The Japanese love their sake, and with more than 30 breweries in Shimane, trying all the varieties during your short visit is definitely a feat that will leave you feeling it the next morning. But, don’t worry because Shimane also has the cure to help that morning after, If you have ever walked into a convenience store in Japan, you would know that there is a whole section of drinks that are said to be the cure for the aftereffects of alcohol, and if you ever tried one you would know they are not known for their great taste. But, what about something that tastes good and works? Well ask anyone from Shimane and they will tell you, shijimi.
It all starts in the morning before most people wake up. Fisherman head out over Lake Shinji in their small fishing boats with big scoop-like rakes. What are they fishing for? They are fishing for shijimi clams which is one of the seven delicacies of Lake Shinji. The other six include whitebait, eel, shrimp, bass, smelt, and carp, but unlike shijimi clams what can be caught depends on the season. Lake Shinji, where the shijimi clams are harvested, is a brackish water lake. It connects to the Sea of Japan through Lake Nakaumi. With that being said the water in Lake Shinji is more on the fresher side allowing us to have the seven delicacies that we do. What makes the shijimi clams here special is that they are of the variety called yamato shijimi which is distant for its black shells and being larger in size. While they may not be the size of asari clams, our shijimi clams are big enough (up to 5cm) where the meat inside can be eaten. The shijimi clams also do a big part as they act like a natural filter for the lake to help keep it clean and is said to help our body in the same way. The nutrients in shijimi clams are said to help the liver, which helps the body detoxify itself, which is the reason why they says it’s good for fighting hangovers.
Some ways to enjoy shijimi clams include with ramen, pasta, rice, burger (as shown in picture), soup, as a drink, in forms of supplements, and even icecream, but the most traditional way would have to be with miso soup. In Matsue, they are usually served towards the end of the dinner course in the form of miso soup and the same goes for breakfast at home.
Shijimi clams are such hard workers as they help keep our lake clean and also help keep us healthy. It’s no wonder why they are so prized here in Shimane. So, next time you visit Shimane and see small black clams in your soup, you need not worry about the long night ahead. After all, sake from over 30 breweries is a lot to sample. Try it and make sure to take some home for your friends.