Thanks to the 1,300-hectare forest of broad-leafed trees flanking the gulf, Nagatsura bay has become an ideal habitat for goby and a special smoking technique has been developed for this type of fish.
This biotype of goby (there are 291 types in Japan), Acanthogobius flavimanus, is called Mahaze in Japanese. It is cylindrical in shape with a wide mouth, sucker-like dorsal fins and a flat tail. The colour is yellowish with darker patches on the body and the fish is about 25cm long. It lives in bays and river mouths and is widely found from the southern area of the island of Hokkaido as far as Kyushu and the Korean peninsula.
In order to keep the waters of Nagatsura bay clean, which is vital for the goby to survive, the residents have protected the surrounding forest. This enriches the ecosystem of the bay thus preserving the goby's habitat, where they can find plenty of seaweed and plankton.
Nagatsura bay goby has a distinctive flavour compared to that of goby fished elsewhere, and this is guaranteed by the habitat and the traditional local fishing techniques, and especially the Yakihaze method of roasting the fish on wood and then smoking it.
Mahaze has been chosen as the symbolic fish of the Miyaghi prefecture thanks to its long fishing tradition and local consumption of the fish, but numbers have fallen in the local markets recently due to pollution of the sea and an economic recession affecting the local fishing industry.
It is therefore necessary to try and protect the bay habitat with the help of the local population and preserve the recipes for Yakihaze and Sendai Zoni in order to prevent this goby variety from disappearing from Japanese tables. Goby from Nagatsura bay is now produced in the town of Kahokucho, Momou gun, Miyaghi prefecture.
Photos — Archivio Slow Food