JQ Magazine: Same-sama, Party of One

“We’re gonna need a bigger shopping cart.” (Leah Zoller)

By Leah Zoller (CIR Ishikawa-ken, 2009-11) for JQ magazine. Leah lives in Kanazawa, where she works as a writer and web administrator forThe Art of Travel. In her spare time, she writes I’ll Make It Myself!, a blog about food culture in Japan and curates The Rice Cooker Chronicles on JETwit.com.

I live and work not too far from Omicho Market, and as a result, I see a lot of “Kanazawa’s Kitchen” and its back alleys in all seasons. I particularly like passing through in winter when the crabs are set outside the fish sellers’ stalls in the morning, the steam rising off their Styrofoam crates like a cloud in the cold air.

According to my coworkers, Omicho Market was once narrow and dirty, the way one expects a fish market to be. Since being renovated, Omicho, with its wide paths, incense to cover up the scent of fish, and ice blocks to relieve the summer heat, really fits with the tone and charm of our little city on the sea. Of course, the site is popular with tourists, but locals—myself included—actually shop there, since the variety and price of produce and seafood is often better than it is at the supermarkets. Every visit there is like a culinary adventure to me: What will be on sale today? Will the price of persimmons have dropped? What new squash varieties are the farms in the Noto growing?

Even Omicho, whose weaving roads I know like the back of my hand, has its surprises. One weekend in early winter (and winter comes early to Kanazawa), my husband and I were walking past one of the market’s side entrances when something caught my eye. I couldn’t quite process what I was seeing at first—was that a person was lying on the ground in front of one of the restaurants?

The figure on the ground was about my height, but slowly the realization that it wasn’t a person sank in. No, it wasn’t a person at all—it was a dead shark.

Not only was it a shark, it was a shark that had apparently been dragged off a truck and left in front of the restaurant, the rope still tied around its fins. No tarp, no boxes, just lying on the concrete. I yelped, part of my subconscious screaming, Predator, run!, and the people waiting outside the restaurant stared back as if there were something wrong with me. As if a dead shark as tall as I am deposited on the ground in front of a restaurant were perfectly normal.

I honestly would have thought I had hallucinated the whole thing if I hadn’t had a witness with me—and photographic evidence, of course.

I continue to pass through the market almost every day. I see crates full of crabs in winter and buckets full of eels in summer, but never again have I seen a shark waiting with the patrons outside a restaurant as if it had crawled there and given up in the cold. At least, not this year.

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