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Spring brings boasts tasty, nutritious firefly squid to Japan

  • JAPAN NEWS / YOMIURI PHOTO

    Kosai restaurant in Namerikawa, Japan, serves two kinds of hotaruika sashimi: a thawed frozen version, top left front, and another with the internal organs removed.

  • COURTESY TOYAMA TOURISM ORGANIZATION

    Hotaruika, or firefly squid, has a natural fluorescence that causes them to glow in the dark.

  • JAPAN NEWS / YOMIURI PHOTO

    Once spring arrives, hotaruika squid come to Japan’s Toyama Bay to spawn.

NAMERIKAWA, Japan >>

In Toyama Bay, it is just about prime fishing season for hotaruika, otherwise known as firefly squid.

Already well known for its rich flavor, the squid goes well with vinegared miso or pickled in a soy sauce-based mixture. It has also attracted attention in recent years for its high nutritional value.

Once spring arrives, hotaruika come to Toyama Bay to spawn. Namerikawa in Toyama Prefecture boasts the largest haul of the squid in the prefecture. Local fisherman Kazuhito Mizuhashi said they “try to maintain the resource” by catching firefly squid when they return to the deep sea after spawning.

The fishermen carefully pull the net in by hand so as not to damage the hotaruika.

In March, the haul one day was 6.6 pounds of firefly squid and a large number of sardines. The hotaruika season peaks around April and lasts until June.

Hotaruika have roughly the same amount of vitamin A as kabayaki grilled eel fillets, according to research by Toyama College professor Hiroyuki Takeuchi. The squid are also rich in vitamin B12, which helps prevent anemia, and taurine, which strengthens liver function.

The Toyama-ken Hotaruika Kyokai, an association made up of local fishermen and others, encourages consumers to eat firefly squid on the midspring Day of the Ox, which falls on Friday this year.

“It’s great to eat hotaruika around when the seasons change, which is when people tend to get sick,” said Ryoji Tanaka, an executive at the Toyama prefectural Federation of Fishing Cooperatives. “In addition to popular cooking methods, such as boiling them in salted water, you can also add them to pasta or pizza.”

Now, the newest way to eat hotaruika is raw as sashimi. However, due to reports that parasites have been found in their internal organs, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry recommends eating the squid after its internal organs have been removed, or after it has been frozen for at least four days at minus 22 degrees or lower.

The Hotaruika Museum, located next to the Namerikawa Port, houses the restaurant Kosai, which serves both variations of hotaruika sashimi when in season. Priced at $28 U.S., the set item is available for just 10 customers each day.

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