Posted: March 14, 2011
I went to Shikoku, the fourth largest island in Japan, southwest of Japan’s main island Honshu. On southern Shikoku, with its rich nature and Japanese traditional mountain villages protected by steep mountains and gorges, I stopped along the Iya River for a delicious local snack, bamboo skewered Ayu (sweetfish) charcoal grilled with sea salt.
Ayu is a small but delicious freshwater fish that lives in rivers and feeds on aquatic plants. To select good Aya, one must first choose a proper river. The Iya River, whose waters run cool and clear in its narrow banks, is just such a place. It is here I enjoyed Aye straight from the stream and grilled over a charcoal fire. They are cooked slowly over the glowing coals until their skins are crispy. When cooked this way, they are edible from head to tail, including the bones. Even the entrails are crunchy and aromatic, with a hint of bitterness that morphs into sweetness on the tongue.
I tried also the famous Iya soba buckwheat noodles that are a local specialty. The soba was delicious and natural with a characteristic short and thick noodle. The Iya region is well suited for growing buckwheat because the temperature difference between the day and night is large.
For those looking for something to eat a bit different and very delicious, Iya may be on your map.
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