The goldfish is a member of the carp family — some say it’s related to the Crucian carp, others the Prussian carp. They were originally discovered in China during the Jin Dynasty (265-420 CE), and the Chinese began selectively breeding them as exotic pets during the 12th century. It was not until the 16th century that they were imported to Japan.
The Edogawa area in Tokyo is a famous breeding ground for goldfish, and every year the ward sponsors a Kingyo Matsuri (Goldfish Festival), which is always held at the beginning of kids’ summer vacation. This year it falls on this weekend.
During its heyday before World War II, Edogawa had 23 of nurseries that bred 10,000,000 goldfish a year. Most of these were exported overseas. As the area urbanized, however, many of the nurseries had to move to larger land. Currently only two nurseries still exist in Edogawa.
At the festival, visitors can see about 20 different kinds of goldfish, all of which will be available to buy and take home. There will also be shops selling Edogawa products, such as Edo furin (wind chimes), turi-shinobu (hanging gardens of davallia ferns) and summer vegetables.
A highlight of the festival will be the kingyo sukui (goldfish scooping) game, which will be available in two versions — one where children can win regular goldfish at ¥100 a go, and another at ¥500 a go where you can try and catch high-quality goldfish.
If you’ve never owned a goldfish before, consultants will be available to give you tips and, of course, you can buy all the equipment you will need at the festival.
Kingyo Matsuri takes place at Gyosen Koen Tokyo, from July 21 (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) to 22 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.). Entrance is free, though there are fees for some of the activities. For more information call (03) 3652-1151 or visit www.city.edogawa.tokyo.jp/kingyo.