the rock abides

This year, for the second year in a row, I went to Toyama prefecture with a group of friends to eat kan-buri (寒ブリ), Japanese amberjack, which is at its seasonal peak in winter. We stayed just outside of the town of Himi (氷見), which is famous not only for its large fish market and the local beef, but also as the birthplace of Abiko Motoo (安孫子素雄), also known as Fujiko Fujio A, half of the manga writing duo collectively known as Fujiko Fujio. The other half of the duo — Fujiko F. Fujio — is responsible for the creation of Doraemon, that earless blue robot cat from the future that is a key component of the collective unconscious of all Japanese schoolchildren, while Fujiko Fujio A is known in Himi as the originator of Ninja Hattori-kun (忍者ハットリくん), whose image you can see pasted all over town.

In fact, here’s an image from the train of Ninja Hattori-kun and his cronies riding a wild Japanese amberjack through Toyama Bay. And if that’s not enough to convince you that you should visit Himi, then I’m afraid that nothing is likely to get you there.

double ninja fish attack

We stayed at Meiwasou (女岩荘), a fantastic minshiku known for the kan-buri course prepared by the owner of the inn and his family. The main event is buri-shabu, but the standout dish for me is the buri-daikon, which is so soft that even the bones melt in your mouth.

Meiwasou is named after the Meiwa (女岩) rock formation, which is just a fifteen minute walk from the inn. The name of the formation literally means ‘woman rock,’ but I have no idea what the story behind the name is. Other than the delightfully wabi-sabi profile of the rock and the pine tree, the other feature of this view is the line of snow-covered mountains which you can see looming across the horizon behind the rock. The mountains don’t show up so cleanly in the photo that I took, but on a perfectly clear day they stand out razor sharp, a spectacular backdrop for the lonely woman.

Just a few days before we arrived in Toyama, there was a special visitor to Toyama Bay. A four-meter long giant squid was spotted from a boat and a quick-witted diver decided to jump in and capture some footage. The squid seems strangely friendly, not put off by the diver at all, and looks perhaps rather pleased to be the focus of attention. Giant squid are famous for being camera shy — the first time one was caught on film in its natural habitat was in 2012 — but this one clearly wanted to show off its tentacular good looks.

It’s difficult to think about giant squid without also thinking about their complimentary nemesis, the sperm whale. One doesn’t often think of red sperm whales — white is the go to color when you want to take a detour into the uncanny — but there are two to be found floating in the enormous atrium of the Hep 5 shopping center in Osaka. I have no idea why the life-sized pair of parent and child are red, and the person working the information desk last time I visited didn’t seem to know either, but there’s a fascinating complementarity between the creamy tomato hue of the whales and the creamy tomato hue of the giant squid, as if someone had had Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans on the mind when handing out the color swatches.



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