as possible. This is the hung on wooden stands for 24 hours in the direct sunlight to give that distinct dry nori seaweed wrap that we all often see concealing amazing sushi.
We were then treated to a lunch prepared by the ama divers where they usually come to warm up from the cold waters and eat. Local fish was flamed grilled in front of us, sea bream, gobi, swordfish, oysters all tasted amazing cooked on the open coals.
Our afternoon was spent with chef matsuka of the Toba view hotel. An award winning chef was willing to spend the afternoon teaching us the secrets and techniques or his local food. We prepared a local seabream from live! Learnt how to kill the fish without stressing the fish out too much and how to bleed the fish.
Peeling the skin for a 30 kilo yellow fin tuna, preparing our seabream for sashimi. The secrets behind tempura batter and cooking, sharpening knives the Japanese way and learning about the steal that is used to make the blades.
Making our own sashimi from slicing to plating up the Japanese way and how to present, plus we got to eat our own sashimi later on that evening for dinner. Working with his brigade of chefs in the kitchen, learning the techniques of sticky rice, elaborate vegetable garnishes. What a way to spend an afternoon with a master chef who didn’t mind 7 UK chefs taking over his kitchen for a few hours.