In fishing lore, tall tales abound. Whether it’s ‘the one that got away’ or ‘the one that jumped right into the boat,’ pretty much every story involves a fisherman catching a fish—not the other way around.
But in a plotline straight out of Disney, an adorable aquatic denizen of Japan’s Tateyama Bay has captured one man’s heart in a friendship that’s lasted close to three decades.
Yoriko, an Asian sheepshead wrasse (kobudai in Japanese), first met scuba diver Hiroyuki Arakawa nearly 30 years ago when he was supervising the construction of an underwater Shinto temple gate 56 feet beneath the surface of the bay.
Arakawa started diving at the age of 18. Now 79, he still loves his sojourns in the deep water. His longstanding kinship with Yoriko is certainly one of the highlights.
“I’d say we understand each other,” Arakawa said in an interview for Great Big Story, “not that we talk to each other… I kissed her once. I’m the only person she’ll let do it.”
Over time, the fish with an almost human-looking face—“When you look really close, you’ll think [she] looks like someone you know,” Arakawa jokes—and her human companion became UWBFFs (underwater best friends forever).
On one dive when Arakawa was visiting, he noticed Yoriko’s mouth had been badly injured. Even so, she came to greet him.
Realizing she’d be unable to catch her own food, Arakawa spent the next 10 days hand-feeding Yoriko meat from crabs he hammered open for her near the submerged temple gate.
Thankfully, Yoriko bounced back from her injuries fairly quickly. After her recovery, the bond between the pair seemed to grow even stronger.
“I’m not sure if it’s the nature of the kobudai or not. It’s probably because there is a sense of trust between us. I guess she knows that I saved her… that I helped when she was badly injured. So for me to be able to do that, I am proud,” Arakawa told GBS. “I have an amazing sense of accomplishment in my heart.”
It sure sounds like this is one human who’s been truly caught in a net of love—and we’ll bet Yoriko has no plans to toss him back, either.
(WATCH the Great Big Story video about this friendship below.)