Nara Kingyo Museum

An aquarium with goldfish as works of art

By Elena Lisina    - 2 min read

The largest goldfish museum - the Nara Kingyo Museum - was established in Nara Prefecture, one of the three main goldfish breeding areas in Japan.

The goldfish, or Chinese crucian carp (Carassius auratus), became a type of decorative fish in the 7th century AD, though the first written mention of goldfish dates back to the reign of the Jin Dynasty (265-420 AD). Goldfish were introduced into Japan at the start of the 16th century. Since then Japanese breeders have been creating new breeds that differ in beauty and refinement of forms. Modern aquarium goldfish are the result of centuries-old breeding and hybridization of individuals with new features resulting from mutations.

One of a variety of goldfish breeds
One of a variety of goldfish breeds

In past centuries, goldfish were kept in wooden tubs, ceramic ones, and then porcelain vessels. These were called 'fish pond' and 'dragon urn' (the dragon in Asia being a symbol of water). For some time now, not only the fish themselves, but also aquariums have become a special kind of art, which visitors can get acquainted with at the recently opened Art Aquarium Museum of Tokyo and the Nara Kingyo Museum.

A goldfish exhibit
A goldfish exhibit

The museum's thematic concept is a space of 'surprise', 'healing' and 'excitement', all felt through the five senses. One part of the exhibition is devoted to the aesthetics of the Edo period, while others are devoted to the seasons, Japanese umbrellas, and the play of light and color in complex shaped vessels where fish look like sparkling jewels. In one of the exhibits, goldfish swim against the background of a 12-meter projection depicting bright flowers and the underwater world.

In addition to exhibits created by artists, the museum also has interactive zones and an Aquarium Disco. The museum hosts various events while the museum shop offers a variety of goldfish-themed souvenirs.

A goldfish souvenir
A goldfish souvenir

The museum is open daily from 10-6pm. Admission is between JPY800-1200.

Getting there

The museum can be reached on foot from Shin-Omiya Station (Kintetsu Nara Line) or from JR Nara Station (West Exit).

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I am interested in Japanese art, crafts, history and Shinto religion. Photography is my hobby, and there are many amazing places to capture in Japan.

Original by Elena Lisina

Join the discussion

Reynald Ventura 5 months ago
Kingyos have undergone various mutations. Which variant is prevalent at present, Elena?
Bonson Lam 5 months ago
Stunning photos! Goldfish was favoured by some Rinpa artists like Kamisakka Sekka, they were really larger than life.
Justin Velgus 5 months ago
I didn't know about the history of goldfish. Interesting!

A bit off-topic, but many home aquarium fans are also familiar with the name Takashi Amano (1954 – 2015). He is a famous aquarist, creating "breathtaking" underwater landscapes for home aquariums. He wrote regularly with his articles being shared abroad in hobby journals. There is even a shrimp species names after him!
Elena Lisina Author 5 months ago
We had home aquarium for few years and found it troublesome with all cleaning, health of fish and etc. But now I know - it's a hard work to take care of aquariums! Those I saw at Art Aquarium were amazing!
Kim 5 months ago
Amazing photos!
Elena Lisina Author 5 months ago
Thank you, Kim! :)