Scuba diver visits same fish daily–for 25 years!

If you can have your heart warmed by a fish, or rather a relationship between a man and a fish, have a look at this video and the brief notes about it (below) posted on Twisted Sifter. The fish is an Asian sheepshead wrasse, Semicossyphus reticulatus. 

These Two Have Seen Each Other Nearly Every Day for the Past 25 Years

Scuba diver Hiroyuki Arakawa and Yoriko are the unlikeliest of friends. While they both share a love for the sea, Yoriko’s gills and tail make her a little more aquatically inclined. Nearly every day for the past 25 years, Arakawa has been diving into the waters of Hasama Underwater Park in Tateyama, Japan, to visit Yoriko—an Asian sheepshead wrasse. One day, Arakawa found her looking exhausted and carrying an injury. So he did what any friend would do: he took care of Yoriko, feeding her crabs and nursing her back to health. Their decades-long friendship is proof there’s no greater bond than the one between man and fish.

The Atlas Obscura adds this:

The diver, Hiroyuki Arakawa, has long served as the de facto caretaker for an underwater Shinto shrine, and it is through these dives that he met Yoriko, an Asian sheepshead wrasse, over 25 years ago.

The pair’s relationship soon blossomed into a full-blown friendship. Now, whenever Arakawa visits the shrine, he need only knock on a piece of a metal, and Yoriko immediately speeds over. In the video, Arakawa can be seen kissing Yoriko. His Facebook page is also full of selfies of the unlikely duo.

I wouldn’t have thought such a relationship with a wild animal likely, at least for me, although of course I’ve deeply bonded with the cats I’ve had. But since I’ve been taking care of a duck family (now down to a single hen), my perspective has changed. When you spend hours with a single animal, or a family of them, you begin to bond with them in pretty strong ways. Who would have thought I’d be so deeply enmeshed in the fate of a duck family? They’re ducks, not cats!

But now I can spend a long time just sitting by the pond and staring at a single duck who floats nearby, hoping for a handout—or maybe even getting solace from my presence. I wonder what it’s thinking and can’t possibly know, but am happy to realize it regards me as a friend and not a predator. I eventually see them as creatures of great dexterity and beauty rather than as funny floating birds. I learn about their adaptations: their extreme attentiveness to the environment, the deep maternal instincts of the mother, the ducklings’ reaction to cues from mom that I can’t even discern, and their ability to “dabble”, skillfully diving and retrieving the tiniest bits of food.

We keep each other company. And sometimes she cocks her little duck head sideways, looking at me with one upturned eye as if to say, “Is it really you?” Or so I like to think.

I worry about the ducks’ fates when they fly away, and am sad knowing that I’ll never see them again. Or, if I do, I know I won’t recognize them. But as a friend said, if they do return to my little pond and I don’t know them, they’ll still remember me.

So now I can totally understand the relationship between Arakawa and Yoriko. There are rewards from befriending a nonhuman animal that you just can’t get from a member of our own species. A life without human companionship is empty, but any life is immensely enriched by friendship with a wild animal.

26 Comments

  1. Yvonne Wilder
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine was a dive instructor for many years down in the Turks and Caicos. There was a locally well-known moray eel living in one of the coral reefs that had been there for a decade and was friendly with many of the regular divers. My friend visited it almost every day for about 15 years. Sadly, their friendship ended when a cruise ship plowed into the reef by accident and killed the eel. Twenty years later, she is still sad about that eel.

  2. Posted July 31, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    For the sake of Yoriko I hope it dies before Arakawa can no longer visit.

  3. yiamcross
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Now Tony Suprano’s reaction to the duck family leaving his pool will wring a tear from your baby euthanasing eye… (wry arrid humour emoticon on).

  4. Taskin
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing story, beautiful!
    I’ve been trying to get a red squirrel to take a nut from my hand without success so far. I know that he recognizes me and sees me as the bringer of peanuts though. It is delightful to develop a relationship with a wild animal. 🙂

  5. tombesson
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Sweet story. Your analogy to raising a duck family reminds me of one of my favorite cartoons in which a man is talking to a duck and says, “Hable Espanole?”. The duck says nothing. “Parlez vous Francais?”, says the man. The duck says nothing. “Quack, quack”, says the man, and the duck replies, “Quack, quack”. Maybe you are just a duck whisperer. On another note, we have a TV show now in New Zealand called “Duck quacks don’t echo”. Funny stuff.

  6. Mark R.
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Lovely…both your duck musings and the video.

  7. Randy schenck
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Now that is a fish story…

  8. BJ
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    The video was very touching, but so was what you wrote after it.

    I didn’t know it was possible for a relationship to flourish between a fish and a man.

  9. Posted July 31, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I once stumbled upon a forest gecko in my garden/ native bush it was a great temptation to imprison this little beastie for our enjoyment.
    Sanity prevailed and back into the wild from whence it came but i often think about this gecko. Hopefully it is still making it’s living here, free to wander and get my warm jollies from that.

  10. Carl Powers
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    When I lived in Hawaii, I had a house gecko (Most houses do, it’s good luck – or something). A beautiful yellow one. The kitchen window faced east and every morning it would be on the window sill warming up in the morning light. Most days it would skitter away but occasionally it would stick around for a few minutes while I made coffee. It was nice to have the company in the morning.

  11. Posted July 31, 2017 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t matter if it is another human being or an animal, we are all connected within this universe as kindred spirits. SO, it is natural that we can bond easily once we learn to trust one another. Even though we can’t understand their speech, we do communicate in other ways. GREAT POST!!!

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Every day for 25 years? Not even for a mermaid what looked like Daryl Hannah.

  13. Michael Fisher
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Great post. Especially your reflections on prof/duck interactions

  14. rickflick
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    My daughter raised ducks in the back yard when she was small. She would fall asleep lying next to their cardboard box with a heat lamp when they were very small. She was so attached to them, it was tough when they grew up and had to be taken back to the farm. Ultimately, she became a veterinarian and works with cats and dogs every day.

  15. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I guess I’ll be the skeptic who thinks there’s some unwarranted projection going on in calling this a friendship. It’s an interesting relationship, for sure, but it seems very unlikely that the fish responds emotionally to it the same way a human would.

    Curiously, when it comes to lion whisperer Kevin Richardson, the consensus of the commentariat seems to be that Richardson is dangerously deluded in thinking he’s established genuine friendship with the big cats. But nobody questions the idea that man and fish can be best friends.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 31, 2017 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      It doesn’t respond emotionally the way a human does. It responds emotionally the way a wrasse does. That still counts as something.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted July 31, 2017 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        And lions respond as lions do, and they’re much closer kin to us than the wrasse is.

      • nwalsh
        Posted July 31, 2017 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

        Lady A, I have a new best friend (I believe it was you who commented earlier that I should go to a shelter) Well I rescued a six year old Husky greyhound mix, and she has fit right in to her forever home. Thanks for your kind advice.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 1, 2017 at 4:17 am | Permalink

          How wonderful for both of you!

  16. busterggi
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    There’s always dynastic relationships. When I moved back to the house almost six years ago I slowly made friends w/ alpha-raccoon Grizzly. Over the next couple of years I made friends w/ his offspring, particularly his daughter Rackets. A month ago Rackets started bringing her little ones around and they’re recognising me well.

    Don’t count your ducks out yet.

  17. Hempenstein
    Posted July 31, 2017 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    There’s a penguin that migrates 5Kmi annually from Patagonia and visits with a retired bricklayer in Brazil. Google Penguin Returns Bricklayer for many accounts of the story incl at least three YouTubes.

  18. Posted August 1, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Just a few weeks ago, we saw, on the pond in our back yard, a mother wood duck (Aix sponsa) displaying some pretty sharp maternal instincts.

    She had her small brood of 5 duckings (probably just down from the nest or nest box) paddling in tight formation on the pond. They came near an area of thick lily pads. We could see at the same time, the tell-tale bubbles of a cruising (big!) snapping turtle.

    The mother, somehow, perceived the turtle because she herded the ducklings into the lily pads and then positioned herself on the outer edge of them, facing the open water, vigilant. Soon after, she herded them onto shore and away.

    Her brood are almost fully grown now. That happens fast!

  19. Posted August 1, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I was a commercial diver in Tn. for 30 years. A harvester of freshawater mussels, and now my handle might make sense 🙂

    Anyway, one day I was working fairly shallow, and quite often game fish would use my activities (disturbing bottom features, and causing bait species to scatter) as a hunting opportunity. I have seen some huge bass using this tactic. But this day a small bass was piddling around in front of me, its movements slow, lethargic, and when it made a pass exposing its bad eye, I could see it was completely hazed over due to cataract. (it happens to bass a lot I hear) But it occurred to me this little fellow was very hungry. I had no shortage of shell, so I cut one open with my dive knife ond offered the meat up to the little guy. It took it with great enthusiasm. So I fed it till it looked like it might burst.

    That fish actually started rubbing up against me, swimming in front of my mask looking at me with its good eye, and followed me everywhere I went like a happy puppy dog for the duration of that dive. A unique experience, of many, I’ll never forget.

    This story inspired me to share. 🙂

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 2, 2017 at 3:06 am | Permalink

      Nice story!

  20. tomh
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I have a squirrel that comes to my back door alost every day for a morning snack, which is not surprising, but a fish… I wouldn’t have thought it possible. I think Anatole France said it best,
    “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

  21. John in Florida
    Posted August 1, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    George W. Bush did say, “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully,” so he was right about something!


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