Mr. Kazuma Takahashi (front) in rehearsal and Mr. Masaki Ono (back) playing guitar. The music from their jam session was used as an episode for the Lagoon Traveling animation.
The Uwasekigata Lagoon in Nishikan-ku, Niigata city is a man-made lake. It is now made into a city park due to the embankment works, yet Mr. Takahashi’s memory in his childhood told us a completely different story. We’ve interviewed Mr. Takahashi who is the only hummer dulcimer (*1) player in the Niigata prefecture, and asked about his old days in Uwasekigata.
Q What was your childhood memories like about the lagoon?
T (Mr. Takahashi): I played with a boat. I used to catch crucian carp, common carp and ‘Tange’ which is a big black shellfish, although I don’t know the real name. I remember ‘Hishi’ nuts most. I am not sure if they are still there, but also ‘Junsai’ (slimy herb in water) is in my memory.
There are filled with field mustard and cherry blossoms in spring haze.
Q How far ago was it?
T: It must have been up until the 30s of Showa era (1950s) or where about. I was a teenager then.
Q Did you go fishing?
T: I did, but I never fished with a fishing pole. I used to row a small boat and picked ‘Hishi’ nuts, and caught belly bulging carps which came up to the surface in the late afternoon.
If there are many herons, it means there are many small fishes. / ‘Gama (Cats-tail)’ brings back old memories.
Q Did your parents tell you to stay away from the lagoon because it was dangerous?
T: Not at all! That wasn’t like that then. I could catch fish and nuts at the edge of water.
Q Did you have Lotus nuts?
T: I did. Boiled ‘Hishi’ nuts tasted great. Fresh buds called ’Yazo’ were so soft. You could just peel the skin and eat them.
Q Were there more grasses compared with now?
T: They were completely wild. Grasses were over grown all over. But now they are shrinking.
Q Where the water of Uwasekigata lagoon comes from?
T: It’s from Mt. Kakuda and streams through to the rice fields. In spring, melted snow from the mountain starts to stream down and flow into the lagoon after saturating the rice fields . The pure water attracted ‘Itoyo (three-spined stickleback, small fish)’.
The Uwasekigata look down from Kakuda mountain. Left is Sakata lagoon.
Q What is ‘Itoyo’?
T: It is tiny fresh water fish. Although they expensive now and are served in fancy restaurants, they used to be abundant in this area.
Q Did you sell them?
T: Simply casting a fishing pole with a string and hooks into the water, that was all you needed to do. Just like catching loach, at the river and have them at home. That was the lifestyle at that time. ‘Itoyo’ could be still there, but I am not sure because the water has to be absolutely clear.
Q I heard the number of Medaka (Rice-fish) decreased in Uwasekigata.
T: I think the water stream is too artificial for them.
Uwasekigata before dawn
Q It isn’t used as agricultural water anymore here.
T: I am not sure what’s happening now.
By the way, was there any romantic spots for couples in Uwasekigata?
T: Children used to go to school through it, so there were any secluding spots for couples.
Left: Boardwalk on the lake. Right: Daurian redstart
Q Did you see any other animals?
T: I was too busy catching fish because the streams were full of them.
Left: ‘Meoto-zakura’ two cherry tree branches are entwined like a conjugal bliss. Left: Dragonfly
Q Were there the famous twin cherry trees (‘Meoto-zakura’) from the beginning?
T: No, I don’t think so. I don’t remember any being there. They were definitely planted.
Q Thank you for telling us your precious old memories of Uwasekigata lagoon.
Left: Predawn of the lagoon. Right: Herons are converging on the bank in the evening
Mr. Kazuma Takahasi is a member of the music group called ‘Lemon Time’. Although the band is basically a duo with Mr. Masaki Ono (guitar), depending on circumstances, the band teams up with different musicians and changes its name according to the style. They are actively performing at various sites in Niigata, for instance, such as ‘Niigata Jazz Street’ festival, ‘Sento Matsuri’ (lantern festival in the city center in summer) and Xmas concert in a cultural center. Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Ono (guitar) have sessions in ‘Herb Land Season’ in Sakata regularly. ＞ see Herb land Season Interview
Mr. Takahashi’s album ’Poor Old Woman’ 2015 (sold out)
※1 Hammered Dulcimer
Hammered Dulcimer is a European classical fork instrument. The sound made by the strings of plectrum were said to be a prototype of ancient piano. In the Latin language, it means ‘Mellifluous melody’. It sounds nostalgic and its free playing style is attractive. Nowadays it is played as the Celtic dance music or accompaniment of English/American folk songs. Mr. Kazuma Takahashi is the ONLY player in Niigata prefecture. He played it for the animation of ‘Lagoon Traveling’ with a guitarist, Mr. Masaki Ono. See animation. ＞SEE ANIMATION
Uwasekigata Lagoon (information)