WAY DOWN KODIAK
Just before the end of the salmon season in the Yukon River
area, Touto Marine Products ordered me to go to a different
Via Anchorage, I flew south, and reached an island called
Kodiak, different from Bethel or Yukon, had a large bay
open to the sea, and around it were many major fishery plants
that represented America. Kodiak was in the main street of
the Alaskan fish business.
I had company at the airport of Kodiak. The person had
glasses on and was rather short in height. He said he was a
Mr. Minami who worked for Hanwa Co., Ltd., a general
Japanese trading corporation. He seemed to be five or six
years older than me. Anyway, he was quite young to be in a
Mr. Minami and I got in a rent-a-car Ford sedan. We drove
beside the bay, which was the main street of Kodiak and ran
north to the suburban areas. People grew fewer as we drove.
We made a stop at a small bay where a 2 thousand ton
factoryship called the Bering Star was anchored. Mr. Minami
took me on the ship. He said hello to all the people he met on
the ship, but I am not sure if he knew them or not. Going deep
inside the dark rooms of the ship, we found a belt conveyored
salmon processing line.
After making the check of the ship, Mr. Minami and I got
on the dusty road again. The pavement had already ended.
The tail of the Ford slipped easily in the dirt. After a 20 mile
drive, we finally reached an old freezing and processing plant.
"So, here we are," said Mr. Minami in his baritone that
sounded a little bit childish and had an Osaka dialect.
Hanwa was often nicknamed "rebel" or "guerilla" in the
Japanese fish business world. In contrast to the Western ways
of business, Japanese companies try not to be too superior
than others even among competitors. There is a Japanese
saying, "The nail taller than the others is likely to be hit." It
exactly describes the kind of situation. Hanwa was hated for
that very Japanese reason. They were greedy for profit. What
kind of company in the Western world is not greedy for profit?
Anyway, Hanwa didn't care about breaking the uniform level
among companies in the same business. A typical "mischief"
that Hanwa did was, when other Japanese companies were
talking with each other on how to negotiate with foreign
countries about fish -- especially in terms of price or quota --
Hanwa came out of the crowd, made independant contracts
with one of the fish plants the Japanese were negotiating with,
and made causes for increasing the entire fish prices as a result.
"What's the name of this plant?" I asked Mr. Minami.
"Around her it is called Middle Bay and this is the only
plant around here," said Mr. Minami, but he wasn't answering
A man in a brown duffle coat came walking towards Mr.
Minami and I, with his hands in his pockets. The man wore
glasses, had some white in his hair and looked like a high
school geography teacher or something. Mr. Minami got out
of the car and introduced this man to me.
"You can call me Fred," said the man to me.
"Nice to meet you. My name is Naoto Nakamura. Huh...,
you can call me Nick." I told Fred the name the Eskimos
"Fred's the manager of this plant," said Mr. Minami to me
Fred, Mr. Minami and I decided to take a look at the salmon
processing line and the dock in the plant. The plant had two
places to process salmon. One was a salmon processing line
built in a pretty wide area in a newly built plant. The other
was a salmon roe processing place which was a small shack
about the size of a garage for one car. No electric wires had
reached Middle Bay, so the electricity there was all self
"This is the egg room. Please set this place up for sujiko
processing. The guys here will make anything. Tables, racks:
you ask them to make it," said Mr. Minami to me. He seemed
to think that I was an expert on sujiko processing, but actually,
it was only my second year.
The dock was an old wooden one. The approach to it had
no pavement and was a dirt road. Mr. Minami said later that if
they had made minor repairs like paving the dirt road, Middle
Bay would become a key station of the Hanwa's fish business
in Alaska. In fact, Hanwa bought that plant a few years later.
Before buying it, they lost a lot of money in two years. I heard
that a certain company had rent Hanwa the plant and received
an advance. The advance was to be used to buy fish -- raw
material, of course -- from fishermen, but it was actually used
endlessly for major repairs of the plant concealed at the point
of contract. Hanwa didn't expect one more thing. It was the
poor quality of workers available at Middle Bay.