Seki-saba and Seki-aji: Oita's prized mackerel fish

Sekisaba sekiaji

The seas of the Hoyo Straits are squeezed into narrows between Oita City’s Saga-no-seki and Sada-misaki, Shikoku’s distinctive peninsula that stretches out like a long limp finger pointing west. Here are found fast currents, stable water temperatures and plentiful plankton that nurture the fertile fishing grounds where Oita’s prized Seki-saba, mackerel, and Seki-aji, horse mackerel, are caught.

Seki-saba and Seki-aji are savoured for their delicious firm of flesh, which is coloured with a slight golden tinge, and rich levels of fish oil. Because of the sea bed’s rough terrain under the Hoyo Straits, its choppy waters and vigorous currents, nets cannot be used and each fish is caught using a single line. So prized did these fish become that saba and aji from other fishing grounds were being palmed off as the real thing, which led in 1996 to the first trade marks in Japan being awarded to any sea fisheries produce. Today, each and every fish caught is tagged and specialist restaurants given licences to prepare and sell the fish. Seki-saba and Seki-saba can be enjoyed at many restaurants around Oita, but it is well-worth the journey to Saga-no-seki to feast on them a stone’s throw from where the catch is landed at local wharves. Here top local restaurants include the Sekisaba-Sekiaji-kan, Seki-no-tei Katsumaru, Shirogi-Kaigan-no-restoran and Yoshida-kan.

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