Smoke-stained Walls of the Standing Bar

Tachinomi-ya means “standing bar.” The whole of working-class Japan seems to flow through such establishments at some point in the day. As the beer and sake are poured and the smoke grows thicker, people pour forth the day’s woes and fortunes. No more so than in this fishing village on the island of Shodoshima, in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, where hard-bitten fishermen, called ami moto, guzzle hot sake by the bucket and talk of fluctuating prices of octopus and squid. On smoke-stained walls above their sunburned heads hang old photographs of Shodoshima’s fishing fleets and the glory days of octopi seasons past. The catches are smaller these days, one fisherman says, though octopus is still the staple seafood of Shodo islanders.

—Simone Rowe, “In the Kingdom of the Octopus” New York Times, 29 October, 1999

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