Kazunori Yamada runs an indoor fishing pond called Tsuribori Honpo in the town of Toki, Gifu Prefecture. When he arrived at the facility last Tuesday morning to get the place ready to open for the day, he noticed that someone had cracked the inset window on the building’s back door and broken into the office.
The burglars stole a few thousand yen in cash, along with the office WiFi router and the hard drive containing the data from the digital security camera system. As far as burglaries go, you could say that Tsuribori Honpo didn’t lose much, but the loss of property pales in comparison to the emotional damage the 48-year-old Yamada feels from the loss of life that occurred, as some 3,000 fish that were in the pond died as a result of the break-in. In addition to breaking the back window, the thieves also cut the building’s power line, which disabled the pond’s air pump and filter system, and by the time Yamada showed up for work on Tuesday morning, the fish had perished.
“To me, the fish were our company’s employees. My employees were killed,” said Yamada, who broke into tears multiple times while describing the incident, as seen in the video below.
“For five years we’ve cared for the fish, raised them, and now all I can say is I don’t know what to do,” Yamada said, his throat choked with sadness and sympathy. “The money we lost and the property damage, honestly, don’t matter at all compared to [the fish]. It hurts my heart so much that they were killed like this. This is so wrong.”
It might seem surprising that the owner of a fishing pond would have so much concern for the wellbeing of the same fish that his business encourages customers to try to catch. Indoor fishing ponds in Japan are sort of unique, though, in that they’re not always exclusively stocked with fish meant to be eaten.
Tsuribori Honpo was home to goldfish, koi, and sturgeon. Of those three, sturgeon are the only one that’s primarily a to-eat fish in Japan. Goldfish are never eaten in Japan, and so if you see them at fishing facilities in Japan, it’s usually with the idea that a customer will take home what they catch to keep as a pet, and while eating koi isn’t unheard of, they’re far more prized for their appearance than their appearance and their flavor, and most Japanese people would much rather have a koi in their garden than their kitchen.
Even if a fish is going to ultimately end up on a dinner plate, Japanese cultural values still hold that the animal’s life should be valued and treated with respect. This is, after all, a country where it’s customary to say Itadakimasu, or “I gratefully accept this,” before every meal, not only as thanks to the person who prepared it, but also to the plants and animals whose lives are about to nourish us. “Fish are living things, and I wish [the thieves] could understand the value of their lives,” said Yamada.
▼ As further proof of Yamada’s compassion, you can hear genuine joy and excitement in the video here where the staff discovers one fish that has managed to survive.
Yamada’s focus on the loss of life being the true tragedy here, the financial damage to the business is devastating. He estimates that the value of the fish was somewhere in the range of five to six million yen. The timing couldn’t be worse, either, coming during the summer vacation season when kids and families come to fish and also following two years of tough economic times due to the pandemic. The business is currently closed, and Yamada says there is currently little prospect of being able to reopen, though sympathetic online commenters have discussed the possibility of setting up a crowdfunding campaign to get Tsuribori Honpo back on its feet.
Tsuribori Honpo / つりぼり本舗
Address: Gifu-ken, Toki-shi, Hida Asano Asahimachi 1-4
Sources: Tokai TV via Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima Kiko, Tsuribori Honpo
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