A miraculous terrain spanning 4,000 meters in elevation!
From the 3,000-meter Japanese Alps, including the famous Tateyama Mountain Range, all the way down to the 1,000-meter depths Toyama Bay, the steep grade of Toyama’s dynamic terrain is unrivaled around the world. At the very bottom of this miraculous landscape lies a submarine valley. The area is known as aigame because of the indigo color of the ocean there (aigame refers to an earthenware pot for storing indigo dye). This deep zone is an excellent habitat for red snow crab and Japanese glass shrimp.
Due to the steep slope of the ocean floor, the bay quickly becomes very deep, allowing for easy access to fishing grounds. Fishing so close to port is almost like scooping fish out of a fish tank – the short trip back to port ensures that the catch arrives fresh. This is one of the secrets of Toyama Bay’s delicious fish.
Pure water running down from the mountains and bubbling up from the ocean floor
The snow which falls on the Japanese Alps becomes cool, clear melt water which feeds the 7 large rivers that pour into Toyama Bay. Fast-flowing and nutrient-rich, this water creates circulation in the bay and contributes to the fertile marine environment.
In addition, it has been discovered that numerous freshwater springs continuously flow forth from the ocean floor. Water from precipitation on the mountains soaks deep into the earth, eventually making its way up into the bay decades later. Some fishermen claim that fish are attracted by the freshwater springs.
3 layers of sea water provide a habitat for diverse species of fish
At the surface of Toyama Bay, due to the influx of fresh water from rivers, there is a layer of coastal surface water which has a low concentration of salt. Below this layer, from around 200-300 meters in depth flows the “Tsushima Warm Current”, which attracts many warm water fish species into Toyama Bay. Further down in the bay, a cold mass of deep sea water can be found, which is inhabited by cold water and deep sea species of fish and shellfish. It is said that out of the 800 total species found in the Sea of Japan, 500 can be found in Toyama Bay – the three distinct layers of ocean water may be a factor in creating this extraordinary biodiversity.
The fresh catch from Toyama Bay's "natural fish tank"
In addition to the popular winter yellowtail, a variety of treasures can be harvested from the bay year-round, including tuna, firefly squid, Japanese glass shrimp, northern shrimp and snow crab. Do not miss a chance to savor seafood and sushi fresh from the bay !
Called kanburi when caught in winter, Toyama’s yellowtail is a top quality brand. It can be enjoyed raw as sashimi, or dipped in hot water as a luxurious burishabu. It is also wonderful with daikon radish, cooked to a delightful shade of amber.
Every year from March through June, innumerable blue lights twinkle in the midnight sea of Toyama Bay. Most of the firefly squid which can be seen near the surface are females coming to spawn. They are caught fully mature. Try them as sashimi, or boiled with miso.
Toyama Bay is the only place in the world where these shrimp are found in enough numbers to be fished intentionally! Do not miss a chance to try this rare delicacy here in Toyama. Literally translated as ‘white shrimp’ in Japanese, they have a delicate cherry-blossom color and a rich, refined flavor. Admire the sight and savor the taste of this prized catch.
“Etchu-style Fixed Net Fishing” is a tradition that has been passed down in Toyama since the Edo period.
Since fixed-net fishing avoids overfishing and hurting fish, it has been hailed as an environmentally friendly fishing method.
Refracted light from air masses of different density in the atmosphere creates mirages; scenery on the opposite shore and boats on the water appear to float, sometimes upside down. Toyama Bay boasts the most frequent occurrence of mirages in Japan! For those seeking an out-of-the-ordinary experience, April or May is the best time to catch a glimps of a mirage.
In spring, tens of thousands of firefly squid approach the shore, forming a magical scene as they group together in a brightly glowing band. It is like a Milky Way of the sea. This phenomenon is designated as a Special Natural Monument of Japan, and can be seen between mid-April and the beginning of May, around the eastern shore of the bay.
With its large mouth, the predatory tunicate looks quite a bit different than its relatives. Transparent like a jellyfish, it certainly is a mysterious deep sea creature. A colony of predatory tunicates grouped together has been found in Toyama Bay, the first case of such a phenomenon in the waters around Japan.
The discovery of a buried forest submerged near the city of Uozu has proven that part of the ocean floor used to be above water. Contemplate the ancient natural world as you check out the displays at the Uozu Buried Forest Museum.
The breathtaking view of the 3,000-meter Tateyama Mountain Range towing over the waters is unparalleled throughout the world.
The area has long been praised for its beauty; Etchu feudal lord Otomo no Yakamochi even wrote about this area in the Man'yōshū, the oldest collection of poetry in Japan.
The coast of Arisoumi (Meiwa Rock) was also the setting of Matsuo Bashō's classic literary work Oku no Hoso Michi, and the area has been designated as an area of scenic beauty by the national government.
Festivals give color and rhythm to the lifestyle of the people living in these seaside towns.
Join the locals in these ceremonies to wash away misfortune and illness, while praying for the safety and success of fishermen.
About 90 lanterns are hung from triangular floats which resemble the sails of ships; standing 16 meters tall and weighing over 5 tons, these colossal floats are maneuvered through the streets by the young locals to pray for fishermen's safety and a bountiful catch. During the exciting procession, participants are occasionally lifted off their feet as they work together to steer the floats! The festival takes place every year on the 1st Friday and Saturday of August.
These 4-meter-tall torches are built with paper and vegetables in the shape of huge human figures, then lit on fire and cast out to sea. In this ritual, people hope that their sicknesses and ailments will be cleansed, and disappear out to sea along with the torch. This event occurs on the 31st of July every year in Nakagawara, Namerikawa (near the Firefly Squid Museum).
The Port of Fushiki-Toyama serves as a center of trade for the import and export of raw materials, energy resources, and manufactured products. It was designated a Comprehensive Hub Port on the Japan Sea Coast in 2011, and the number of cruise liners and international container vessels calling in to port has been increasing.
In line with the Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP), Japan, China, Korea and Russia cooperate to conduct initiatives such as investigations on marine litter, coastal clean-up, and ocean environment surveys via remote-sensing satellite technology. The Regional Coordinating Unit which serves as the secretariat for NOWPAP is located in Toyama, and is the base for planning projects which aim to control marine litter and maintain water quality. Through cooperation between the prefecture, municipalities, private organizations and citizens of Toyama, we are making sure to protect the bay’s beautiful environment.