Lonely Planet Writer

Thousands of colourful goldfish are on display at Art Aquarium in Japan

Every year for the past decade, Japan has held a hugely popular art exhibition featuring thousands of goldfish displayed in dynamic, colourful ways. This year, the ambitious project is back bigger than ever, with plans in place for a six-month stint that spans the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto.

Ornamental tanks at the Art Aquarium in Japan 2017
The exhibition features 8000 fish, all of which are displayed in ornamental tanks. Image by Art Aquarium

Called Art Aquarium, the project is the brainchild of artist Hidetomo Kimura, who combines his knowledge of art and design with his experience caring for ornamental fish and studying aquarium technology to create the first exhibition of its kind in the world. This year’s unique show debuted earlier this month in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi area, where it will run until 24 September. Following that, it will open at Nijo-Jo Castle in Kyoto, running from 25 October to 10 December.

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While the Sky Aquarium version of the show is regularly held in the summer at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, the Art Aquarium Kingyo series, which specialises in showing kingyo goldfish, has proven to be the most popular, having drawn over 7 million paid visitors since it first began. This year’s Tokyo exhibition features a theme that reflects Japan’s Edo period, when the practice of watching goldfish swimming was considered an important ritual.

The exhibition features 8000 fish, all of which are displayed in stunning ornamental tanks and vessels arranged into different sections and themes. Goldfish appear in meticulously painted Kutani porcelain bowls, glass hanging scrolls, geometric neon chambers, as well as a huge tank with a Dragon Palace and coral reef projected behind it.

An ornamental tank from this year's Art Aquarium exhibition in Tokyo, Japan
An ornamental tank from this year’s Art Aquarium exhibition in Tokyo, Japan. Image by Art Aquarium

The project also includes a special night aquarium, which sees the daytime exhibition undergoing a complete transformation, with the lighting and sound direction changing to night mode. Inside the venue, visitors can enjoy the displays along with Dassai sake, or original kingyo cocktails. A range of traditional Japanese arts are also on display at night, while DJs and artists hold performances on the weekends.

Tokyo’s Art Aquarium is open now, with more information on booking available at the website.