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Lost or forgotten, 1000 years ago

Posted on by setouchi-kurashi
iidako01

The object caught in the fisherman’s net is made of coarse fired clay, and the inside is hollowed out so it looks something like a small handbell, about 10 cm long.

The fisherman catches them quite often, as do all the other fishermen in the area.

These ceramic “handbell” pots are about 1000 years old.

What are the doing at the bottom of the sea?

Actually, a similar shaped tool is still used all over the Inland Sea. Let’s have a look at how it works.

First tens, or maybe even hundreds of the ceramic pots (sometimes they use empty cans or something similar) are tied to a long rope and sunk to the bottom of the sea.

A few days later the rope is pulled up,

and inside the pots and cans are….

little octopi!

The 1000 year old “handbells” were used for catching octopus too – octopus pots.

The people who lived here all those eons ago must gave sunk them to catch their dinner, and then lost them, or forgotten them.

The species of octopus they catch are a small variety that are only between 10 to 20 cms long. They are called “oscillated octopus” in English, or “iidako” in Japanese, which translated literally means “rice octopus”.

In the spring, the female’s body (the bit we generally think of as the head) is covered with tiny white eggs.

The eggs look like rice, which is where the Japanese name “iidako” comes from.

In Kagawa Prefecture, iidako is eaten boiled or with green onions. (photo: Myoujin)

Iidako’s like to find small, dark places to rest. So, when they find a vacant octopus pot on the sea bed, they can’t resist crawling in and curling up inside.

For over 1000 years the fishermen of the Inland Sea have known about the iidako’s little quirks, and they still use exactly the same method to catch them today as they did all those ages ago.

Shinya Norimatsu