In the 1976 installment of the raunchy dekotora (decorative trucks) film series, “Torakku Yaro: Bokyo Ichibanboshi” (which translates loosely as “Truck Guys: Homesick ‘Ichibanboshi’”), the titular character, played by the late Bunta Sugawara, embarks on a delivery from the Hokkaido port city of Kushiro to the capital, Sapporo. A truck carrying fish for the market, as part of a gag, drops an avalanche of fish onto him.

Although fictitious, the high mark it represented would prove unsustainable.

Between 1965 and 1975, Kushiro laid claim to the title of Japan’s largest port — meaning there was no shortage of fish to drop on unsuspecting truck drivers. Then, the bubble economy collapsed, the fishing industry faltered, businesses shuttered and the population grayed. By the numbers, the Kushiro the “Truck Guys” knew is no more. What remains is a community fighting to keep its traditions and, subsequently, its identity. It’s a fight that’s being waged in many regions of the country.