Students’ ‘space food’ mackerel lands on plates on Earth

OBAMA, Fukui Prefecture–For those who want a taste of life aboard the International Space Station, they can now do so, thanks to the efforts of enterprising high school students here.

The students teamed up with local businesses to serve consumers on this planet with the same delicacy they served Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi in orbit above Earth.

Canned mackerel for astronauts, created by those studying at marine science class at Wakasa High School in Fukui Prefecture, was released on March 8 because the date 3/8 can be read as “saba” (mackerel) in Japanese.

Koei Fukushima and Arata Watanabe, two The second-year students from Wakasa High School expressed their high expectations for the collaboration, saying they want people “from kids to adults to learn what space food looks like” with their invention.

The effort began in 2006, when students from a predecessor of Wakasa High School, Obama’s Fishing High School, began developing the seafood product featuring local specialty fish traditionally delivered to Kyoto via a species-named route.

Their brainchild was granted Japanese-style space food status in November 2018 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The mackerel can is marked by its viscosity enhanced by kudzu powder to prevent the fluid seasoning from floating in the air in a weightless environment. Fish is also heavily flavored with soy sauce because the food has less flavor when eaten outside of Earth.

A total of 300 students participated in the 14-year project for their common dream, and the fish box was finally delivered to Noguchi aboard the ISS in November 2020.

A published video of Noguchi sampling the mackerel and praising it as “delicious” under non-gravity conditions caught the public’s attention. But the effort of the high school students did not stop there.

Chiharu Hata, a second-year marine science student, and others began looking to put their item up for sale in hopes that “our profits will trickle down to the local community by making people in the whole country consume canned mackerel”.

One challenge was that manually producing the space food requires a lot of time, resulting in a high selling price. Local businesses, inspired by the enthusiastic efforts of the students, have offered to help solve the problem.

Can maker Fukui Kanzume in Obama adjusted his machine to automatically make sticky seasoning with kudzu for mass production based on high school students’ recipe. Using Norwegian mackerel brought the price down to 700 yen ($5.90).

Hiroshi Shigeta, 37, a manager at Fukui Kanzume, praised the commercial version of the children’s innovation as “successfully reproducing the taste of the original product.”

The exterior design of the can was determined taking into account the students’ ideas. A pimp in a spacesuit bearing the academy’s emblem was painted there, while the developments of the high school students’ research project are summarized there in English for non-Japanese buyers.

Fukui Bussan Co., an Obama-based company, also showed up to deliver the finished can of mackerel.

The product has hit shelves at Wakasa Obama’s roadside rest stop, Wakasa Fisherman’s Wharf shopping complex and elsewhere in Fukui Prefecture. It is sold on the Internet at (http://fbk-wakasanotakara.raku-uru.jp) for customers outside the prefecture as well.

With a sales target of 20,000 units per month, inquiries were reportedly received from the operator of a national retail chain as well as other parties.

“We will develop the product as a product representing Fukui Prefecture,” said Yoshihiko Matsubara, 46, an official from Fukui Bussan.

The 90 gram space mackerel can cost 756 yen after tax.

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