THE ISLAND OF NEW FOUNDLAND
My trip to Norway was not fruitful but Mr. Honda didn't
seem to care at all.
In May of the same year, Mr. Honda and I went together to
New Foundland. The object was to buy Canadian capelin.
Canadian capelin started to be imported to Japan later than
the Icelandic and Norwegian. They were less in fat content
and larger in size compared to the European fish. Japanese
supermarkets were paying attention to this newly developed
capelin fishing ground and they sold this capelin
indiscriminatively against European ones. They were selling
At the St. Jones Airport at New Foundland, a Japanese
technician with a strange name, Mr. Akasofu (Red-
Mr. Honda and I got in Mr. Akasofu's hire car and drove
through the night to the hotel in town. It was interesting
because there were Burger King and McDonald 's on opposite
sides of a three lane highway.
"Please be careful in New Foundland when driving," said
Mr. Akasofu. "Sometimes, moose jump into the road."
"Is that so?" said I.
"Yes. It's really dangerous. Last year, on the main land,
the branch manager of the Japanese trading corporation,
Kanematsu-Gosho Ltd., hit a moose when driving and died."
The car radio was playing Bruce Springsteen's Dancing
In The Dark. That summer, the tune was frequently heard on
the New Foundland's radio. It climbed up to number one in
the hit charts, later taking the place of Prince's tune, When
Dancing In The Dark was a tune about a person, probably
a blue-collar worker, whose life was so vain, but the message
was how that kind of person could live proudly as an individual.
1983 was when Ronald Reagan was making appeals of
rebuilding the "Strong America" again. The message in the
Bruce Springsteen song was close to what Reagan had appealed
We stayed at the St. Jones Hotel that night and the next
day, Mr. Honda and I separated and went to different fish
The natural features of New Foundland were quite diverse.
There were mountains, forests, rivers and lakes. The scenery
and climate changed a lot when you drove round the island. I
rented a car and headed for a town called Charleston by the
Bonavista Bay, some 300 kilometers north of St. Jones.
Mr. Honda went with Mr. Akasofu. They drove the narrow
country roads beside the bending seaside, going among small
houses of people who earn their living half on fishery, half on
agriculture, and among stray cattle and sheep that crossed the
roads. Mr. Honda and Mr. Akasofu were heading for
Conception Bay, the most important fishing ground of capelin
in New Foundland, where a plant called Old Pelican was
located. Old Pelican had a contract with Nissho Iwai, and all
the production was to be delivered to Toukai Fish Fillets via
Charleston, where I went, was a cooperative plant of the
town. A Japanese factory ship company, Kyokuyo(Arctic)
Co., Ltd., and the trading section of Japan Cooperative, Japan
Co-op Trading, had contracts with them to buy the capelin
they produced. The contracts stated that the total production
should be divided among the two companies. Toukai Fish
Fillets was to buy the capelin of the Charleston plant from
Japan Co-op Trading. Nissho Iwai had agreed about that since
Mr. Honda had estimated the annual raw material amount
would be short if only purchased from the Old Pelican plant.
Getting near to the town of Charleston, Union Jacks flew
in the backyards of the houses. It showed the land of English
immigrants, I suppose.
I rented a cottage, which was managed by a drive-in
restaurant, about 5 kilometers from the plant. The sujiko
technicians of Kyokuyo stayed at a cottage too. I joined a Mr.
Nunokawa (Cloth-river) of Japan Co-op Trading and stayed
with him. He was about the same age as I was. He was rather
short in height and had big eyes. I had heard his boss call him
"E.T." once. It was the name of that alien that appeared in the
Steven Speilberg film.
"Nice to meet you. My name is E.T.," said Mr. Nunokawa
to introduce himself to people as a kind of sense of humour.
At the end of May, the capelin fishery opened.
Canadian capelin fishery were almost all operated by small
size seiners. They caught capelin that came into the bay to
hatch at the beach.
After capture, the female content was checked at first. Then
they were delivered to the freezing plants. Basically, Japanese
only bought female capelin, so the higher the female content
was, the more was the income for the fishermen.
At the plant, the capelin were separated to males and
females with a large grading machine. Machine check-misses
were double checked by the workers checking besides a belt
conveyor. There were about 8 to 10 of these workers. As a
result, productions containing 100% female capelin were made.
Two or three months before this capelin fishing opened,
representatives of Japanese importers and the Canadian govern-
ment negotiated to make a specification of the capelin
This specification was quite detailed, and it could have
been used as a manual for capelin production, which was the
way it had been actually used. Thanks to the people involved
in this project, the Japanese fish culture were translated into
English quite specifically and numerically.
The specification gave answers to problems like, fish
grading; roe maturity; weight surplus (This depended upon
fish quality. If quality was poor, an overweighting of fish
were offered.); red feed.
But as the best things in the world were not perfect always,
nor was this specification. The weak points were that the feed
problem was delicate and there were no numeral standards to
indicate freshness in the specification.
To check red feed, you had to open the capelin's stomach
and see what was inside. The feed was not only of one kind,
and the fish quality depended upon what was inside. Red feed
mostly consisted of shrimps, which affected the quality very
much since it fermented and dissolved the capelin's stomach
from the inside. Sometimes, swallowed roe, spilt out from
other capelin, were found as feed. This kind of feed were
The stage of digestion of the feed was also important: if it
were in the stomach or in the intestines; if it were digested
already or not; how big the amount of feed was. All of these
made a difference in affecting the fish.
I suppose, the problem about indicating freshness was
omitted intentionally by both the Canadian and Japanese sides.
It was not to disturb <flexibility for practical use,> maybe.
To indicate the freshness of fish in the Japanese way, the
two alternatives, "good or bad," were not enough. The stages
of freshness were delicate and continuous. At the scenes of
the Canadian capelin productions, these Japanese standards
were actually used. Freshness was the factor used complexly
to decide the weight surplus of the products. If freshness was
good, red feed didn't bother the quality of fish so much. In
contrast, if freshness was bad, the bellies of the capelin were
ripped easily by little amounts of red feed.
When troubles occurred in capelin projects, they almost
always came from these points.
I stood beside the belt conveyor of the Charleston plant
and watched the capelin go by. Everyone in the line worked
efficiently and neatly. The production was smooth because I
paid respect to the specification's intentions, and used it
flexibly, fairly and practically. Generally speaking, most of
the Japanese technicians were not like that. They insisted
strongly the parts of the specification that would work advan-
tageously to themselves and tried to ignore the other parts that
didn't. The usage was selfish and their attitude was not
consistent. Together with this, a poor ability of speaking
English led the Japanese to face misunderstanding and sus-
picion of the workers.
The Kyokuyo technicians and E.T. started to take turns to
check the production line. Then the workers started to dump
capelin, that had been already thrown away, back to the
processing line. It was a revolt against the Japanese. The
Japanese checked the workers suspiciously, picking over minor
and slight points.
Fish which were picked up from the floor, broken, stepped
on by feet, rotten and male, came on the belt conveyor. The
rate of the garbage was so much that it became impossible for
the workers to pick it out. Most of them ran into the final
production. Sometimes, the production line stopped. The
resistance seemed to continue endlessly as long as the Japanese
tried to "boss around" their plant. Finally, the Kyokuyo techni-
cians and E.T. quit standing on the production line.
I almost never poked my nose into the production line or
directly ordered the workers about, otherwise serious problems
occurred. So, there was no trouble at all in my case. What I
emphasized was checking the final production -- as if they were
made as written in the specification or not.
Even in drug trading, people learn from their experiences.
One thing that I learned was that if you don't believe people,
people won't believe you, either. The idea of checking the
capelin production line was also along the same way of
Other Japanese thought I was lazy, but I didn't care. I
knew that I was making more capelin, even better in quality
than the other Japanese.
I had come to New Foundland on a business trip for Toukai
Fish Fillets. Toukai Fish Fillets was going to buy fish from
E.T., so I was E.T.'s customer.
E.T. and I had different opinions about the operation in the
plant, but personally, we had a good time. The drive-in of the
cottage where we stayed was also a bar, and once in a while,
we drank beer and played pool there. And sometimes, rock
and roll bands came from cities like Toronto and Montreal, to
One night, a rock and roll band was playing and I was
standing beside the entrance, when I noticed this scent of
someone smoking marijuana.
I knew what the stuff was more than before, so I walked
away and went into the drive-in's bar to see my friend's faces.
I just couldn't risk breaking up the good relationship I had
made with the people of Charleston.
At the end of the capelin season, E.T. and I had a chance to
party all night long. Together with us were Edgar, a young
guy, whom we became friends with at the plant, and his two
There were only two places to drink at within the range of
twenty kilometers from the plant. One was the drive in and
the other was a bar of a hotel.
We drank, danced and talked, and near midnight, when we were
coming back from the hotel bar, E.T. drove the car at about
80 kilometers per hour on a dark one lane street that went
through a forest.
"Don't you drive too fast," I said to E.T., but he wasn't
listening. The next moment, some kind of a big black lump
came jumping onto the road. The brake screeched and the car
stopped with a heavy bump. I was sitting in the back seat at
that moment and I dropped to the floor. The girlfriends of
Edgar screamed. I got up from the floor and the front of the
car was broken. Steam was blowing out in the cool night.
We all got out of the car slowly. On the highway, lay a
gigantic moose as big as a race horse. He was down there
lying on the road with his belly pumping and white breath
blowing from his nose painfully.
It had gotten pretty cold since the sun had set. The forest
around was deep in silence.
The front of the car was greatly damaged like an accordion.
Vacantly, E.T., Edgar, his girlfriends and I all sat on the
guardrail beside the highway and waited for help to come.
The long straight highway that we were watching, led far
beyond the mountains.
Soon, a highway-patrol car came.
The policeman that came out of the car, took a short glance
at the dying animal, and shot it immediately in the head.
E.T. hurt his hands and head. He was taken to a hospital in
an ambulance. The others were all safe.
The next day, people of the Charleston plant taught me
that the moose we had hit weighed more than 500 kilograms --
just as big as a race horse. They also thanked me for the moose
steak they had come in to have for dinner, the day before