Hiroyuki Arakawa’s sea-dwelling friend of 25 years is like something out of a fairy tale.
Although Hiroyuki Arakawa of Tateyama, Chiba has been diving for 61 years, it was about three decades ago that a fateful decision to build a Shinto shrine’s gate 17 meters beneath the ocean’s surface brought a truly unique friend into his life.
Around 25 years ago, while maintaining the underwater religious monument, Arakawa came across a fish called a kobudai (Asian sheepshead wrasse) which translates to “bump bream” due to the prominent bump that appears on its forehead.
The kobudai was looking weak and Arakawa suspected that meant it couldn’t catch its own food. He started to feed it five crabs a day for 10 days until it recovered. He also called it – or her, rather – Yoriko with the common female name suffix of “ko” (子) meaning “child” and “yori” (頼) which is written with the kanji for “trust” or “favor.”
And trust would be what has sustained the two’s bond for the next quarter of a century. Now at the age of 79, Arakawa can’t explain why she continues to spend time with him and allow him to touch – even kiss – her, but he feels an immense sense of gladness that he could reach out to an otherwise highly skittish creature like the kobudai.
▼ Yoriko is also happy to take selfies with associates of Arakawa’s.
The short video documentary featuring Arakawa was produced and posted to YouTube by Great Big Story and ANA, where it has reached over a million views from around the world in just a few weeks, and received comments such as the following:
“Yoriko is like the gatekeeper of the underwater shrine gate sent by God….and it’s so magically beautiful that it bought tears to my eyes .”
“Amazing video, but i feel sorry for the person he’s talking about in 1:26.”
“Pixar could not design a more charming old man, and his story fits too.”
“This fish is quite an exception; it has a capacity for memory and intelligence that is unheard of in fish.”
“What’s sad is how one day that man’s not gonna come back… And the fish won’t know or understand.”
A few people shared the sentiment of the final comment, that at the age of 79, Arakawa has more diving days behind him than in front. But perhaps someone in his family will try to reach out to Yoriko, and if successful in carrying on the bond through generations, they can make an even more endearing chapter to this story.
Also, as for the caring capacity of fish, mounting evidence seems to indicate that we might actually be greatly underestimating their awareness and sensitivity all this time.