Giant Squid Monument Withstood Jan. 1 Quake, Tsunami; ‘King’ Now a Beacon of Hope for Reconstruction

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ika King, a giant squid monument that withstood an earthquake and tsunami during the Jan. 1 Noto Peninsula Earthquake, is seen in Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Feb. 25.

NOTO, Ishikawa — The giant squid monument called Ika King (Squid King) survived the tsunami triggered by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake on Jan. 1 and has become a beacon of hope for post-disaster reconstruction efforts in the town of Noto.

A tourist facility next to the monument is set to resume operations this month.

Made of fiber-reinforced plastic, Ika King is 13 meters long, 9 meters wide and 4 meters tall. The monument is a realistic model of a mainstay catch of Noto Ogi Port in the town, renowned as one of Japan’s three major squid fishing ports. Surumeika squid is a local specialty.

The monument was criticized as a waste of money in its early days, when it was installed in March 2021 at Ikanoeki Tsukumall, a tourist facility launched by the town government. The criticism stemmed from the fact that most of the approximately ¥27 million construction cost was covered by a ¥25 million special grant from the central government, intended for regional revitalization as a countermeasure to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the criticism, visitors began coming to take photos of the majestic mollusk once it was covered by the media.

“It has become clear that the monument is indispensable for both the facility and the area now,” facility manager Kiichiro Hayashi, 45, stressed.

The facility was closed on New Year’s Day, when the earthquake and tsunami hit the area. Hayashi, who is also active as a member of the volunteer fire corps, arrived at the facility late at night after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. He discovered signs that a tsunami about 30 centimeters high had reached the giant squid monument. Yet, it was found to still be standing, undamaged.

On Jan. 20, a message was posted on the official X (formerly Twitter) account of Ika King, saying: “I didn’t return to the sea. I’m still in my place. I’ll continue to vitalize Okunoto.” Okunoto is the northern part of the Noto Peninsula.

As of Thursday, the message had received about 47,000 likes and had been shared more than 9,000 times.

“It’s a symbol of the town that everyone can enjoy. I think it has a special presence for reconstruction,” a sixth-grader from a local elementary school said.

Although the facility has been closed since the earthquake, toilets there were returned to operation at the end of February, when the water supply and sewerage systems were restored. They are open to personnel coming from various entities to support reconstruction efforts in the area.

After that, the blank back of a calendar was placed on a wall with a request — “from Ika King” — for messages of encouragement for quake-devastated Noto. Following this request, the blank back of the calendar was filled with messages, including “Please hang in there. I want to eat squid now,” from the Osaka Prefectural Police, and “Cheer up, Noto!” from the Fukushima Prefectural Police.

According to the Ogi branch of the Ishikawa prefectural fisheries cooperative, preparations are underway for the squid fishing season to open at full scale in June, including the repair of fishing boats. The tourist facility is also getting its procurement system back to normal to reopen in March.

“Ika King is a resilient presence that was not washed away by the tsunami. I’d be glad if people are cheered up by seeing Ika King,” Hayashi said.