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Salmon Salmon
Ainu Legends
Salmon

Why you should always use a willow stick to kill this revered fish
Among freshwater fish the salmon and salmon-trout hold the highest place. This is what one would expect, inasmuch as these are the largest and most useful fishes to enter the rivers. The true salmon is called shibe, and this word means either "the great thing" or "the chief food." It is also known as kamui chep besides, and that means "divine food" or "divine fish," and it is reported to have originally come down from Paradise....

When the Ainu go salmon fishing they always provide a thick willow stick about two feet long with which to strike the salmon's head and kill it. This stick is called isapa-kik-ni, "the head-striking wood" .... The Ainu say that the salmon do not like being killed with a stone or any wood other than good sound willow, but they are very fond of being killed with a willow stick. Indeed, they are said to hold the isapa-kik-ni in great esteem. If anything else is used, the fish will go away in disgust.

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Photo: Corbis/Kevin Fleming

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