Folk Game – Japan

(Original Kanji)

(Japanese in English)

(English Translation)

Seiko Takeshita – Fish Scoop

During the mat-tsu-ri festival in the summer time, there is one game in particular that is played every all the time. The game is called kin-gyo-sukui, or fish scoop. The objective of the game is to catch as many gold fish as possible from a tub of water before your paper fish-scooper breaks. Any fish you catch you are allowed to take home with you in a plastic bag. However, if you choose not to take the fish home, you can place them back in the tub for other players to try and catch. The ultimate goal of the game is entertain small children with little critters and keep them happy by giving them fish to take home.

The games’ origin began during the Edo period, approximately 1700 A.D. The game has always predominantly been played during the summer festival. The average cost to play the game in Japan is 100 to 200 yen. (1 to 2 dollars American.) The game is also mainly targeted at young children, but anyone is allowed to play. Seiko clearly remembered how she used to play this game when she was a child but her mom never let her keep the fish. She was always saddened by this. To this day; Seiki still plays the game whenever she has the chance to during the summer.

Since 1995, this children’s game has been promoted to new heights. Every year in August there is a national competition for fish scooping. This tournament highlights how much the Japanese like to compete and play games, even when the game is something as miniscule as seeing how many gold fish one can scoop into a paper cup. On top of the national competition, the game has also migrated to other countries. For example, I can clearly remember playing this game when I was in pre-school. I grew up in San Diego County, in a little rural town about 20 minutes from the ocean. At my pre-school, we would occasionally have carnivals where there would be lots of little games we could play. Ironically, this was always my favorite game at the carnivals because I cannot remember any of the others that I played, but I clearly remember playing this one.

Intrinsically, I think the game signifies little children getting older and being able to take care of a pet. At the ripe age of seven or eight, a child yearns to be responsible for something. For girls this might be Barbie dolls, and for boys it might be GI Joes. But for some they desire for a pet. That age is a little too young to have a dog or a cat, but it is perfect for a gold fish. They learn responsibility because they have to feed it, take care of it, and clean its living environment. They also learn how to deal with loss because gold fish do not tend to live that long and the children must experience what it feels like to lose something dear to them. This is important because in the future, these children need to learn to endure the loss of things they care for and still be able to continue their life. Who knew that a gold fish could be so important?