Sunday, August 18, 2013


Artwork from

Summer reminds me of kingyo - goldfish.   In two colors - red orange like the brightest sunset or black as coal, the fish  have big round ball eyes protruding from their heads so far that you almost think the balls are going to fall off and roll around the bottom of the fish bowl.  The tails twice the size of the body are so fluid and translucent, they flow with the water like the thinnest kelp, becoming one with the water's current.

There used to be a little vendor at the omatsuri (festival) in the summer time who made money running a game where customers tried to catch a kingyo.  For 100 yen I purchased a little wand with tissue paper in the middle to try to catch one (or more) to take home.  The wand was to be used to scoop as many fish as you could into a smaller bowl before the tissue paper dissolved into the water.  The metal pool filled with cool water and hundreds of little fish that swam over each other enticed me to fork over several hundred yen in one evening, much more than it would possibly cost to actually just go to the pet store and purchase a little fish.

I hungered to feel the weight of fish on my fragile wand, but all I got after running my wand under the water chasing a fish was more water and a gaping hole.  I never caught one, in all the years I tried.  Plenty of children and grown-ups were adept at flipping the fish, though, one after another, into their individual bowls for keeps before their wand dissolved. The vendor then poured their fish and a little extra water into a clear plastic bag that they carried gently with them for the rest of the evening before they took them home to a fish bowl.

Perhaps it is because I never caught one that kingyo have an even more special place in my summer heart.   They had that much more meaning because they were unattainable, making them even more magnificent for me than they were for the children who carried the cool bag home, studying them as they held it up to their face.  

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