Those in the know recognize Toyama Bay as a treasure trove of seafood. Of the 800 varieties of fish and shellfish found in the Sea of Japan, 500 are said to live in Toyama Bay, and 200 of those are caught for food.
The key to this abundance of varieties lies in the topography of Toyama Bay.
The seawater around the bay consists of three layers. The surface collects water rich in minerals from the rivers flowing through fertile land. Below that is warm water from the Tsushima current. And at further depths of 300 meters and more lies the cool water with low salinity unique to the Sea of Japan. That is, Toyama Bay provides a healthy environment both for fish that migrate between warm waters, like the Japanese amberjack, and for deep-water creatures that prefer cool waters, like shrimp and crabs. The sea floor just off the coast of Toyama Bay, which drops sharply to depths of more than 1,000 meters, is called aigame (indigo dye pot) and serves as a particularly ideal habitat for mollusks like the broad velvet shrimp, red snow crab, and Japanese ivory shell. And thanks to this, fishers enjoy a diverse catch and offer a rich variety of ingredients for sushi chefs.
Toyama is known as a prefecture in which good drinking water gushes out at all times just by turning on the faucet. The quality of water is such that multiple resources are listed in the Japanese environment ministry’s “Selected 100 Exquisite and Well-conserved Waters.” The 3,000-meter-class Northern Alps and Tateyama mountain range accumulate snow, which melts and provides streams of mineral-rich, cool, clean water year round. The forests of Toyama, which cover some 67 percent of the land, moreover act as a natural dam and collect groundwater, which is recharged, purified, and enriched with minerals over the years, and resurfaces as delicious drinking water.
Toyama boasts the largest proportion of rice paddies to cultivated land in Japan: an astounding 96 percent. The perennial snow of the Tateyama mountain range melts and flows into the Toyama Plain, quenching the thirst of the paddies with still cool water. As a result, even in the sweltering summer, the rice plants continue to grow vigorously and produce mature grains until just before harvest.