TSU, MIE PREF. – A fisheries training program introduced to find successors in Haida, a hamlet in Owase, Mie Prefecture, has drawn interest from younger people in larger cities.
Haida Ryoshi Juku, launched by a local fisheries association and organized for the second year in a row, is already making progress: One of last year’s two participants has decided to settle down and enter the local business.
Guided by experienced fishermen, 23-year-old Junya Kashiwagi, was working aboard a gillnetter catching shrimp as part of this year’s training program.
“Do you get seasick?” asked one fisherman as another tried to make sure he wouldn’t get bored because “there are no cafes and no women here.”
“I’m fine,” Kashiwagi shyly responded.
Kashiwagi came to Haida from nearby Owariasahi in Aichi.
Originally aspiring to be a firefighter, he had no connections with the fishing industry or Owase before diving in, although he had gone fishing before.
He graduated college this spring and decided to apply for the fisheries program after spotting the notice at an employment event for Owase. He was selected from six applicants owing to his youth and physical strength.
During the four-week training program, which started at the end of October, Kashiwagi intends to learn how to use gill nets, or fixed fishing nets, and steer the vessel. In addition to the practical lessons, lectures on the fisheries law and resource management are given. Accommodation throughout the training is also provided.
The village of Haida had nearly 700 residents in 1960. But that now stands at about 150, with more than half 65 or older.
Since 1999, the city of Owase has organized four-day, three-night training programs for successors. However, besides the three former participants from Aichi and Osaka, many others gave up on entering the business after finding it difficult to settle down in the new environment.
Yoshikazu Iwamoto, 57, of the Owase Fisheries Cooperative Association’s Haida office, arranged for Haida Ryoshi Juku’s launch in 2012 with subsidies from the prefectural government.
“I hope that knowledge about fishing will not be the only thing the participants will gain through this program,” said Iwamoto, who managed to convince the prefectural officials that a four-day program is too short.
“I want them to experience life in a local fishing village, too,” he said.
“I’m not sure if I’ll manage to do it on my own, but I have a feeling that I’ll fit in,” said Junya Kashiwagi, expressing positive interest in settling down in Haida. “I’m also glad there are fishermen who are from outside Mie Prefecture.”
The living conditions in the hamlet, however, differ from larger cities. There are many vacant houses due to the population drop, and many accommodations have poor bathroom facilities.
“I wish the participants could bring their girlfriends and wives, but the conditions might be unbearable for women,” said Iwamoto of Owase’s Fisheries Association. “I want to do something about the conditions to enable families to live here comfortably.”