Monday, April 7, 2014

failed toyama firefly squid tour

I had mentioned previously that my Nagano trip in February was cancelled due to a sudden snow storm (yes a storm cause it sounds more badass). What I didn't know was that that was just the beginning of my bad weather curse! In this blog post I will tell you the detailed instructions of how to book a tour to see the Toyama Firefly Squid. Let me first mention that it was extremely difficult to plan this trip and if you can't speak Japanese or know anyone who speaks Japanese you won't be able to register for this trip.

After doing a lot of research on the internet I discovered that a lot of English websites and blogs had the same copied and paste text and used the same photos - which wasn't much help. This is what everyone expects when they get there. This is what I expected!!

source: Amusing Planet

However I think the above photo won't be what you see on the tour but something more like this..

Source: Pink Tentacle
Unfortunately I didn't get to see either of these views but more on that later... The first thing you have to do is make a reservation. These sea tours allow for visitors to get on a boat and see the firefly squid as they are being caught in nets. If you look at the above photo the nets have to be jostled in order to agitate the squid so they light up.

Anyways the tour only last for a month from the beginning of April to May. The Namerikawa Tourism Association is the only company that does these tours and they start taking reservations on March 1st from 9am-4:00pm. When the day comes I'm dialing them like crazy, but I'm getting a busy signal every time. Finally after trying for a couple of hours I give up and just eat my lunch. On a whim I try one more time around 2pm, a little before class starts and I finally get through! When they answer no one speaks English and I'm trying to speak slower and be like yes you can understand me because I'm speaking slower. Of course that's a fail and my assistant finally takes over and because I have class I have to leave it in their hands. What I gather is that already by 2pm of the first day of reservations most everything is booked up. Forget about the weekends or even Golden Week holiday - those are already full. Thankfully I have a Monday off so was able to secure a spot but they require a lot of information like my address, phone number, etc etc and since my assistants didn't know those answers I ended up having them reserve a spot for me but I had to e-mail them the rest of the information. They require your address and all this other info because they will send you a card that you must bring with you in order to get onto the boat.

This tour is definitely targeted at locals. Not sure if you can have this card sent to a hostel or hotel. Since the tour starts around 3am it would be best if we could find a hotel in the area but there is only one that I know of in English with an online reservation system and it was completely booked. The only other choice was to catch the last train there and then wait the couple of hours until the tour began. My friend Paige and I sat in the train station as long as we could before they had to close up and then we started wandering the streets. We ended up sitting inside this room near the Hotaruika Museum that had a nearby bathroom and provided shelter from the wind and cold. We sat there for hours munching on snacks and trying to nap (so difficult when there weren't any chairs).

Finally the museum opened at 2:30am and we got to try samples of the firefly squid or hotaruika as they are known in Japanese.

firefly squid with kimchi flavor
Oh man I so did not want to eat this but all my adult students had told me how delicious it was and since this was the only time I would have the chance to eat this I had to woman up and eat it. It was nasty! I hate raw squid and the kimchi flavor did nothing to mask the rubbery taste of it, it just exacerbated the grossness of it all! Paige loved them and there were a lot of different flavors to try.

proof that we were there!
We were taken into the museum, all the information is in Japanese, and we were given a demonstration of the firefly squid. They were in a little pool and we got to shake the nets and see the firefly squid light up. Pictures didn't turn out well since I just have a point and shoot camera. Afterwards we got to go to this little tide pool setup that they had where we got to touch the firefly squid!

me holding the squid - my mouth is open cause I'm about to pop it into my mouth :P
After all this demonstration I was ready for the tour. But as we exited the museum everyone started heading for their cars. We were like WTF is going on? There had been no announcement or anything, not even in Japanese because Paige understands Japanese and she said they hadn't said anything. Apparently the tour was freaking cancelled because of the "strong" winds. The winds were not strong - the trees weren't even rustling! DAMN YOU WEATHER!

So after all this time, waiting, work and money to get here all we got was a sorry trips cancelled nothing we can do about it! Not even getting rescheduled for another tour or anything! Ugh so fking pissed off. I just went out into the steps looking over Toyama Bay and just screamed and cursed while Paige looked on. She was probably thinking have I saddled myself with a crazy person?!? Sorry Paige! Then we spent another couple of hours trying to sleep on the uncomfortable chairs in the train station, which was thankfully unlocked, and waited for first train to get us back to our hotel room. All in all I would probably never do that again - so not worth it. Better yet I've discovered that to see the view like the first picture above you can just go to Yaezuhama Beach and see it for free!

The Details 
Bus from Nagoya Meitestu Bus Station to Toyama
Price: one way - 4630 yen round trip - 7410 yen
for bus schedule check out their website (japanese only but entering into Google translate works wonders)

Namerikawa Tourism Association
phone # : (076) 475-0100
reservation begins March 1st
hours: 9am-4:00pm
price: adults - 4500 yen & children - 3000 yen
website (Japanese only)
e-mail address:
They can respond in English in the e-mails so you can try booking via e-mail but not if you want prime spots like the weekend or during Golden Week. They reply really quickly but never heard back after I complained about the trip. Everyone talks about the awesome customer service here but if there are any problems that customer service goes out the window.

In the e-mail I had to provide my address, name, age, telephone number, gender (why?), how many people are going, date of tour and I think that's about it. If you and your friend live at different addresses they will also ask for your friends address so I guess they can get a separate card too and not have to rely on you being there to go.

Access: Namerikawa Station - JR Hokuriku Line 
last train departing from Toyama 10:24pm and takes about 15 minutes cost - 320 yen
You can also take a taxi from Toyama to Namerikawa instead of staying overnight but it takes around 30 minutes and could cost around 7000 yen or more.

only hotel here that I know of in Namerikawa - Hotel Sunroute Namerikawa 
website is in English but by the time I had secured my reservation for the tour all the rooms were already sold out - didn't call them but their website was all booked. I would definitely recommend this especially if you need sleep. Though I can't understand how all the rooms were booked before people got spots on the tour and this city is pretty rural to be that popular.
Places to actually see Toyama Firefly Squid - Yaezuhama Beach
Access: Toyama Chitetsu Bus bound for Yokata from JR Toyama Station and 10-min walking from Yokatamachi Bus Stop
website - person who actually went to this beach and saw the firefly squid (can find a map of where this beach is at)

However if you go at midnight in order to see the firefly squid all the buses and trains would have stopped by then so either catch the last bus here and then wait or maybe catch a taxi here. The closest train station is 45 mins away by walking.


  1. Thank you so much for your blog on the firefly squid. I have been trying to figure out more about the tour. Unfortunately, for me I will be arriving too 12 days too late for the last tour on May 6. So, perhaps I will try to see them on the beach. Safe travels! Sincerely, Susan P.S. I'm definitely going to check out the rest of your blogs... appreciate your honest approach and fun to read!

    1. Thank you for your comment! I'm glad my blog could be of help!