Nara #7: Goldfish Scooping (金魚すくい)

Today is my city’s summer festival! … it is also right during a typhoon. I’m hoping the rain will stop long enough for me to go and enjoy walking around, try all the yummy festival foods, and play games before watching tonight’s events but, well, I’m not holding much hope for that. But since I can’t be outside enjoying the festival right now, I’ll tell you about a festival themed postcard instead!

Nara’s 7th prefecture pictures the interesting “kingyo sukui”, translated to “goldfish scooping”. What, exactly, is goldfish scooping!? It’s a popular summer game involving using a paper-covered scoop (called “poi”) to try to grab a goldfish out of a small kiddie pool. Since the scoop is paper, it dissolves quickly, making it difficult to grab your favorite goldfish before you lose your chance! If you do win, they’ll bag up your goldfish so you can take your new pet home.

This game is played at every festival across Japan, but Nara’s Yamatokoriyama City is where the National Goldfish Scooping Championship is held. This year’s event is on August 23rd (it is always held on the 3rd Sunday in August) and you can read a little about it in English on the official City Event page here (scroll to the bottom).

Goldfish scooping can be seen at summer festivals throughout Japan, nestled between food booths, and each go is usually around 300 yen. Yamatokoriyama City has many goldfish farms and is known for their high quality breeding, and every year in April, there is an exhibition at the Yanagisawa Shrine in Yamatokoriyama City where breeders and collectors can mingle.

Edited to add: At my local festival (yes I finally went out), there was a goldfish scooping booth! Here are a few pictures:

And speaking of Goldfish, although this has nothing to do with goldfish scooping, right now in Tokyo and Hiroshima (and Milan!), the famous Art Aquarium goldfish exhibit is going on! If you’re a fan of goldfish, this is a great exhibit to see! Please check here for more information. Finally, goldfish in general are a popular summer motif in Japan, so it’s easy to find goldfish themed… well… anything!

A quick note: It may be tempting to try goldfish scooping for yourself, but please remember goldfish are living creatures, and to have a plan if you do get some! You can always give them back to the booth if you don’t have the ability to take care of them, but DON’T DUMP goldfish into ponds, rivers, or sewage systems! Please scoop responsibly!

Gunma #6: Yakimanju (焼きまんじゅう)

So my city’s summer festival was this past weekend, and despite the frankly torrential rains both days, I managed to find time in between being tossed around on a mikoshi and running to shelter in the downpour in geta and yukata to take pictures of my FAVORITE summer festival food, Yakimanju!

Okay, so it isn’t technically a summer festival food… you can actually eat it at little shops around Gunma all year round, and any time there is a “yatai” food booth throughout the year, you’ll find yakimanju sold. So what is it? Yakimanju are soft bread buns brushed with a yummy sweet and salty miso sauce, then grilled, then coated some more. They are SERIOUSLY good!

Woo Yakimanju booth! Okay, 200 yen for a stick of 4, here we go…

That’s the stuff!

The ladies liked my postcard after they noticed I took this picture!

YES! Why did I only get one stick?!

If you’re ever around Gunma, do yourself and your tastebuds a favor and look for a yakimanju shop, or an event that sells them. You wont be disappointed!