Friday, August 22, 2008

GOLD FEVER Goldfish Hot This Summer

yukata
A girl wearing a goldfish-adorned yukata
One of the most popular attractions at summer festivals around the country every year are booths at which people use a paper scoop to attempt to pluck goldfish out of a tank. Doing so is more difficult than it may sound; the paper is quite thin and tears easily when it gets wet. This is an age-old tradition in Japan, one that is enjoyed by many children and young people. Goldfish this summer are showing up in other places as well; especially popular are yukata (informal summer kimono) with goldfish patterns, but there are many other goldfish-related goods, too. The number of people keeping goldfish as pets is also increasing. While it is unclear exactly what sparked this boom, some are of the opinion that last year's popular NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) morning TV serial drama Sakura, which was set on a goldfish farm, played a role.
jinbei
Children wearing goldfish-adorned jinbei

Goldfish-Adorned Goods Popular
Yukata are an established part of summer fashion for young women, but the bright pastel colors of last summer are now out of style. This year the hot look is traditional Japanese colors, such as purple or navy blue. A spokesperson for kimono maker Sagami notes that yukata made from dyed indigo cloth featuring goldfish or other nostalgia-invoking patterns are all the rage this year. The company expects sales of yukata overall to be up over last year.

Fast Retailing Co., which sells casual clothes under the Uniqlo brand name, began selling women's yukata this year. A Uniqlo yukata together with an obi (belt) sells for the low price of ¥3,900 ($32.50 at ¥120 to the dollar). A selection of 20 variations is available, and yukata featuring goldfish or other cute patterns are selling well.

seals and wrapping paper
Personal seals decorated with goldfish (Clover365 Co., Ltd.) and wrapping paper

The goldfish motif is not limited to yukata, however. It is showing up on such items as towels, folding fans, and even personal seals, which are often used in place of signatures in Japan. In the Osaka area, personal seals decorated with colorful images of goldfish on the part that is held in the hand are popular. A spokesperson for Naniwa Gensendou, which sells these seals under the brand name Osharehanko, says, "While seals previously had a rather staid image, people are now purchasing them with an eye to fashion and fun." Approximately 80% of the customers are young women. At the company's store in Kyoto, some 600 of these seals are sold in an average month, and the figure can rise as high as 1,000.

Popularity Surpasses That of Tropical Fish
Goldfish have even surpassed tropical fish in popularity as pets. At the Horiguchi Fish Farm in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward, the area is teeming with families even on weekdays and during summer vacation. It has become known as the location where the TV series Sakura was shot last year.

This fish farm has nearly 100 separate ponds, and the goldfish raised here are shipped and sold all over the country. Approximately 20 different varieties of goldfish are available, from the telescope goldfish, which is quite popular, to the ranchu, a type of goldfish developed in Japan that lacks a dorsal fin but has an attractive face. Prices range from ¥500 ($4.17) all the way up to ¥100,000 ($833) per fish. Recent developments have made goldfish easier to take care of, so there are more than 5 million households in Japan raising them as pets.

Goldfish Seen as Lucky
Goldfish are said to have originated in China near the lower reaches of the Yangtze River in the area that is now Jiangxi and Zhejiang Provinces, and they were brought to Japan in 1502 during the Muromachi period (1333-1568) from the Ming Dynasty. They were originally kept as pets and playthings by nobles and wealthy merchants, but after they were featured in ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) in the mid-Edo period (1603-1868), they became popular with the general public, and street stalls selling goldfish began to appear. In the past, it was common to see vendors peddling goldfish on the street in the summer.

Over the many years that goldfish have been bred, variations have appeared through sudden mutations and also through crossbreeding. At present in Japan, goldfish are mainly raised in Yamatokoriyama City, Nara Prefecture; the Yatomi area in Aichi Prefecture; and in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward.

Long ago in China, goldfish were believed to bring happiness and prosperity. With the economy suffering from a bout of deflation, it may be that some people are attracted to goldfish in the hope of brighter times ahead for Japan.

1 comment:

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