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|Kanji in this term|
Unknown. Various possibilities.
- According to legend, the first Japanese person to catch this fish was Buddhist monk Nichiji in the late 1290s, and he named it hokke after the 法華 (Hokke, “Lotus Sutra”).
- May be a shortening of Ainu トドホッケ (todo hotke, “sea lions lie down”), the original Ainu name of 椴法華村 (Todohokke Mura, “Todohokke Village”), a village on the coast of Hokkaido where legend tells that Nichiji first caught this fish.
- May be a borrowing from Ainu ホッケ (hotke, “to lie down”), possibly from the way that the fish sometimes appears to be lying on the bottom.
Considering that the fish is native to the waters off northern Japan where the Ainu were once prevalent, an Ainu derivation seems most likely.
This kanji appears to have been coined in Japan. It is also extremely rare even in Japanese. The alternative kanji spellings are also rare.
- Etymology entry for ホッケ at Japan Dictionary: http://nihonjiten.com/data/45707.html