River fish distributor Yoshida Suisan in the town of Miyakoji, Fukushima Prefecture, is back in business shipping char, trout and rainbow trout for the first time in five years since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake kicked off the core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“I want people to eat delicious river fish from Miyakoji,” said Eimitsu Yoshida, the company’s third president, who is plunging back into business after monthly radiation tests on the fish came out clean.
Yoshida Suisan was established in 1964 in Iwaisawa, formerly in the village of Miyakoji. Setting up a processing plant near the headquarters and a nursery each in Higashifurumichi and Kotakizawa, the company cultivated and sold freshwater fish. Before the 2011 mega-quake, its annual output was 40 tons. It shipped 4 million fish, including fresh fish, minnows and processed fish.
The hatcheries in Higashifurumichi and Kotakizawa are about 15 km from the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The area became part of the radioactive no-go zone. About 600,000 fish raised by the distributor all died since it could not feed and manage the water quality. The earthquake also damaged the concrete facilities.
After the quake, Yoshida worked as a salaried employee for 2½ years. Restarting his fish business, he feels happy and realizes the importance of cultivating freshwater life.
But Yoshida was worried about the high costs of restarting the business and unfounded rumors that might prevent people from buying local fish. Not being able to decide whether to resume or close the business, he found that the reconstruction costs would be aided by subsidies by the prefecture, which prodded him to restart operations. In April 2014, when the evacuation order for the eastern part of Miyakoji was lifted, he made the decision to start over.
Last August, Yoshida finished building new fish hatcheries in the same places as the previous ones. Soon after that, he cultivated 900,000 char, trout and rainbow trout. Tests conducted on the river fish once a month all said no amounts of radiation were detectable. He began large-scale shipments last month.
The youth section of Miyakoji’s commerce and industry association plans to promote the Miyakoji name by providing line-caught char this year.
“I want to fight against rumors and restore sales to their level before the earthquake. I also hope I can contribute to my hometown, Miyakoji,” said Yoshida, who also acts as leader of the associations’s youth section.
Yoshida Suisan char and trout are available at a fishing center in Takine in the city of Tamura. For more information, call 0247-75-3189.
This section, appearing every third Monday, features topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on May 1.