J a p a n e s e    C u l t u r e

Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Thursday, April 04, 2013


Deep Sea Fish, Catfish, Static Electricity, Negative Ions and the Next Japanese Earthquake?

Deep Sea Fish and the Next Japanese Earthquake? by timtak
Deep Sea Fish and the Next Japanese Earthquake?, a photo by timtak on Flickr.
I am republishing this due to the fact that while the article below remarks on the 9 sightings of oarfish in the early part of this year (which is more than usual), there have recently been 81 sightings (!) of deep sea fish including oarfish and ribbonfish and stomiiforms in July and August at Murotomisaki on the South Eastern tip of Kouchi, Shikoku, which is at or near the entrance to Osaka bay. Oarfish and ribbonfish are claimed to be earthquake predicting. Stomiiforms, like catfish and oarfish, have sensitive whiskers that might - I would say would - be sensitive to increases in seismically induced  static electricity. BUT, most of the deep sea fish 78 out of 81 were smalleye pigmy shark which are not associated with earthquakes.

Recently there have been reports of increased seismic activity, and sightings of 'earth-quake predicting' oarfish and ribbonfish in Japan, raising concerns that a quake may be looming. This post lists the sighting of the deep sea fish, suggests why they may be appearing and a catfish connection, and how you can test for the same environmental changes that may be predictive of earthquakes.

The local news section of our newspaper reported that a giant deep-sea, oarfish had been caught in a static net off Nagato and brought to the Museum in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on 5th Feburary. The article also mentioned that this was not the first of these rare fish to be spotted in recent weeks.

In Japan, Oarfish are called Ryuuguunotukai (リュウグウノツカイ/竜宮の遣い)or "Messengers of the Sea God" since they are said to warn of earthquakes. In Taiwan they are known, more prosaically as "seismic fish" (地震鱼) for the same reason. Usually living in depths greater than 200m, they rarely come into coastal shallow waters. A Japanese academic theorised that oarfish come into shallow waters when tectonic plate movement generates electricity, causing electric shocks in 2 to 5 meter long bodies, which the fish come up to shallow water to avoid.

Searching for news of Oarfish sightings on Google News in Japanese, I see that there has been a spate of sightings recently as shown on the map above. The are summarised in English as as follows. Click the links for pictures of the giant fish.

In addition to the fish that was caught in Yamaguchi prefecture, on the same day, February 5th, a 2.7 meter oarfish was caught in a net trawling in the bay off Oita Airport in Oita Prefecture. It is the first such fish to be caught in that area in nine years, as reported in the Oita Press.

On January 2nd, a man caught a 3m oarfish swimming near the surface of the sea near Naoetsu and brought it into the Jouetsu City Aquarium, both in Niigata prefecture as was reported on the 14th by the Asahi Newspaper.

On January 10th, a 4.1m fish was found floating in Hansei River estuary off Obama City, in Fukui Prefecture. A local fisherman, who has fished the waters in the area for 20 years had not seen an oarfish in this time, as reported in the Fukui Newspaper. Legend has it in Fukui that if the fish is alive, as it was, then it is a good omen.

On January 18th, a 2.67m oarfish was caught in a static net on the border between Toyama and Niigata Prefecture and brought to Ozu Aquarium in Ozu City in Toyoma Precture. This is the first such fish to be caught in the region since three years ago as reported by Nichi Television News 24.

A blogger reports finding a 2.4m specimen on a Tottori beach on the 19th of January.

On February 2nd, the official blog of the Odawara fish market, in a post tagged "rare fish" (with photo) reported catching an small 1m oarfish in a static net, remarking that this is only the second such fish to be caught in Odawara in memory and that the last time was 2 months prior to the Tohoku earthquake.

On February 10th a 44 year old fisherman saw a 3m oarfish floating near the coast. It was the first time he had seen one of these fish in his life as reported in the Fukui Shinbun (newspaper).  I have not added this to the map. It is in almost the same place as the Jan 18th sighting in Ozu.

The sightings roughly follow coastline parallel to the Niigata Kobe Tectonic Zone (image above) of seismic activity, at the edge of the Eurasian (or Amurian) plate.This region of seismic activity goes through the highly populated areas of Central Japan (Osaka, Kyoto, Koube).

The last time there were increased sightings of oarfish in late 2009 early 2010, as reported in the Telegraph Newspaper in March 2010 there were no major earthquakes until the megathrust earthquake and  Tsunami on 11th March 2011 a year later. 

On the 9th, a review article in the Mainichi Newspaper, reports that while usually these fish are seen at a rate of one every few years, the fish brought into the Hagi Museum on the 5th was the 8th caught in the sea of Japan in recent weeks. This still does not match the 30 fish that were caught in late 2009 early 2010, but it is certainly a "high pace" and "remains a mystery".

On the 14th another species of earthquake predicting fish, ribbonfish, are also being sighted in comparatively large numbers too. Ribbonfish or "Sake-Gashira" are called earthquake fish (地震魚) in Japanese. These are the same characters used for both the oarfish and the ribbonfish in Taiwanese, since likewise, they are said to warn of impending earthquakes. Also like oarfish, ribbonfish have a long body often meters in length and live at depths of about 1000 meters - they are deep sea fish.

These ribbonfish too, have been being caught in increasing quantity (7 in the Oki Island region this year, when normally only one) off the Northern shore of Japan according to review article in the Yomiuri Newspaper. A similar article is covered in the Asahi Newspaper. The fisherman that found some of the ribbon fish is quoted as saying, "Something is probably going on deep at sea. I wonder what its cause can be."

If I may be so bold as to suggest a scientific hypothesis, tectonic plate movement may create deep sea static electric fields which creates discomfort in fish long bodies since an electric potential may be created across the length of their body inducing current to flow trough it. To conject further, both of these types of fish have long red dorsal fins, and long whisker-like pelvic fins "rays," which, in the absence of light, are likely used as sensory apparatus to detect vibration (like fanfish and tripod fish). This fins may be particularly sensitive to changes in electric potential over their length which can be from one half to the whole length of the fish. The presence of senstive whisker like pelvic fins in these earthquake predicting deep-sea fish may also explain why catfish are said to cause earthquakes, according to Japanese legend.

In other words, increased sightings of deep-sea, long-bodied, long-finned fish in coastal waters may, if there is any truth to the legends at all, indicate build ups of static electricity caused by tectonic plate movement.

Very recently (January 7th 2013) scientists have been hypothesising that static electricity may be used to detect earthquakes.  Scientists at Quakefinder "believe a rise in static electricity below the ground could be a reliable indicator that a quake is imminent" (Daily Mail, UK).

This electricity is generated as granite is crushed in tectonic plate movement like a giant piezoelectric lighter I presume. Dr. Freund of Quakefinder hypotheses that "Maybe some people, some animals [or fish?] can react to the stimuli coming from deep below."

Another fish that has fins that act as sense organs are catfish, which use their whisker-like barbels to sense the movement of prey. It I believe no coincidence that another whiskered fish, catfish (in Japanese namazu) were thought to CAUSE earthquakes in Japan. Edo period representations of earthquakes showed a giant catfish (Earthquakes in Japanese Religion
A picture of Namazu, the earth shaker in my Shinto blog, writhing under the ground.

The reason for this legend is surely that, while no one saw what happened to oarfish and ribbon fish as their whiskers received piezoelectric shocks deep beneath the sea, they could see catfish writhing as piezoelectric current caused their barbels to hurt, and presumed their movements caused the earthquake. Since static electricity can cause hairs to stand on end, this may also be why our furry friends, dogs and cats, are said to be forewarned of earthquakes in Japan often barking for days before a quake.

So, what should we do to be warned of earthquakes other than watching out for oarfish and ribbon fish on beaches? Should we keep an oarfish in our bath? Keep a close eye on your cat or dog? How can the build up of static electricity be measured?

One way, apparently, may be from the quantity of ions in the air. Dr. Tom Bleier from Quakefinder reports that an instrument measuring ions in the air "saturated" (went off the chart) for in the region of and 13 hours prior to a quake, coming down about one hour before the quake hit. Air ion counters can be purchased cheaply, (from ebay too) and, even if they are useless for predicting earthquakes, they can be used to measure how well your air-purifier is producing negative ions and to test for the presence of ghosts.

The seismic piezoelectric radiation sensitivity of fish and animals has been and demonstrated by Professor Motoji Ikeya in his Earthquakes and Animals: From Folk Legends to Science by Ikeya.
Professor Motoji Ikeya RIP

The first six chapters (concerning animals and legends) are available on Google Books. The Japanese versions are a lot cheaper (地震の前、なぜ動物は騒ぐのか―電磁気地震学の誕生 and 大地震の前兆 こんな現象が危ない) and there is a free children's version called "What are our Pets Trying to tell Us? which goes into surprising detail. The last page, showing earthquake predictions along with the even news, shows I think the professor's dream. He died before it became a reality but with the work of Quakefinder and others, it may become a reality soon. In any event, professor Ikeya's video of catfish reacting to electric fields is just great TV.

During July and August of this 2014 81 catfish were washed up in Murotomisaki on the south Western tip of Kouchi prefecture! Murotomisaki could be said to be at the entrance to Oosaka Bay. 

10th April 2015 156 dolphins beached just north of Tokyo.

Labels: , ,

This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.