Friday, May 11, 2007
In my limited experience, I have found that often lifeforms are more likely to receive user-friendly names in languages spoken by people who eat them. For example, "pig," "moose," "popcorn," etc. Or, conversely, lifeforms that habitually eat people, like "shark," "mosquito," "tapeworm," etc. I suppose this must be because to name something is either an assertion of authority or an expression of awe. It follows then that what is conveniently referred to in Japanese as funori is, in the west, obscurely termed gloiopeltis because, with the exception of marine biologists, nobody there is inclined to assert any sort of authority over or demonstrate any kind of awe towards it. As for myself, I don't particularly enjoy chewing or swallowing the stuff, but I respect it for its pecuniary worth.
In late April I once again followed the children of Snakeshore Elementary into the sea for their annual funori harvest. This year they sold their funori for about 320,000 yen (about $3,200). This is impressive when you consider that a) they only pick it during the morning and b) there are only 32 students in this school. True, teachers, parents, and grandparents helped, but even so . . . impressive! So you might well ask me why I don't go down to the shore myself every evening to make a few gloiopeltis bucks on the side. It is streng verboten! All maritime resources are under the strict control of the fishing union, and only union members may harvest the bounty of the sea--and only on specially designated days.
Lately I have been trying to refrain from "borrowing" photos from other websites, but since I never got around to taking a closeup of the funori as I was tearing it off the tidal rocks with my bare hands, I pirated this very nice picture from some site I randomly accessed through google images.