FUKUSHIMA − Fukushima High School students who have been cultivating Japanese eels offered them for the first time at a sampling event in Fukushima early last month. The students received great responses from visitors, such as "delicious and soft." The school's Super Science Club cultured the fish in "suitable environment water" (see below), which is habitable for both freshwater and saltwater fish. Geothermal heat from the Tsuchiyu-Onsen hot spring resort area in the city was also used. The students are motivated to support the recovery of tourism in Tsuchiyu-Onsen and make the eels a local specialty.
The water, developed by the Okayama University of Science, is dubbed "magic water" well-suited to breeding fish. The club's members have been working to support the local area's recovery by cultivating the seawater fish in a mountains area to offer them for consumption. They installed fish tanks inside a vinyl greenhouse and are controlling the temperature of the water and air with geothermal heat from hot springs. The project is subsidized by the Fukushima prefectural government.
The sampling event took place on Nov. 6 as part of Tsuchiyu Buratto Onsen Baru, a walk-and-eat event held in the Tsuchiyu-Onsen resort area. The students broiled 60 eels in a soy-based sauce and served 100 unadon eel bowls, which proved popular.
With support from Shinsuke Shoten, a fresh fish retailer in Fukushima, 12 students in their first and second years took part in the cooking, including grilling the fish. Mitsuo Anzai, a company worker from Fukushima who was among those who made a beeline for the dish, said, "It's soft and elastic. It would be fun if it became a local specialty." "Maintaining the water quality was especially difficult," said Keita Yamaki, a second-year student. "I'm happy we received praise from people, who said [our dish] was tasty." Yamaki responded to the positive feedback: "Our contribution might be small, but we want to help reinvigorate Tsuchiyu-Onsen." The students said they will start studying red sea bream and tiger puffer cultivation in the near future.
According to Kazuhiro Watanabe, president of the Tsuchiyu-Onsen Tourist Association, the hot spring resort is still on its way to fully fledged recovery from the 2011 nuclear accident because a ryokan inn was forced to close after the disaster. "We appreciate the boost [the students] gave to the event," Watanabe said.
The walk-and-eat event was being held for the second time, following last year's. Nine booths were set up by local restaurants and students majoring in food and nutrition at Fukushima College. Visitors tasted konnyaku, dumplings and other foods while strolling around the hot spring resort area.
■Suitable environment water Contains potassium, calcium and sodium, which are necessary for the growth of fish, at a concentration of a quarter of that of seawater. The osmotic pressure is suitable for both freshwater and seawater fish. The concentration of potassium, calcium and sodium is almost as high as in the fish, allowing them to use their energy for growing faster instead of adjusting body temperature. It is said that red sea bream and tiger puffers need at least two years to grow in the ocean. In suitable environment water, however, it has been proven they can grow in a year.