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Francesco Bellissimo Meets Kenjiro Denpo, Owner of Uoden

  Kenjiro Denpo, Uoden Fish Shop Owner
Address: 465-1 Honmachi, Kusakabe,
Shodoshima-sho, Shodo-gun
Tel: (0879)-82-1523
(from overseas: 81-879-82-1523)
The shop owner talks while he works and works while he talks. He might interrupt himself for a few moments as he jumps up onto a huge tank to net a fish, but then he’s talking again. Sometimes it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. But I can tell from what he says that he takes great pride in his work.   “You’ve come a long way so you’d better try the fish,” he said, deftly filleting a sea bream and a Japanese sea bass (susuki). Clearly, he believes in putting his customers first because he’s always throwing in something extra for free.   Impressed by the quality and freshness of Shodoshima fish and by the shop owner’s discerning eye, customers send orders to Uoden from all over Japan. When he heard that I’m an Italian chef, he exclaimed, “I love Italian food. The fish from this island are perfect for Italian cooking, you know.” I have to agree!

“Shodoshima fish! Best in the world!” Enjoying the owner’s rapid-fire banter.

“You understand Japanese?” That’s how our conversation began. Before I had a chance to answer, Kenjiro Denpo, owner of Uoden fish shop, had launched into a rapid-fire monologue. “Look at this. Shodoshima sea bream, the best in the world! You know why? This sea bream swims from the Pacific through Naruto Strait before it gets to Shodoshima. So it passes from the strong Kuroshio current of the Pacific through the pummeling of the whirlpools in the strait and then into the milder current of the Seto Inland Sea. That’s what makes it so good.”   Styrofoam boxes are bursting with all kinds of freshly caught fish and many more are swimming in huge tanks in the back of the shop. According to the owner, everything here is the “best in the world.”
“Look at this flatfish. A beauty. Best in the world. You should hold it up and take a picture. This one here’s an Asian sheepshead wrasse. It’s great cured in miso. Best in the world. And we’ve got the world’s best portunid crabs, too.”
“You’re so confident about your island fish,” I laughed.
“You bet I am,” was his prompt reply. “How could I ship these to customers all over Japan unless they were the best?”
  “You can’t know how good Shodoshima fish are until you’ve tried them,” Mr. Denpo said, swiftly transforming a splendid sea bream and Japanese sea bass (susuki) into sashimi. Amazing stuff! So fresh it was still twitching and the perfect texture.
“The more I chew it, the sweeter it tastes,” I commented.
“Ah, spoken like a true chef,” he said. “The sweetness of fresh, wild fish always comes after. I like the way you eat. You do it with gusto!”
Mmm. Delicious. Shodoshima fish are indeed the best in the world!