Sometimes an unexpected stop at a seafood market is all you need to fill your belly and happiness meter.

Our illustriously zany reporter Mr. Sato and SoraNews24 founder Yoshio took a business trip to the Hokuriku region of Japan (in central Honshu, along the Sea of Japan) earlier this month. They were headed to Fukui City, the capital of Fukui Prefecture, when they stumbled upon a seafood market called Sea of Japan Fish Market (Nihonkai Sakanamachi) in nearby Tsuruga by chance.

Mr. Sato had actually been to Tsuruga once before in 2015, when he and several of his coworkers convened in Kanazawa (the capital of neighboring Ishikawa Prefecture famous for its historical buildings, traditional crafts, and gardens) as part of a plan to mark the opening of a new stretch of the Hokuriku Shinkansen. The goal was for each of them to arrive via a different route and method of transportation. In Mr. Sato’s case, he took an unorthodox path via ferry north from Oarai (Ibaraki Prefecture) to Tomakomai (Hokkaido), then south to Tsuruga. It took three days from Oarai to reach Tsuruga’s harbor, so he didn’t have any time to look around once he got there but immediately headed to the station to catch a limited-express train to Kanazawa. It had been a tight schedule but lots of fun at the time.

▼ A slightly more youthful Mr. Sato in February 2015 aboard the Sunflower Daisetsu ferry


This time, however, they were traveling by land and could stop the car wherever and whenever they wanted.

They had only been driving for a short time after entering Tsuruga when they spotted a roadway sign for the market and decided to swing by.

Inside the facility, there were about 60 individual businesses, including restaurants, setting up shop. They sold all kinds of seafood as well as fruits and sweets. You could probably spend a whole day in there without getting bored.

The time of their visit was around 3 p.m. on a Saturday, which meant that it was almost closing time. Consequently, there weren’t many people and they could move around easily.

The harbor was nearby so all of the seafood products were as fresh as can be. Mr. Sato began mulling over what he might want to sample. Echizen crab or sea urchins? Oysters from Wakasa Bay? It was hard to decide.

He couldn’t make up his mind and goaded Yoshio into taking his photo in a cut-out market display to procrastinate a bit longer.

Yoshio, however, took this job very seriously and went in for a closeup. “That’s too close!” Mr. Sato blurted out.

Readers, we apologize for any discomfort this snapshot may cause.

Finally, after resuming their walk, they followed their noses to a sinfully good-smelling restaurant called Hamayaki Yasubee, which specializes in grilled mackerel.

Sure enough, they had been lured by the smell of the fish that was on the grill right at that very second.

The restaurant recommendations included mackerel kabayaki (fish broiled in a soy-based sauce; top left in the sign below), a grilled mackerel sushi set (bottom left), and a mackerel sushi set (bottom right), among others. Mr. Sato and Yoshio definitely felt like they had to go with some kind of grilled mackerel dish.

A set meal with rice and soup was available, but they decided to go with grilled fish, plain and simple. A large was 1,800 yen (US$12.06), a medium 1,500 yen, and a small 1,200 yen. Mr. Sato was about to spring for a medium when Yoshio intervened, advising him that it would probably be pretty big. Mr. Sato thought that there was no way it would be too big for him, but he heeded the advice and ordered a small.

Shortly after, the grilled mackerel arrived. TADA!

This was a small?! No way! If this were a small, perhaps he really couldn’t have finished a medium, let alone a large…

The fish was beautifully charred from the charcoal grill and some fish oil glistened as it slowly leaked out. All in all, it looked delicious.

Mr. Sato began prying apart large chunks with his chopsticks. Its amazing smell alone could’ve been a whole meal.

The restaurant staff recommended dipping the fish in soy sauce mixed with grated ginger. He followed these instructions and readied a bite.

The following reaction shot should tell you everything you need to know about how it tasted. Mr. Sato had entered a new kind of fish heaven, not to be confused with the neighboring carb heaven that he occasionally ascends to.

The fish was still piping hot and he had to alternate bites with blowing on it to cool it down. Convenience store and supermarket mackerel were no comparison for this fresh stuff. He’d never had such deliciously fatty mackerel in the Tokyo region, either.

By the way, Yoshio had ordered heshiko ochazuke (mackerel pickled in salted rice-bran paste, served over rice with a green tea topping) for 650 yen. The dish was representative of the pickling methods used to preserve food in this region of Japan.

The heshiko smelled similar to smoked fish and seemed like it would be an excellent accompanying dish to some Japanese sake. Yoshio could also envision making a good seafood pasta with it.

Mr. Sato doesn’t know if or when he’ll be back in Tsuruga for a third time, but if he is, he wouldn’t mind stopping by for some of this heavenly mackerel again. Let’s just hope that Yoshio doesn’t try to kill him before he gets another chance to visit.

Restaurant information
Hamayaki Yasubee (Nihonkai Sakanamachi) / はまやき安兵衛(日本海さかな街)
Address: Fukui-ken, Tsuruga-shi, Wakaba-cho 1-1531
Open: 10 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (weekdays), 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (weekends)

Reference: Nihonkai Sakanamachi
All images © SoraNews24
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