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Photo: TARUMI Kengo

The young rabbitfish is called suku in Okinawa. In mainland Japan, people have a prejudice towards the fish, but this sentiment is weaker in the western and southern parts of the country. In Tokyo and surrounding regions, rabbitfish are disliked for smelling like the seashore, or even urine. However, in Kyushu, they are highly valued as they are quite tasty when simmered with soy sauce, sugar, and other condiments. This shows how people’s prejudice can be rather subjective.

In Okinawa, there is a different type of prejudice towards suku. Many people have the firm belief that suku are inedible after the three-day spring tide in June of the lunar calendar. However, this cannot be ignored as a mere prejudice.

Having been carried to Okinawan waters by the spring tide, the enormous swarm of suku lives inside coral reefs. From that point onwards, they change their diet to eating marine plants, despite growing up eating plankton in the open ocean. Therefore, the prejudice is based on their change of diet. Considering the impossibility of catching suku scattered and living inside the reefs, it is rather skeptical to think we have the means to eat them and tell the difference.

Photo: TARUMI Kengo

Referring to the fish as an “enormous swarm” is no exaggeration. If you dive into the sea at this time, the only thing visible would be suku. Making use of this habit of forming huge schools, Okinawan fishers developed net-fishing techniques to catch them all at once. Suku sashimi is quite tasty, but fried suku has the power to take your breath away, even more so than young horse mackerel.

Aside from those dishes, suku are often preserved in salt to be enjoyed throughout the year. They are often sold in glass bottles, giving rise to the name suku-garasu. The suku-garasu is surprisingly salty, but it pairs amazingly well with tofu, bringing out its mild flavors. The fish are placed vertically in the glass bottle, heads down and lined up neatly for some reason. The well-known tēgē-ism (not thinking too much, not taking things too seriously) of Okinawa cannot be found in the painstaking process of bottling the suku, which seems quite interesting in itself.