Shark shop owner hopes to revive tsunami-hit city selling fish’s products

  • Shop is in city famous for its shark hunters, who are said to use the whole fish without wasting anything
PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 3:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 3:57pm

The owner of a shop specialising in products made from sharkskin hopes it will help revitalise a northeastern Japanese city devastated by tsunami and fire in March 2011 following a powerful earthquake.

Makiko Kumagai, 58, opened the shop “Sharks” in a makeshift shopping district in her hometown of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, in November 2011 after her home was washed away and the sharkskin processing company she worked for was destroyed.

The shop, which sells colourful sharkskin goods such as wallets and bags, moved to its current location after relocations within the city following the closure of the shopping district.

“Kesennuma is all about sharks,” Kumagai said. “I would like to promote this distinctive aspect through my store and revitalise the city.”

The city is famous for its shark hunters, who are known for using the whole animal without wasting anything, amid growing criticism of shark fishing by conservationists.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry caps the annual quota of blue sharks and shortfin mako sharks landed at Kesennuma port and reports their hauls to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission which manages stocks of sharks in certain areas of the Pacific.

The hides of blue sharks landed at Kesennuma port are tanned at a factory in Tochigi Prefecture before they are processed into leather products in Kesennuma and Tokyo.

Kumagai’s store has also been developing original merchandise, with a key case that looks like a shark’s mouth, produced at the request of a customer from Yokohama, south of Tokyo, proving to be a popular item.

“I think I’ve found my calling,” Kumagai said, referring to her work and the store. “Someday, I’d like to open a workshop in the store and hire local people. I’d like to give something back to my hometown that I dearly love.”