The left half of “Events at Akita” displays citizens going about their daily lives in the town: people loading vegetables onto horses, mothers carrying their children, babies carted around inside what look like sleigh-strollers, and more. It’s rumored that the man to the left leading the horse-pulled sled with the rice bag was actually one of the Hirano household’s tenant farmers. Foujita paints them all vividly; they almost seem to breathe off the mural, and one can almost hear their voices. When he researched Akita in 1936, automobiles were still few, and the common folk depended mainly on sleighs during the winter.

Among the crowds, you can see women carrying salmon and flowers to be used for New Year celebrations. The salmon is prepared to be eaten on New Year’s Eve. One aspect of Japanese food culture is said to be that “salmon comes from the east, and amberjack comes from the west.” As such, salted salmon was a beloved food in Akita. Back in Foujita’s time, refrigeration technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now, which made the sale of raw fish dangerous. It is possible that salted salmon was consumed during New Year as much because of tradition as it was because it kept well through the winter.

Akita locals call salted salmon “Bodakko,” and the briny delicacy remains popular today. Seasoned with salt, then grilled and served atop a bed of rice, it is a versatile staple dish that can be eaten as onigiri. Because it is quite salty, it is eaten in small, specially cut pieces.

To this day, the Akita markets are bursting with people looking for bodakko at the end of the year. Though it’s sold everywhere, including supermarkets, there are many families that insist on locally made bodakko for their year-end celebrations.

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