A Japanese Caretaker Of Undersea Shinto Shrine Strikes Lifelong Friendship With A Fish

Well, you have pets and animal friends, such as dogs and cats, and some unusual ones, like lizards and snakes, but fish? Now, this is a new one!

Hiroyuki Arakawa, a local diver residing in Tateyama in Chiba prefecture, runs a dive shop near Hasama Underwater Park. He also serves as a caretaker for an undersea Shinto shrine for the past 25 years.

Image Via: Inhabitat


A Shinto shrine is a structure that houses one or several Shinto kami. Shinto, the ethnic religion of Japan, ensures that ritual practices of kami, the worship of the spirits, are practiced meticulously. This religion acts to bridge the chasm between the ancient and modern Japan. An underwater Shinto shrine is a novelty even by Japanese standards.

Amazingly, in the course of his innumerable dives to the shrine, he has struck an uncanny friendship with a fish that he has fondly named Yoriko. This Asian sheepshead wrasse recognizes Arakawa’s calls and responds to them admirably.

Asian sheepshead wrasses, such as Yoriko, are pinkish-grey in color and are native to the western Pacific Ocean. Their domain stretches from the Korean Peninsula to the Ogasawara Islands. They usually inhabit rocky reef areas. By no means, these wrasses are small. The average length of a fully-grown wrasse measures a full 100 centimeters. Also, it can weigh up to 14.7 kilograms.

The weird-looking fish can be easily recognized by a typical bump on the head and a wide mouth with well-formed lips. The bump is typical of this species and is a result of abnormal bone growth. It is no wonder that its shape has been compared to the popular animation character ‘Shrek’.

Over his numerous dives, Arakawa probably met Yoriko inside a Shinto shrine that he manages and it was probably love at first sight! Their friendship blossomed over the years and grew so thick that Yoriko became one of the lovable underwater Shinto shrine animals that Arakawa simply adored. From then on, he has been consistently reporting his meetings with his aquatic friend on his Facebook page.

For meeting Yoriko, Arakawa simply dives to the Shinto shrine and continuously taps on a piece of metal for some time. Hearing this Yoriko rushes up to him from wherever it is and is offered a morsel of food that it gulps down greedily.

Such is Arakawa’s love for his underwater friend that he has posted innumerable selfies on his Facebook page. In a fascinating video, he is also seen removing his scuba gear face mask and planting a loving kiss on Yoriko’s bump on the head. From time to time, Arakawa also invites other divers to dive with him to meet Yoriko.

The relationship of these two shows all the signs of continuing into a lifelong one. Both look forward to meeting each other during Arakawa’s regular dives to maintain the Shinto shrine. However, this human-fish relationship is not unique, there are other reported relationships like this. A case in point is a group of fishermen who have grown friendly with local whale sharks.

Via The Dodo

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