Takayuki Maki／Matsuda Market, flying fish cakes
Yakushima is famous for its flying fish that skim just above the surface of the water like small gliders for distances of 100m to 300m. On the island, flying fish are eaten in a variety of ways. They are grilled, boiled, fried, and ground to make fish paste that is then deep fried to make fish cakes of different shapes and sizes. Popular among young and old alike, these fish cakes are Yakushima’s soul food. The Matsuda Market and a flying fish grinding facility are located near the village of Anbo, along the main road. And customers come here from far and wide.
Maki-san told me, “We make use of fish that are so fresh that they could also be eaten raw, as sashimi, and they don’t give off a smell.” The Matsuda Market has been in his wife’s family for more than 70 years and Maki-san is working with his mother-in-law and her sister to keep the business going and maintain the family flavor. The Matsuda Market started out selling a variety of side-dishes and among these, flying fish cakes were their most popular dish.
These cakes were first made by Grandmother Sachi who is now 96 years old. Her original recipe remains a secret to this day. With orders coming in from all over Japan and many repeat customers, Maki-san, his mother-in-law and her sister work from 6:00am to 8:00pm on days when flying fish are caught.
“In the beginning, standing up and cutting fish all day, I nearly gave up. But then I heard that my mother-in-law and her sister used to work, without complaint, on only 2 or 3 hours of sleep. When I heard that, I decided not to give up.”
Maki-san doesn’t want to keep customers waiting when they show up to buy fish cakes from his shop. He is from Nagata, a village on Yakushima’s northwest coast, and has – of course – been eating fish cakes since he was a child. “I like to take the fish paste out of its package, cut it up and fry it, but it’s also tasty when added to miso or other soups.”
Even though Maki-san handles fish paste every day, he never tires of eating it.
“I can’t allow this taste to end with my generation. I have to do my best.”
This island soul food is in the hands of the third generation.
Written by Sanpo-tei, Rei Ogata
- 337-1 Funayuki, Yakushima Township
- Kumage District, Kagoshima Prefecture
- TEL: 0997-46-2941