Sea Cucumbers Processed in Remote Shimane Pref. Town to Become Delicacies

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A man carefully guts a sea cucumber.

AMA, Shimane — It is peak season for processing sea cucumbers gathered in the town of Ama, Shimane Prefecture. Most of them are dried and exported to Hong Kong via trading companies.

At Tajimaya, a company manufacturing and selling seafood products in the town on Nakanoshima Island, sea cucumbers caught by local fishermen using fish spears will continue to be processed until around April. The company produces dried sea cucumbers as well as konowata, or salted intestines, and bachiko, the dried ovaries of sea cucumbers, which resembles a triangular bachi pick for a shamisen stringed instrument.

Konowata is regarded as one of the three rarest delicacies of Japan, along with dried mullet roe and sea urchin.

On Friday, company workers gathered at its processing facility to gut the sea cucumbers that had been left to spit out sand in tanks. It takes a month to process dried sea cucumber, which involves boiling the gutted sea cucumbers and then letting them air dry in the cold, arid air of winter.

Last season, Tajimaya received six to seven tons of sea cucumbers and produced about 200 kilograms of dried sea cucumbers. More than 90% of them were exported to Hong Kong.

“Due to the aging population, the number of fishermen gathering sea cucumbers is declining. But I hope people will enjoy the taste of the sea [through sea cucumbers] which no other seafood can offer,” said Masaya Miyazaki, 41, the president of Tajimaya.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sea cucumbers are air-dried in Ama, Shimane Prefecture.