If you like seafood, you’ll love Toyama Bay. And nothing symbolizes its bounty better than hotaru-ika, the firefly squid that rise in huge shoals from the depths of these fertile waters emitting the mysterious glow that gives them their name.
In spring, these tiny squid are shipped from Toyama Prefecture around the country as a seasonal delicacy. One of the main centers for this is the small port of Namerikawa, just east of the city of Toyama.
At Kousai, the restaurant in the town’s smart new visitor center and museum, you can try them in half a dozen different ways, from soft, smooth sashimi to hot, crispy tempura.
During the season, there are night cruises where tourists can watch the catch being hauled in from fixed nets in the middle of the bay. The fishermen have open braziers on their boats and like to grill the squid whole, flavoring them with a splash of soy sauce.
Then, once back on land, you can also get a chance to try the squid dunked in hot water and simply served with a dab of karashi sumiso (white miso mixed with vinegar and mustard powder).
Nowhere else will they ever taste as good.
Open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (L.O.); Sept.-Feb. 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (L.O.); closed Tues. (but open daily March 20-May 31).; set meals at ¥2,200; also a la carte; Japanese menu; little English spoken. Robbie Swinnerton blogs at www.tokyofoodfile.com.