The Urato Islands are a major cultivation site for oyster seeds in Japan, and have a history of oyster farming that has been passed down from generation to generation.
Located at the entrance to Matsushima Bay, one of the three most scenic spots in Japan, the islands continue to preserve their beautiful natural scenery.
We hope to shine a light on the islanders who call Urato home, and continue to connect and pass on their unique history.
It really is the people who make the Urato Islands so special. By creating opportunities for visitors to meet and talk with islanders we aim to create a human-connection with islands for visitors, knowing they’ll want to come back to meet their ‘Urato family’ again!
Kimio UTSUMI / KATSURASHIMA
Kimio-san is the head of Katsurashima village on Katsurashima island, and also one of the oyster farmers. Among the nation’s leading fishing grounds, there are only a limited number of locations where “seed oysters” can be cultivated. The Urato Islands have the best conditions such as calm shade and moderately deep shallows. Urato Islanders have been preserving the techniques and traditions of oyster farming for over 300 years. Their excellent oysters are full of flavor and nutrients!
Nobuyoshi UTSUMI / KATSURASHIMA
Nobuyoshi-san is the local guide for the isalnds and used to be an oyster farmer himself. He is very knowleadgeble about the history and cultural background of the islands and oyster industry. He can take you on a boat tour to the oyster farms, introducing you to the hisotry and culture of Urato, the wildlife, nature and scenic spots, and many other hidden attractions you won’t find in a guidebook!
Haruo USTUMI / KATSURASHIMA
Haruo-san is one of Urato’s oyster farmers while also running his family guesthouse “Pension Starboard” on Katsurashima Island. At his guest house, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Matsushima and seasonal seafood. The fresh and rich flavour of this hand-cultivated oysters is delicious. You can enjoy escaping from your daily life and enjoying some quality ‘island time’ while inteacting with him, and learning from his weath of knowleadge about marine sports and food.
Minako UTSUMI / KATSURASHIMA
Minako-san is the head of the ‘Urato Mother’s Club’ that was established in 2016 by women who work in aquaculture. The group started its activities with the hope of sharing the delicious local seafood caught in Urato. They make Tsukudani (local seaweeds and oysters broiled in soy sauce) as well as ‘obento’ lunch boxes featuring homemade dishes made with seasonal locally produced ingredients.
Yumiko UTSUMI / KATSURASHIMA
Yumiko-san is also a member of the ‘Urato Mother’s Club’ and helps with the nori seaweed farming, which is one of the core island industries along with oyster farming. She is in charge of drying the seaweed by quickly picking up the nets from the boats. Mrs. Yumiko is also an excellent cook, and she can teach you the best ways to enjoy fresh seaweed!
Masaru ENDO / NONOSHIMA
Masaru-san runs the “Nonoshima Inspiration Support Team” and can introcuce you many hidden gems of the island that only he knows from growing up as an islander, such as kayaking and visiting the island by local ‘danbeko’ fishing boat. He is also highly knowledgable about marine life and seabirds, and will lead you to new discoveries that you will want to share with others. With Endo-san as your guide, you can enjoy a leisurely kayak around the islands in the calm bay for the ultimate island vacation.
Hiroaki SUZUKI / NONOSHIMA
Hiroaki-san is also a legendary oyster farmer from Nonoshima Island. While the main method of cultivating oysters is the “suspension aquaculture method” in which oysters are cultivated whilst submerged in the sea, he is striving to train young people while learning a new “shallow-water aquaculture method” which creates oysters suitable for overseas export. You’ll be energised seeing his hard working attitude as he continue to take on new challenges, even today. His oysters are smaller than other varieties (but no less flavourful!) and are round-shaped, which is popular overseas.
Eietsu TAKAHASHI / KATSURASHIMA
Eiichi-san is a gillnet fisherman while serving as the village head of Ishihama district on Katsurashima Island. From spring to summer when gillnet fishing is the main activitty, he fishes for flounder and flatfish as well as crabs. He is also involved in the conservation and utilization of local bamboo forests, and is actively working with various universities to develop environmental education programs that combine tradition with new local methods. You can enjoy learning how to make bamboo charcoal using the large amount of bamboo that grows naturally on the island.
Eiko TOGAWA / SABUSAWA
Eiko-san runs guesthouse “Togawa-ya” with her husband, Harunobu. Their guesthouse is a home-like inn that will make you feel right at home, and remind of a nostalgic countryside lifestyle. On the dinning table, you will find a variety of dishes including local cusine made with fresh seafood and vegetables from the region. Each meal is delicious, nutrious, and of generous volume! The most comforting thing is her lovely, warm smile. The warmth of her hospitality is sure to make you feel at home!
Harunobu TOGAWA / SABUSAWA
Harunobu-san is the owner of guesthouse Togama-ya, which he runs with his wife Eiko-san. His white teeth shining out from his sun-tanned face is a giveaway of his time spent on the farm and boat! In addition to running the guest house, he still cultivates wakame seaweed at the age of 75, and you can enjoy fresh seafood such as seaurchin and abalone that he catches by free-diving. He is also one of the only rice farmers on the islands, making ‘sasanishiki’ rice by traditional methods. Junmai Ginjo ‘Urakasumi Sabusawa’, a local sake made from his rice has been attracting more attention in recent years.
Katsutoshi OGATA / HO-JIMA
Ho-jima is the smallest of the four islands of Urato. While serving as the head of the village on Ho-jima island, Ogata-san is a seed oyster producer, collecting natural seed oysters for cultivation. There are only a few places in the world where natural oyster seeds can be harvested from their habitat, and Ho-jima is one of them. However, as the sea temperature rises each year due to the impacts of climate change, it has become extremely difficult to harvest seed oysters. Despite these challenges, He continues to preserve the seed oyster industry, which has been passed down to him from his grandfather’s generation, and continues to produce delicious oysters.