April 16, 2010

In Season: Hotaru Ika (Firefly Squid)

by Kayoko

Hotaru Ika

Hotaru ika, aka firefly squid, is one of my absolute favorites to order at the sushi bar, if and when they have it. They are these darling little miniature squid that you can eat in one delicate bite. The “miso” (the guts, for lack of a better term) instantly bursts in your mouth, matched by the soft crunchiness of the tentacles. It really tastes like sea miso, it’s so delightful.

I’m reading on this awesome website, The Sea, that these are predominantly caught in Toyama, JPN, between March and May. They glow in the dark, hence the nickname “firefly”, or “sparkling enope squid”. The physiology of this particular squid is fascinating! Read this excerpt (taken from The Sea):

The squid is equipped with special light-producing organs called photophores. These photophores are found on many parts of the squid’s body and emit a deep blue light. Large photophores can be found on the tips of the tentacles as well as around the eyes. Thousands of tiny photophores can be found throughout the squid’s body, giving it the ability to emit light along its entire form. The lights can be flashed in unison or alternated in an endless number of animated patterns. These light shows are thought to serve several functions. They can be used to communicate with potential mates or rivals. They may also be used to disguise the squid’s shape and confuse predators, allowing it to escape. The firefly squid is the only member of the squid family that is believed to have color vision.

AWESOME, right??? My dad gets them directly from Tsukiji market and pairs it with his special miso, mixed with vinegar and mustard, at his restaurant Sushi Kuni. Next time you go to a Japanese restaurant, make sure to ask if they have it!

Hotaru Ika


  • Anders
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 3:07 am


    Japanese peeps scream “sugoi” and look at those squids (while harvesting the global seas into Hell by the way…)

  • yoko
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    That’s pretty amazing. Watching that though, I have to say that I still don’t miss Japanese TV one bit.

  • Posted April 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I ate a ton of them in raw, oki-zuke, shabu shabu, etc. when I was in Japan last month. My sister got 3kg of them online (rakuten). http://wp.me/ptOaj-ox
    Sashimi of Hotaruika was especially good — full of umami! Too bad that we can’t order it here… : ( So your Dad doesn’t serve them raw at Sushi Kuni?

  • kayoko
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:27 am

    yes, they are served raw!

One Trackback

  • By Firefly Squid Beach - The Awesomer on April 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    [...] Toyama Bay is home to a beautiful (and delectable) bioluminescent sea creature, the firefly squid. Tiny photophores in their bodies cause them to [...]

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