In the middle of the vast metropolis of Tokyo, nestled alongside the Kanda River, sits Ichigaya Fish Center, a place where urban anglers and freshwater fishkeepers alike mingle on a daily basis. Visible from the city’s well-traveled Chuo Main Line, the center’s “fish park” makes angling easily available to those who may otherwise not have a chance to wet a line.
The center consists of a fairly large shop, filled with rows of aquariums housing numerous aquatic species for sale, a small cement pool filled with goldfish, and five larger pools filled with crucian carp (Carassius carassius) that weigh an average of 2 pounds (around 1 kilogram).
In the “mini fishing” pool, children (and quite often their parents) attempt to catch as many goldfish as they can in the allotted time with a small cane poles. These fish are collected in a small net, and up to two per thirty minute session can be packed up to be taken home as pets for an additional 100 ¥ (around $1.25 USD).*
Around the larger pools, adults seated on overturned milk crates ply the water with longer cane-style poles, watching carefully for takes. While hardly impressive when compared to many rivers and lakes in Japan, these pools do seem to be quite popular, no doubt because of their proximity to such high populations. Along with the numerous older males (or ojisan, as they are known in Japanese) who typically frequent “fishing parks” throughout East Asia, quite a few younger fishers and even a few couples on dates can be found here.
The indoor shop is also of interest. While not the best Tokyo has to offer by any means, it does give an up-close view of numerous native species, something not typically seen in the United States. An attached outdoor section houses plenty of catfish, killifish, goldfish and koi for sale.
Visitors are free to roam around the shop and the mini fishing area, but you will need to pay admission to enter the larger fishing pools.
Fishing in the mini pool costs 400 ¥ ($5 USD) for 30 minutes, and includes use of fishing pole and bait. As mentioned above, there is a small fee if you wish to take your catch home. This pool is mainly intended for children, but it is also open to adults who just want to give fishing a try. In that respect it’s something like Tokyo’s version of a farm pond full of panfish (though not nearly as good).
The cost of fishing in the larger pools varies, ranging from 690 ¥ ($9 USD) for an hour to 2,940 ¥ ($37.50) for a five hour session. There are steep discounts for women and school students (with elementary school students paying even less than their older counterparts) . Fishing pole rental is 100 ¥ per session, and a supply of bait is an additional 80 ¥ ($1 USD). Don’t expect to be given a seven foot medium action graphite rod with a ten ball bearing reel. As is typical for crucian carp fishing throughout East Asia, you will be given a pole rod (similar to cane poles in the US — something like this or this). You can also bring your own pole if you have one of the appropriate type.
Once caught, fish are kept alive in fish nets/baskets. If you are able to catch 7 kilograms (15.43 pounds) or more of fish, you can take them to the counter to receive a free hour of fishing time on your next visit. Fish brought to the front to be weighed are placed into a recovery pool before being returned to the main fishing area.
Fishing begins at 9 am and ends at 8 pm most days, with the mini fishing area closing an hour earlier. Hours are subject to change though, depending on weather and other circumstances. It may be worthwhile to call before visiting, though they do seem to keep quite regular hours. There are fishing contests on the second Sunday of each month.
To be honest, I do not find this fishing park appealing as a fishing location at all. In fact, despite numerous opportunities to do so, I have not even attempted to fish there. But then again, I have had access to public fishing locations for the majority of my life, and have even had the opportunity to fish world-class locations like Iceland. In my youth I spent plenty of time at a local pay lake. Though it was much larger than the place under discussion here, and held numerous species, it was still a human-made, stocked pay lake. At that time, it was the best opportunity I had to fish, and I learned a lot there. If I lived in Tokyo, perhaps I’d feel the same about Ichigaya Fish Center. In any case, if you ever find yourself in the area, the place is worth a visit, if for nothing else than to satisfy your curiosity, or buy that fancy guppy you’ve been looking for.
The Ichigaya Fish Center is easy to find, even for temporary visitors to Tokyo. It’s located a few meters from Ichikawa Station, which is serviced by a number of train lines. The address is Ichigayatamachi 1-1, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0843. A map of the location can be found by clicking here. The center’s website is www.ichigaya-fc.com and it’s phone number is 03-3260-1325, though don’t expect the staff to speak English.
(* The exchange rates used in this entry are approximate, and based on the official rate at the time of writing. They may change to a greater or lesser degree in the future.)