Kingyo Sukui: Japanese Goldfish Scooping at Home

by Julia LiMarzi

Goldfish scooping, or kingyo sukui is a quintessential festival activity in Japan. Among the stalls of food and souvenirs, there will almost always be at least one stall where you can try scooping goldfish with a little paper net called a poi. The tradition began in the Edo Period, and has been a present at summer festivals ever since.

goldfish scooping in Japan

How to Play

You’ll typically find stalls for goldfish scooping at ennichi or summer festivals. Every stall has different rules, but generally it costs around 100 Yen to play. There are no teams here, and it’s all about individual scooping skills. If your net breaks a little you can keep playing until it’s completely incapable of scooping. You get to take home any goldfish you catch in a little bag provided by the stall-keeper. Sometimes stalls will offer stronger poi for a little more money, and some will even let you take home a goldfish even if you don’t catch it.

Here we’ve outlined how you can bring this game into your home for a fun summer activity (without the goldfish, of course!).

A goldfish on a poi

Play At Home

What you’ll need:

  • A tub that can carry water (bathtubs or plugged sinks work, so does any kind of large bowl)
  • Wire (something strong enough to hold its shape, but flexible) and cutters
  • A can
  • Notebook paper
  • Liquid Glue
  • An apple cut into small pieces (*ahem* your “goldfish”)
  • A bowl to catch your “goldfish”
  • Prizes of your choice for the successful scoopers

To make your poi (paper nets), take a length of wire and wrap it around your can once to shape it, leaving a few inches on either end to form a handle. Twist the ends together so you have a circle on one end and remove the can. Trace the circle onto a piece of paper and cut just a bit wider than the circle you traced. Now put a couple dots of glue along the wire circle and press it into the paper circle so it sticks before tracing the paper edge outside of the wire with more glue, and press to wrap around the wire circle. Let dry.

Now just add your apple pieces to the tub of clean water and voila! Goldfish. The trick is to scoop them into a bowl without completely breaking your net. It takes skill! You might want to make some extra nets until you get the hang of it.

If you prefer, you can also find small plastic nets and replacement papers online from some sellers, but we’re crafty here and wanted to make sure anyone could try this without special materials.

If you give this game a whirl we’d love to hear how it goes! Leave a comment here or @ us on social media @bokksu!

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