by Diane Wiltshire

It was a steaming week in mid-sum­mer, and my two boys were han­kering to go fishing. Never mind that we were about as far away as we could possibly be from the catfish pond in Mississippi where their grandparents used to take them. The boys figured that there must be a place in Tokyo where they could while away a lazy afternoon attempting to catch a few fish. I had pretty much convinced them that fish­ing spots in Tokyo were nonexistent when, much to their delight, their dad discovered a fishing pond practically un­der our nose in the Azabu neighborhood of Minato-ku.

We wandered down the narrow lane that runs along the left side of Honmura Elementary School, and at the very end we came upon the quaint fishing hole known as Shuraku-en. This peaceful oasis is sur­rounded by greenery and is generously stocked with more than 10,000 fish, according to the proprietor who lives in a modest apartment overlooking the pond. Year-round you’ll find young fishing enthusiasts as well as elderly fishermen relaxing on the wooden pier with their poles and bait.

You can bring your own equipment and pay the fee of ¥2,700 for the whole day or ¥1,600 for a half day. Fishing rods are available for ¥200 with two kinds of bait (neither the least bit yucky, an important factor for this squeamish mom): bits of udon for ¥50 a bowl or balls of dough for ¥100. The hooks are safe enough for even young or inexperienced anglers to use. Pails are also provided but all fish are to be thrown back at the end of the day.

Most of the fish are of a common variety except for the pretty red ones. Catching a red fish is rewarded with a discount coupon, which is great sport for the kids. Coupons are also given for the most fish caught, one ticket per one kilo of fish.

Needless to say the boys spent a delightful after­noon at Shuraku-en; if you have a youngster who would enjoy a fishing adventure, this is definitely a good place to start. Shuraku-en is open Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., and on Sundays and holidays from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. The pond is closed on the 4th , 14th and 24th of each month unless those dates fall on a weekend or holiday. Tel: 3473-2529 (Japa­nese only); Address: 3-9-6 Minami Azabu in Minato-ku. The nearest subway station is Hiroo on the Hibiya Line.

Larger fishing centers are located along the Tokyo Bay area; here are a few you may want to visit:

  • Atsugi Fishing Center, 1928 Mita, Atsugi-shi, Kanagawa, Tel: (0462) 41-2535. Hours: 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily. Nearest station: Hon Atsugi on the Odakyu Line.This facility operates 12 ponds on the Nakatsugawa River. The fish are mostly carp and ayu, and for an extra fee you can take the day’s catch home.
  • Ichihara-shi Umizuri Shisetsu, 1-12 Minami Kaigan, Goi, Ichihara-shi, Chiba, Tel: (0436) 21-0419. Hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. (’til 9 p.m. July-October), closed Mondays. Nearest station: Goi on the JR Uchibo Line. This spot by the sea stocks a variety of fish. From the observatory you can view Mt. Fuji and Tokyo Bay.
  • Isehara Masu Tsuriba, 1582 Hinata, Isehara-shi, Kanagawa. Tel: (0463) 95-4150. Hours: 6 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Nearest station: Isehara on the Odakyu Line. The fishing pond also has barbecue facilities.