Fishing is a very popular hobby in Japan. Many people find this activity relaxing and re-charging. But as in any sport, there are certain elements of the sport that make it difficult for some people to engage in. For one, many people cannot find the time to drive to the country side and enjoy a quiet moment by the lake. Another thing is that the activity is sensitive to weather conditions. One would seldom want to get soaked in the rain or saw open an ice hole in the lake just to catch a fish. So the Japanese, creative as they are, decided to bring the fishing to the want-to-be fisherman. This is called urban fishing.
Urban fishing is usually done in fish pens within the city. A good place to go in Tokyo is the Ichigaya Fishing Centre. Here, there are two pools, one for women and children, and the other, for the “bigger catch” of the men. Fishing costs for men is ¥690, ¥590 for women and ¥420 for children for every hour of fishing, with an additional charge of ¥100 for rental of a fishing rod, and ¥80 for bait.
People fish for carp but the kids have a mini pool where they can catch goldfish.
What makes fishing in these pens different? You have to return your catch! When someone catches a fish, it is weighed and recorded and then placed in a “rest pool” before it is thrown back into the main pen later in the day. Points or rewards are given per kilogram caught. The most common prize is to get free fishing session when you catch 7 kilograms of fish.
For those who want to bring home their catch, the best place to go is the “catch your own” restaurant. Here, customers are led to tables that are beside the fishing pens. You are to lower your bait or use a net to catch your dinner. Once you have reeled in your catch, the restaurant staff weighs your fish and prepares it the way you want them to. If you have a craving for sashimi, it is expected that your catch will be returned to your table, still moving! At least, you are assured that what is being served you is really fresh.
Fishing pens like Ichigaya are not meant to replace the experience one gets while fishing in nature. But this activity has become popular as a stress releaser for many Japanese, young and old alike.
Photos by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Tokyo Times