Imaiyu coming from ima (now) – iyu (fish), stands for fish in season or those that can be caught with nearshore fishing.
Okinawa, although surrounded by the ocean in all directions, doesn’t have that much variety of fish dishes to be enjoyed. Mostly eaten as sashimi1 or deep-fried, you rarely see them grilled or dried. In the old days, when there were no fridges, the freshly caught fish were first eaten raw and as the heat would easily spoil the catch, the rest were thoroughly cooked; mainly deep-fried or turned into a māsu-ni (salt stew). The fishmongers sell most of the imaiyu as sashimi.
Hence, the fishmongers are generally called “sashimi shops” in Okinawa. We don’t see many of these anymore, however, the “sashimi shops” until the 80s not only sold fish and sashimi in front but served sashimi and fish tempura with alcohol at the tatami room in the back or the stores next door, just like the recent days’ izakaya2 (as far as I know, a few of them are still in business.)When we were younger, we held our moai3 in those “sashimi shops.” It was cheap, and a heap of fresh imaiyu dressed with vinegar miso was brought to the table. And with it, we enjoyed the exquisite awamori. It was a moment of sheer happiness.
- A dish of sliced raw seafood or meat.
- Japanese tavern.
- A social support group characteristic of Okinawa, where a certain amount of money is collected by all members, and given to one of the members in turn.