YAMATOKORIYAMA, Nara Prefecture >> Goldfish swim along the street in Yamatokoriyama as if the thoroughfare is one giant aquarium.
The street, a third of a mile long, is lined with long-established kimono shops, public baths, restaurants and more. Inside the 28 shops are 30 water tanks of various shapes and sizes that collectively house 250 goldfish of 30 different species. The fish, iconic to the city, delight visitors peering into their watery homes.
A top goldfish producer in Japan, the city launched its “Goldfish Street” event in November along Koriyama Yanagimachi shopping street in a bid to attract more visitors.
Lazily swimming in tanks are comet goldfish with their featherlike tails; ryukin, which have plump bodies and long, elegant tails; and the demekin or telescope goldfish, distinguished by their protruding eyes.
Yamatokoriyama is famous throughout the country for its goldfish, and shop owners note that visitors often ask where they can see the dazzling fish. In years past, one draw was a goldfish aquarium made of a repurposed phone booth. But the novelty item was removed in 2018, leaving few places where tourists could see the city’s famous commodity.
So shop owners are trying another way to highlight their most famous residents in the hopes of revitalizing the shopping district, which has seen less foot traffic every year.
“Goldfish are our local treasure,” said Mitsunori Kitatani, head of the shopping district’s cooperative. “We want tourists and children to learn more about them.”
The group plans to hold more events, such as a goldfish photo contest, and is considering a stamp rally to entice people to visit every shop.
“I’ve always been around goldfish, but I didn’t know there were so many different kinds,” said a recent visitor.
Scooping for gold
Since 1995, Yamatokoriyama has held the National Championship of Goldfish Scooping each year, though the pandemic shut down last year’s contest.
Challengers use a special “poi” scoop with a net made of Japanese washi paper to catch as many live goldfish as possible.
Interest is on the rise. In recent years, the summer tradition drew more than 1,500 contestants. The 2019 scooping event was dubbed the first world championship. It drew 20,000 visitors from Japan and abroad.