Goldfish have been a staple feature of Japanese summers since at least the Edo period (1603-1868) when wealthy merchants and samurai began to keep them in their ponds as pets. Small and easy to handle, unlike carp, to which they are related, wild goldfish are actually olive green but some turn out to be red, orange or yellow, due to a natural genetic mutation. People in ancient China began to selectively breed the brightly-colored and multi-patterned fish more than a thousand years ago, and they have since become a regular feature of matsuri, or summer festivals, in Japan. Kingyo-sukui, a game of fishing for goldfish with paper scoops, is a favorite matsuri pastime not only for children but also for grown-ups who remember the excitement they felt as kids, when they succeeded in capturing their very own goldfish to take home.
For those who can’t get enough of these endearing fish this summer, there is an ongoing exhibition right in the center of Tokyo (and simultaneously in the central Honshu city of Nagoya) featuring hundreds of goldfish in dazzling displays.
Art Aquarium is the brainchild of Hidetomo Kimura, an artist and producer who clearly has a singular passion for these big-eyed ornamental fish. He personally hand-picked each of the hundreds of fish on display here.
In a space comprised of a darkened corridor, a large hall and a smaller room, all lit up by colorful lights that give the place a psychedelic feel, Kimura has created a fantasy world of goldfish (and a few carp), which has already attracted more than 8m visitors. Whether in Tokyo or Nagoya, the exhibition is a fun place to escape from the sweltering city heat and be mesmerized by the colorful and playful fish swimming in disco-like surroundings. Now that the summer holidays are coming to a close, visitors fortunately don’t have to wait anymore in long lines to get in, but it is still quite crowded – a sure sign of the fascination with goldfish that is shared by many people in Japan.
It may seem somewhat cruel to keep so many goldfish in aquariums on display, but Kimura, who is also active in ocean conservation, insists that they are well-fed and taken care of by professional staff “with love.”
Art Aquarium is on until September 24th at Mitsui Hall in Nihonbashi, Tokyo and until September 16th at the Matsuzakaya Art Museum in Nagoya.
It is also scheduled to be held in Shanghai from October 25th this year until February 17th, 2019.
Tokyo Address : Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall
5F COREDO Muromachi 1 (The entrance is on the 4th floor)
2-2-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Phone : 03-3270-2590 (Japanese only)
Website : http://artaquarium.jp/en/
Hours : 10:30-20:00
Entrance fee : Y1,000 (adults)
Y600 (children 4-12 years old)
free for children 3 years old and under