It's like something out of a Miyazaki film: imagine a 350-year old goldfish farm, whose pools swarm with schools of fish in every shape, size and colour you can think of, complete with a charming little restaurant housed inside a timber-framed farmhouse. And no, goldfish is not on the menu at Kingyozaka, hiding out on a quiet Hongo street a stone's throw from the University of Tokyo's main campus. At lunchtime, locals settle in for the delicious and sizeable kaiseki (traditional multi-course) sets, served on tableware decorated with colourful fish, lest you forget where you are.
Inside the restaurant, look for an old parchment hanging framed on one of the walls. Ostensibly a list inscribed with the names of combatants in a wrestling tournament of old, something about the poster smells fishy – and it isn't the food. These entrants are not sumo wrestlers but goldfish, ranked according to strength, agility and slipperiness – understandable for a Meiji-era document commemorating a championship for goldfish scooping (kingyo sukui), the traditional game of dexterity in which participants try to scoop up evasive fishies using a flat dipper made of paper. If you don’t have bigger fish to fry (sorry), try your hand at this ancient game after lunch. You can take your spoils home, but please don't try to cook them for dinner.
Photos by Mari Hiratsuka