It is only a matter of time before I revisit my childhood passion of reading Japanese novels translated in Chinese. I read Japanese novels translated in English, such as Haruki Murakami. Maybe there is a certain proximity between the two languages – Japanese and Chinese, I suspect that the Chinese translation is probably closer to the original flavor than English. I do not read Japanese. And hence, purely my speculation.
I know nuts about fishing. I did fish once, or twice when I was young. That was all the experience I have. 《香魚師》, which I would translate the title to “Master Ayu Fisherman” for reference here, is a fictional work that is all about fishing. Not any kind of fishing, but a specific fish specimen – Ayu (you could read more about Ayu in Wikipedia here). The preface has done a great job in giving an introduction on Ayu, the different kinds of fishing tackles – the fish hook that is called “hair rig” – and the environmental impact that affects the habitats of Ayu.
Each chapter of “Master Ayu Fishman” begins with a special title given for a particular “hair rig”. The writing style consists of lots of paragraphs of short sentences and the translator or editor (茂吕美耶) has done a fantastic job in footnoting the novel at places that may cause confusion if you are not a Japanese. As I read the book, I suspected that it was originally published in newspapers or magazines and I was right (magazines indeed). That are repeated references to previous chapters that initially I found it odd. But it is not so odd if the original readers have to wait before reading the next installment.
“Master Ayu Fisherman” is about men’s obsession in fishing. Ayu is often called “Sweetfish” for its special scent of melon and cucumber and “Year-Fish” for its one year lifespan. Ayu’s life journey starts near the seashore and ends as they return from the sea to the seashore area and lay eggs. There are seasonal bans in Japanese on Ayu fishing. In the periods when the bans are lifted, enthusiasts would put aside their daily activities and fish. There are various ways to fish Ayu, and many types of “hair rig” developed to tackle different situations. I am not a fishing enthusiast, but I am intrigued by the passion people have on fishing. In the story, there is this one particular rare hair rig called 黑水仙 (“Black Narcissus”), the only hair rig that can lure the abnormally huge Ayu that survives more than one year. It is a story of two men’s obsession to go after that huge Ayu, almost like an addict. In a strange way, I can relate (close friends of mine would know why).
According to the author, in Amazon, women incorporated their pubic hairs into the hair rig in order to fish a particular type of fish, long time ago. That rare hair rig in the chapter, “Black Narcissus”, is created by just that. Now, I have tried Google this bizarre concept. There seems to be some applications of such setup but I am unable to verify the linkage to fishing in Amazon. Nevertheless, I think Japanese does have some strange concepts and using pubic hair to create a fishing tackle may well be one of many.
Overall I enjoy reading 《香魚師》. The Japanese author 夢枕獏 appears to be popular in Taiwan. And he has spent four to five years in writing this book, being an avid fisherman himself during the period when this book was written.