A giant squid was seen far from its usual deep-sea haunts when it wandered into a bay in Japan, offering an unusual sighting of the unique and elusive species.

People enjoying a Christmas Eve stroll on a pier in Toyama Bay witnessed the creature swimming near the surface and passing under anchored fishing boats. Toyama Bay, one of Japan's largest bays, is on the Sea of Japan on the northwestern side of the main island of Honshu.

The squid spent several hours gliding around the harbor's waters before heading back to the open sea, witnesses said.

Experts said the squid, around 12 feet long, was probably a juvenile example of the species Architeuthis dux, which can grow to 40 feet in length.

A diver, Akinobu Kimura, was able to capture video of the squid using a submersible camera.

"My curiosity was way bigger than fear, so I jumped into the water and go close to it," said Kimura, owner of a local dive shop.

"This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me," he said. "I guided the squid toward to the ocean, several hundred meters from the area it was found in, and it disappeared into the deep sea."

Giant squid, deep-water denizens, are rarely seen, although they can be trapped in fishing nets.

Sixteen were trapped in this manner in last year's fishing season, which lasts from November through March.

"We might see more in this season, but it's very rare for them to be found swimming around (the fishing boats') moorings," said Yuki Ikushi, curator of an aquarium in Uozu, Toyama.

There is still relatively little known about the giant marine creature; it was only observed in its native habitat for the first time in 2004, and the first live adult was filmed in 2012.

Giant squid, occurring in all the oceans of the world, are believed to feed on deep-sea fish and possibly smaller squid species.

The only creature known to feed on adult giant squid is the sperm whale.

Here's video of the giant squid swimming in the harbor.

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