Jul 21, 2018

Something fishy going on in Japanese festival games

Have you even been to a Japanese festival?  One of the best things about going to festivals in Japan are the myriad vendors that are always present, ready to take your money in exchange for delicious food or for a chance at winning prizes in games.  It's not unlike carnivals or fairs back in the States, but there is definitely something fishy going on in Japanese festival games.

No, I mean literally, fish are a part of some Japanese festival games.

Ever since I can remember, there was always some game that challenged patrons to try to catch a fish with a paper net.  I can see how this would have been a popular game a couple of hundred years ago when it was a lot easier to come by tiny fish than other prizes, but understandably, over the years the prizes have changed from live creatures to plastic toys.

At least in most cases, it had changed.  Not in my town.  My town says, "Phooey, we're going all in on tradition" and had wooden framed pools full of tiny fish for folks to catch.

The game itself is called koi sukui, or "Save the Koi fish." 

[Okay, so let me just deal with that name first, because it made me laugh out loud last night when I saw it again for the first time since my childhood.]

Save the Koi fish?  Really?  What are are saving them from, because I'm pretty sure I saw every single kid who caught some fish running around and bouncing the plastic bag around like a yo-yo.  It made me think of that creepy little girl from Finding Nemo.  Also, the game itself is somewhat sadistic.  It sounds like something a Bond villain would come up with: capture a bunch of defenseless fish and then charge somebody money to try to save them from being dumped down a drain later on when they don't find a home.

[Okay, rant about the name done.  One more rant left...]

Then there's the question about what you do with the fish when your kid catches them.  I ended up carrying around a little bag filled with three fish for about an hour last night trying to keep up with my daughter, driving home holding the bag in the air (couldn't set it down or the water would spill out everywhere), and now I have three fish chilling in a pyrex bowl wondering what I'm going to do with them (it's not like I had an aquarium handy on the off chance that I somehow won some fish in a festival game).

Here are the fish (pre-transfer):

Something fishy going on in Japanese festival games photo

Fortunately, we have some flooded fields that channel out to the river and make great nurseries for small fish, so these little guys will go back to the wild, but let's just say I got more than I bargained for when my daughter played a simple festival game.

Have you ever come home with fish from a Japanese festival?  Did you keep them?  Set them free? 



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).

1 Comment

  • edthethe

    on Jul 21

    sooooooo, I am totally going to feed them to my turtle. there is actually a problem because so many people just dump the fish (or turtles) in any body of water. Many turn into invasive species and cause problems with the local wildlife.