Just off the coast of Aichi’s Chita Peninsula in Mikawa Bay is a small island called Himakajima, famous for octopus and the poison blowfish delicacy called Fugu. It’s also the birthplace of one of the famed 47 Ronin!
Himakajima Island is popular year round for its beaches, resorts, fishing and feasting. The waters are mostly calm, with special safe beach areas for children and adults alike. Himakajima is dotted with many hotels and inns with superb views of the beautiful, sparkling Mikawa Bay.
（Aichi’s treasure, Himakajima, just off the coast in sparkling Mikawa Bay）
Ask any Japanese where the biggest catch of fugu, the poisonous blowfish is made, and most will tell you Shimonoseki, or possibly even Fukui Prefecture on the Japan Sea Coast. But in fact, the most fugu is caught off the waters of Aichi Prefecture, and one of the best places to enjoy the delicacy is Himakajima. Admittedly a few people across the nation die each year from eating the highly toxic fish, and so all fugu is prepared by fully trained, specially licensed chefs.
（Slivers of finely sliced Fugu blowfish beautifully arranged）
（Fugu blowfish fins in hot Sake）
The island is best known for its octopus, and when they serve octopus, it’s usually one large, whole boiled octopus. Once cut up into bite sized chunks, it tastes like crayfish (lobster). Speaking of which, Ise-ebi, or crayfish, a pincer-less lobster is caught in these waters and served very fresh as sashimi (raw) or cooked to your liking. (Our raw lobster was so fresh, despite its tail meat having been delicately sliced and served alongside its shell, its legs and antennae were still wiggling when it arrived on our table! Yikes!)
（An Eight Armed Lunch! Big, Boiled Octopus!）
A walk around the small island is about 3.6 kilometers, and everywhere you look, there are octopus themed signs, characters, and figures. Even the local police station is designed to resemble an octopus. The souvenir stands have various octopus themed items, including toys, key-tags, sembei rice-crackers and sweets. Depending on the season, you may even see dried octopus stretched out on bamboo stakes like kites. Incidentally, the Japanese word for kite and octopus is the same,…tako!.
For history buffs, there are a few old temples and shrines and a small museum dedicated to the island.
At the Kokai-In Temple, you’ll also find a memorial marker dedicated to Otaka Kengo Tadakatsu, one of the 47 Ronin, who was born on Himakajima. The 47 Ronin were master-less samurai heroes who took part in a vendetta against Lord Kira Kozuke no Suke, the Shogun’s Master of Protocol, for his part in having caused the death of their master in 1701.
From Himakajima, looking towards the mainland, you can see an area once known as Kira-Cho, now part of Aichi Prefectures’ Nishio City. That was the domain of Lord Kira, the antagonist in the 47 Ronin Story! That’s right, Aichi has two connections to the famous vendetta!
Himakajima makes an ideal day trip from Nagoya, (Only 30 minutes by train, then a 10 minute boat ride) and an ideal get away for a night or two, year round.
Chris Glenn is a bilingual radio DJ, TV presenter, producer, narrator, MC, copywriter, author and columnist, and Japanese historian, specializing in samurai castles, battles, armor and weapons. He is an inbound tourism advisor, and is often called upon as a lecturer and speaker on Japanese history and topics. He was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1968, and has spent over half his life in Japan, most of that time in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Chris is dedicated to promoting and preserving Japans’ long history, deep culture, traditions, arts and crafts.