Uozu (魚津市, Uozu-shi) is a city located in the eastern part of Toyama Prefecture, Japan between Namerikawa and Kurobe, stretching from Toyama Bay and the Japan Sea in the northwest to tall mountain ranges in the southeast. The highest mountains in Uozu are Sougadake and Kekachiyama, and the highest elevation in Uozu is 2,414 m. Several rapid rivers run through Uozu; from east to west, they are the Fuse River, the Katakai River, the Kado River, and the Hayatsuki River.
As of October 1, 2016, the city has an estimated population of 42,556 and a population density of 210 persons per km². The total area is 200.63 km². Foreign nationals, mostly Chinese, Brazilians, and Thais, comprise 1% of the city's population.
The city was founded on April 1, 1952, and has sister city relationships with Chiang Mai City, Thailand (since 1989) and Ibara City, Japan (since 1982). The current mayor (as of October, 2006) is Mr. Yoshinori Sawasaki (澤崎義敬).
Uozu is located 3 hours by rail and 4.5 hours by car from Tokyo. Since March 2015, rail access is possible via Hokuriku Shinkansen high-speed train from nearby rail hub of Toyama. Uozu is served by two train lines, the Toyama Chihō Railway Main Line and the Ainokaze Toyama Railway line, running together from Uozu Station westward and separating eastward.
Uozu is known for three mysterious phenomena, the (spring) mirage (蜃気楼), the firefly squid (ホタルイカ), and the buried forest (埋没林).
Mirages, or shinkirou (蜃気楼), may be seen over the sea in both spring and winter.
The spring mirage for which Uozu is famous for may be seen on warm, sunny, windless days from April to June. Refraction of light at the boundary between warm air above and colder air near the surface of the sea is responsible for the phenomenon. During a mirage, faraway objects such as ships at sea or the coastline appear to grow vertically, and may display bar-code-like stripes. In a Class A Mirage, the image of an object may appear upside-down above it. The Mirage Land Amusement Park (ミラージュランド) with its large Ferris wheel is most suitable for observation of mirages.
The winter mirage seen from December to March results from a different process than the spring mirage and is common in many other parts of the world.
In the early morning hours, from the end of March to the beginning of June, female firefly squid, or hotaruika (ホタルイカ), rise to the surface to spawn. Their name comes from a bluish white glow which emanates from various points on their bodies.
2000 years ago, a primeval sugi (Cryptomeria) forest along the coast was partially buried so that only the trunks were preserved. Trunks of such sugi trees are on display at Uozu's buried forest museum (埋没林博物館).
Places to see in Uozu include the Aquarium (水族館), Kintarou Hot Springs (金太郎温泉), Ariso Dome Gymnasium (ありそドーム), Niikawa Culture Hall (新川文化ホール), the Uozu Historical Folk Museum (魚津歴史民俗博物館), the historical site of the Komesoudou Rice Riots (米騒動) in 1918, Dousugi (giant hollow sugi trees in the mountains), Ikejiri Lake (池尻の池), the Don Waterfalls (平沢沌滝) and the remains of gold mines (金山) and Matsukura (城跡) castle sites (both dated around gold discovery date around 1394) in the mountains.
Uozu Festival (じゃんとこい魚津まつり) held on the first weekend of August (from Friday to Sunday) is the most flamboyant of the city's festivals. Activities include fireworks on the evening of Saturday, and the pulling of seven giant floats called Tatemons along the sea coast to Suwa Shrine (諏訪神社) on Friday and Saturday. Tatemons are 15 meters tall and weigh 5 tons; they sport approximately 90 lanterns, and resemble triangular sails of ships or piles of offerings in shape. On the last evening, groups dance the "Serikomi Chouroku" (せりこみ蝶六), or butterfly dance, through the streets of the old city. This festival was also held in Hawaii as part of the Honolulu Festival from 2001-2003, and another common, older name for the festival is "Tatemon" Festival (たてもん祭り).
Other festivals include the Sengoku Noroshi Matsuri (戦国のろし祭り) in May, and the Hachiman Mikoshi Matsuri (八幡社みこし祭り) in September.
Popular shopping destinations include the Sun Plaza, Apita, and Apple Hill shopping complexes.
Discovery of gold in the mountains of Uozu around 1394 led to an influx of people, making the area around Matsukura Castle a center for the region. Later, when Matsukura Castle was destroyed, the center was reestablished around Uozu Castle close to the sea.
In 1582, a fierce battle was fought around Uozu Castle between the forces of a local lord allied to the Uesugi, Nakajô Kageyasu, and forces under Oda Nobunaga. Lord Nakajô had 4000 soldiers, against an army of 40,000. His troops managed to hold out for 3 months, before commanding officers surrendered the castle and committed suicide. However, the victors soon received word of Oda's assassination, and had to give up the castle and retreat.
In 1918, riots precipitated by increases in rice prices (米騒動) started at Uozu port, spreading over the entire country. This led to the resignation of the Terauchi Cabinet.
In 1956, a great fire ravished many buildings in Uozu. As result, the Uozu represent a rare instance of a Dispersed settlement in Japan.
Uozu's dialect (魚津弁) varies region by region within the city. This section presents a few scattered constructions and expressions, but is by no means a comprehensive guide.
Intonation may also vary; e.g., meat (niku) is pronounced flatly.
Many older people pronounce Shi/Ji/Chi as Su/Zu/Tsu. Thus "bushi" or "warrior" might be pronounced as "busu" or "ugly". "Michi" or "road", might be pronounced as "Mitsu" or "third", and so forth.
A hunter in the mountains by the Katakai River came upon a dragon wrapped around a rock. He shot and killed it with silver bullets from his gun, and it buried itself into the rock with a clap of thunder, leaving a green band. A small shrine may be seen near the dragon stone, or hebiishi (龍石).
Legend holds that a dragon in a temple came alive during the great fire of 1956, dousing the temple and its surroundings in water and sparing it from the flames.
In old stories, the spring mirage was said to have arisen from the gas exhaled by a thousand-year-old clam living in Toyama Bay.