A new hope for the threatened fugu.

A couple of months ago it was reported that 100-year-old pufferfish (fugu) restaurant Zuboraya would be closing for good, partially due to a corona-related drop in business. This was especially harrowing news, because with the restaurants’ departure so to would their iconic giant pufferfish signs disappear from the landscape of Osaka.

Only a few weeks from their scheduled closure date of 15 September, good news has arrived in the form of an announcement by nearby business Spa World. The public bath, pool, and hotel facility established in 1997 has declared that they are willing to take the large fish.

Spa World would be an ideal candidate to take the 3-D signboard, as it’s located only about 100 meters up the street from Zuboraya. If they hang the fish on their premises, it will still decorate the Shinsekai area as it has done for years, only in a slightly less conspicuous position.

▼ An entrance to Spa World, if you want to see the pufferfish, just turn around

This may be the only choice too, since the question of the pufferfish’s succession has also brought to light the fact that it’s totally illegal. City laws state that signage shall not extend into the street more further than one meter (three feet), but everyone’s favorite fish smashes that restriction with a total length of five meters (16 feet).

Of course, no one wanted to be the Walter Peck in this situation and malign themselves by demanding that such a beloved sign be taken down, even if it is in the interest of public safety. But now that its owner is throwing in the towel, even the mayor has become emboldened enough to suggest that maybe we’re better off without it, or at least with it somewhere other that a public street.

Moving the fish to Spa World, however, would completely erase all these concerns. The facility is large enough that they can hang it completely on their own property and not be subject to municipal street regulations. Even better, Spa World has such spacious entryways that the pufferfish will still be completely visible to those just passing by and could potentially even still be photographed in front of the famous Tsutenkaku tower as it always has been.

▼ The Zuboraya pufferfish and Tsutenkaku go together like octopus tentacles and mayonnaise.

There’s certainly a compelling case for moving the fish to Spa World, but Oichiro Matsuda of the company that manages Zuboraya told Mainichi Shimbun, “I haven’t decided yet, so I can’t say anything, but I’m grateful for the love and attention from the community.”

Matsuda’s coyness is presumably connected to the fact that Spa World offered to “take” the pufferfish, with no mention of “buying” or “paying” for anything. However, they say they plan to meet and will likely hash it all out in a good old-fashioned round of hardheaded negotiation, Osaka-style!

There’s probably no more fitting way to determine the fate of this Osakan landmark and hopefully it does end up at the nearby scenic location. Marketing data has shown that people love pufferfish when they spew out tons of water, and given Spa World’s expertise in H20, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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