The unmistakable scent of broiled fish wafts through a crowded outdoor Tokyo venue on a cloudy Sunday morning in early October.

Dozens of happi-wearing volunteers sit crouched behind rows of glowing charcoal grills, many wearing goggles to protect their eyes from the smoke. They’re flipping over freshly caught and salted Pacific saury — the star of the annual Meguro Sanma Festival that has long been a familiar autumnal flavor in Japan.

“It’s absolutely delicious,” says Kotatsu Yamazaki as he helps his young daughters bite off pieces of the small, elongated fish with a silvery bellow known as sanma in Japanese and also as mackerel pike in English.