The local train bound for Yamakawa bucked and buckled down the coast, jouncing us until our teeth rattled, and Yamakawa was so dinky we had to walk across the train tracks to exit the station. The taxi took us through a confusing rabbit warren of streets and, after asking directions several times, we finally alighted in front of Sakai Shoten, a producer of katsuobushi, (fermented and dried, smoked skipjack tuna that is finely shaved for eating).

The word katsuobushi is often assumed to mean just the shaved flakes sold as the final product, but it is actually the name of the whole smoke-dried skipjack tuna. The shavings can also be called katsuobushi, but the correct word is kezuribushi.

The first thing Hiroaki Sakai asked me was, "Did you know that 90 percent of packaged katsuobushi has merely been smoked but never fermented and sun-dried?" No, I did not. My world turned around that day, and I am back to shaving our katsuobushi as I need it. No more pre-shaved bags.