Mr. Tetsuo Hasegawa

@ Fukushimagata Lagoon in Niigata

*Normally picking wild flowers and vegetables are prohibited in the park without a permission. Persons with an official license are allowed to fish in the lagoon.

one of the cartaker of Fukushimagata lagoon

Mr. Hasegawa is dressed with a traditional straw cape and a hat.

Q What was it like for you growing up around here?

Fukushimagata lagoon used to be like ‘gold mine’, we earned some extra spending money from it.

Q I know that Fukushimagata lagoon is important part of your daily life. How does it affect you on a daily basis?

We can’t earn so much money from the lagoon these days, but we still manage to sell fish I catch. We used to catch wild ducks and certain fishes, and we sold them quite well. It could be the change of life style, people have started to think ‘Fishes from sea were better than the ones from freshwater’. It became like a fashion, there was also a negative press about them once.

Q What do you like best about the lagoon?

Actually catching crabs and selling them brings me the most profit. After all, I am a fisherman so I enjoy catching them too. Tinny fishes such as ‘Tanago’, ‘Medaka (Japanese rice fish)’ and ‘Dojo (loaches)’ used to be common but they became quite rare nowadays.

Creatures from the lagoon.

Q I‘ve heard that you like rare wild flower called ‘Sawaoguruma (yellow flower, it is also called Yamabuki)’ and you enjoy wild vegetables too, don’t you?

It is called ‘Amanojaku’ locally (we have been eating most of this type of plants). We pick them when they are in season.

Asterales yellow flowers are called ‘Sawaoguruma’. / Local girls make a necklace with (other yellow flower) ‘Kohone’.

Q How would you like to show children all about Fukushimagata lagoon?

I want them to touch and feel the nature. That’s why I take them around and show them physically, because that is my style of teaching rather than by books.

Q Why is that so?

I am not an academic, but I have good enough knowledge about Fukushimagata lagoon which I learned through day to day living. I may not know names of all the birds but I know ‘Swans’, ‘Sparrows’ and ‘Crows’, and the rest I call them either ‘Dopy birds’ or ‘Crazy birds’. Farmers around here don’t care about names. Although I may not know all offical names, so what, -- when I asked him ‘what is that?’ , pointing a bird, he said, ‘well it is a dopy bird’ -- this is how locals exchange words.

Young Night Heron. / Fukushimagata Lagoon is one of the most important overwintering sites for Bean Goose.

Q You’ve mentioned that you’d like to say to children, “Jump into the water, explore the bush, be brave” but…

I want to encourage them to experience the nature but school teachers tend to go against the idea. They think it‘s dangerous. When I was growing up, I ran to the lagoon after school, and spent most of my time exploring it without any care in the world. I learned what I should have watched out through experiences. I had faced snakes, insect bites, and poison ivies, but fun I had outweighed any tricky situation I faced. In a sense, I feel sorry for kids today, because they don’t know what they are missing!

The northern limit of ‘Onibus’ in Japan. / Mr. Hasegawa rows a ‘Katafune’ boat.

Q Do local kids jump into the water like you used to?

Parents don’t allow them to do because it could be dangerous. But I disagree with them. We grew up with a boat and a paddle, and went everywhere around the lagoon. Parents also came along and caught fish or something. We swim and go deeper into the lagoon during summer. When I used to go home without any catch, my parents yelled at me “you didn’t get anything?” “You are no good”. On the contrary if I bagged some catch, they said “Well done, good boy”.

Blowing a piece of grass like a whistle for children.

Q What do you think about the future of Fukushimagata lagoon? Will it become just a tourist attraction?

If it becomes just a tourist attraction, it could be spoiled. We can see ‘Mt. Ide’ from here, sometimes visitors ask me “Can you go (to guide) to the mountain?” but I say “No”. No amount of money will get me up there. You have to walk along the trail yourself and carry your own things. ‘Touristy-place’ means where you can go anywhere by car. To me every experience you have in the area is the most important fact. There are things just money cannot buy. I would like it to remain where you can earn money without spending and provide for locals. That is the kind of future I wish for.

There are only a few fishermen left who can throw a net skilfully like him.

Q What would you recommend for foreign visitors to see and experience in Fukushimagata lagoon?

Whatever you may say, but Fukushimagata lagoon is all about ‘water’, ‘water’ and ‘boat’.

The Japanese traditional cottage with thatched roof is located next to the lake. It has a unique fire place in the tatami room where you could listen to stories from the locals. / Lotus nuts and ‘Hishi’ nuts.

Persimmons peeled, stringed and hang near ‘Irori’ (fire place) to dry. / Looking good in a straw cape.

Q It doesn’t mean that you want show them just the local features like another Japanese tradition, does it?

Fukushimagata lagoon is part of life for locals. The lagoon and the people coexist. I would like to explain that the lagoon is a daily life here.

Q Do you look after Fukushimagata lagoon as a community?

We take care of the lagoon in many ways, led by the government or private organizations, sometimes with voluntary works. We clean up the lagoon and the surroundings as well as general conservations throughout a year.

Q Do you use a boat for cleaning up some parts of ‘Fukushima lagoon‘?

Yes, we do. We had an event called ‘clean up operation’ on 18th April this year. More than hundreds people turned up to pick up some trash. This was organised by the government. ‘Yoshi-yaki’ (a conservation method that burns off reed fields in early spring) is another annual event. Although they were burnt well this year, it meant that some unburnable castaways and trashes were left on the islands. We also had a TV program called ‘pick up trashes on the islands with children’. They’ve had great fun getting on the islands because it is prohibited from entering usually. They must have experienced a different side of the lagoon, it‘s boring just looking from one angle (from the lake shore), I recommend looking the lagoon from the other side sometimes, otherwise you could miss an awful lot.

During spring and autumn for a limited period of time, you can hire a boat at a cost. Please inquire further information to ‘NPO Network Fukushimagata’ in ‘View Fukushimagata’.

‘Piping hot yellowtail dumpling soup’ served by locals in a cultural event.

Q So you have more fun when it’s father challenging, don’t you? By the way how many members do you have in the ‘Gatafune’ boat society?

Ten all together including locals.

Q As my last question, do you take turns to tell folklores for visitors in ‘Kataraitei’? (‘Kataraitei’ is a rest house we’ve conducted the interview) do you enjoy entertaining them with stories?

It doesn’t earn much money so hardly anybody wants to do it. Locals aren’t keen on doing it because they’d rather make actual living. There are only two members who know all the routes of the lagoon including myself. The number of members in the ‘Gata-fune’ boat society has declined gradually.

Wild vegetables and local fish tempura (fritters) look yummy! / Gibel casserole with sweet source from the event called ‘fish researching’ and ‘tasting local wild vegetable’.

I would like all visitors to drop in and talk to locals so that they enjoy even more. There is a fire-place (Irori) where we can sit and talk. You may have an opportunity to taste some local delicacies such as acorns or nuts of Hishi (water plant) depending on the season. Sometimes we hold tasting event of non-indigenous fish such as ‘Snakehead’ and ‘Bluegill’. Many of them quite enjoy those fish and become a regular visitor.

There are 4 caretakers in ‘Kataraitei’ currently. It is a welcoming place for visitors to learn and appreciate ‘Fukushimagata lagoon’ for visitors.

Q Is that so?

It must be an interesting time and an experience for both parties. You could say, ‘I have been to Fukushimagata lagoon’ and had a great time with locals in ‘Kataraitei’.

Q Fantastic job you are doing, carry on, Mr. Hasegawa. Thank you very much.

ー END ー

Fukushimagata Lagoon (information)

*Pets are not allowed in the ‘Nature Study Area’ only. No fishing, and no bike riding.

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These Information based on October 2015. All rights reserved. ©Lagoon Traveling