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Japan Life!
Chapter: 10 Lesson: 0 - Hotaru Ika (Firefly Squid)
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Lesson added on: January 1, 1970 12:00am
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Hotaru Ika, the Firefly Squid

Scientific Name
: Watasenia Scintillans
Other Names: Sparkling Enope Squid
Habitat: Western Pacific Ocean

Each year off the coasts of Toyama Bay, Japan, millions of bioluminescent creatures gather to spawn. These life forms’ light show puts all others to shame. They are the “hotaruika”. The name literally translates to firefly (hotaru) squid (ika).



This squid grows to a length of around 3 inches only. It is equipped with photophores, special light-producing organs, all throughout its body. Large photophores are situated around the eyes and at the tips of its tentacles.

Theories state that the lights emitted by these squids are used to communicate with potential mates or rivals, to disguise the squid’s shape and confuse predators, or to attract prey by flashing their lights on and off.


This squid family normally lives 600 to 1,200 feet underwater. Its spawning season runs from March to May. The squids gather in the bay to lay and fertilize their eggs, then slowly begin to die after – completing their one-year life cycle.



Occasionally, the squids are forced up to the shore by the current that wells up from the v-shaped canyon in Toyama Bay. Locals refer to this phenomenon as "squids drowning themselves".

Scientists believe that this squid family has color vision due to the squids having 3 visual pigments, instead of just one which is what most cephalopods have. They also have a double-layered retina in the back of their eyes. It is hypothesized that the squids evolved and developed such features so they can distinguish between ambient light and bioluminescence, and to help them decode light patterns produced by other members of the species.



Firefly squids are also considered a delicacy in Japan and are widely fished during spawning season. Lots of tourists enjoy the view as the sea surface turns cobalt blue when fishermen haul in their catches.

There exists a museum dedicated to firefly squids in Namerikawa in Toyama prefecture – the only one in the world.



This article was generously written and contributed anonymously by a close friend.
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