Yamato Koriyama-The City of Goldfish

Yamato Koriyama in Nara prefecture is known as the “city of goldfish” for its long history of breeding and selling goldfish. Its connection with goldfish started when a lord by the name of Yanagisawa Yoshisato moved there from Yamanashi prefectures in the 17th century. In the 1800s, the retainers of the family started rearing goldfish as a secondary source of income. After the Meiji restoration of 1868, farmers and retainers lost their jobs and turned to raising goldfish to keep them from destitution . In addition to favorable historical conditions, the many ponds and the water fleas that live in them made Yamatokoriyama, the perfect town to raise goldfish.

A castle by  a pond with cherry blossums
Photo of Koriyama Castle in Yamato Koriyama
By Yamato Koriyama City Office

The 1960s was the peak of the goldfish industry in Yamatokoriyama, selling the little fish not only to other parts of Japan but to other countries. But the industry is still alive with 50 goldfish farmers in the city and 60 million fish are sold annually. Goldfish had and continues to have a profound role in the city`s economy.

A hand drawn map of Yamato Koriyama with various attractions depicted
Map of goldfish related attractions as well as general attractions in Yamato Koriyama
From Koriyama Goldfish Museum‘s website.

As soon as you get off at Koriyama station, you will see the goldfish motif all over the city. Look down and you will see goldfish-themed manhole lids and there are many clever goldfish tanks such a microwave fish tank in electronics store , a lantern one on the street, and there is even a phonebooth tank .But the last one is controversial as the artist who made a phonebooth fish tank in Fukushima prefecture sued the group that created the Koriyama one over copyright infringement.

Koriyama Goldfish Museum

If you want to learn more about goldfish and their history in Yamatokoriyama visit the Koriyama Goldfish Museum. 40 species are displayed here from common goldish to rare and expensive varieties.

goldfish tanks at Koriyama goldfish museum
Goldfish species kept at the Museum
Photos from Koriyama Goldfish Museum Website

Also present in the museum is the equipment from the past used to rear goldfish juxtaposed with modern equipment that is currently used in the industry. For art lovers, there are paintings, woodblock prints, ceramics, and crafts with images of goldfish. They show the evolution of goldfish from an aristocratic hobby to a pet that anyone could afford.

Paintings and woodblock prints of goldfish at the Koriyama Goldfish Museum
Goldfish themed art at the Museum
Photos from Koriyama Goldfish Museum Website

Goldfish Scooping World championship

Goldfish scooping or Kingyo-sukui is a game most often played at summer festivals in Japan. Players are given a paper scooper and to use it to put in as many goldish as they can in a bowl before it dissolves. The goldfish caught can be kept and taken home in a plastic bag.

Kids and their parents in front of goldfish scooping booth at a festival
Kingyo -sukui at a festival in Japan
From 松岡明芳 via Wikimedia Commons

I am not a fan of using live animals as prizes for games. It is stressful for the animals and many of them don’t last longer than a few days. But this game is important to the town and Japanese culture so I don’t think it should be left out of this post.

Especially considering, that Yamatokoriyama is both the supplier of many of the goldfish used for Kingyo-sukui and it is home to the Goldfish scooping tournament, the only one of its kind. It is held on the third Saturday and Sunday of August every year at Kingyo Square. Thousands come to watch and even take part in, there are also no competitive Kingyo-sukui booths for those that want to catch goldfish without all the pressure of a national tournament. The record at the tournament and by default the world is 87 goldfish. For those visiting outside of the tournament dates, you can still participate in Kingyo-sukui in town at a store called Kochikuya. The shop sells goldish-themed souvenirs and next door it has a Kingo-sukui training facility where many come to prepare for the tournament. You can try it for 100 yen for one turn.

Picture of a packed Goldfish Scooping World Championship. There are many buckets of goldfish.
Goldfish Scooping World Championship
Photo from Yamato Koriyama City Office


Goldfish Museum

From Osaka and Kyoto station, the city can be reached in under an hour. Get off at Koriyama station. From the Koriyama station, the Goldfish Museum is a 17 minute walk.

Hours: 9 am-5pm , closed on mondays

Admission: free

Gold Fish Scooping Wold Champioship

From Kinetsu-Koriyama Station(15 min walk from Koriyama Station) get on the 71 bus at
Kintetsukoriyamaeki Bus Stop located outside the station and get off at Yokoyamaguchi Bus Stop. It takes 20 minutes.

Hours: Third Saturday and Sunday of August, 9 am to 11 pm

Admission: Free (as far as I can tell)

3 thoughts on “Yamato Koriyama-The City of Goldfish

  1. There can’t be a museum more unusual than The Goldfish museum. How wonderful that name alone. I’m with you on the life animals thing but as you say, it’s part of Japanese culture and we mustn’t interfere too much, persuade by example rather than arguing aggressively.

    1. Unusual museums are usually the best ones haha. It’s similar to fairs in the US where they have games where you can win a goldfish in a bag or even small turtles. I think around the world, these kinds of games will decline as people are more conscious of animal welfare. I agree it is best not to judge other cultural practices too much since we don’t have all the context.

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