Feature: Takayama Koi

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The picturesque city of Takayama is located in the Hida region of Gifu Prefecture. At around 5-hours from Tokyo and 3.5-hours from Kyoto by train, Takayama is a great place to visit if you fancy a break from the big cities. Taking the Shinkansen from either Tokyo or Kyoto will require a change of train at Nagoya. If you plan your trip correctly, the second half of your journey will be spent on the Hida Wide View train; a train designed with the local scenery in mind. The carriages are comprised of huge windows that allow you to really appreciate the train’s ascent into the mountains… maybe I’ll do another post about that later on.


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Running through the centre of the city is the Miyagawa River. Having grown up in a riverside village and currently living in a town centred on a river, the first thing you notice about the Miyagawa is how clear the water is. It’s late May and although there is still snow on the surrounding mountains, the river is shallow and crystal clear.


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As the national holiday known as Golden Week had recently finished, the decorations from ‘Children’s Day’ were still hanging around the city. Formerly known as Boy’s Day, it is traditional for families to display koinobori; carp shaped flags. These represent members of the family; black for the father, red for the mother and the remaining colours signify the children. It was whilst admiring these flags as they appeared to ‘swim’ in the breeze that I noticed the flash of orange in the water below.


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Now, I’ll be honest and say that I know very little about fish; other than I like them battered with chips or depicted as mutated man-eaters in films on the SyFy Channel. I also know that Koi are expensive Japanese Carp and usually kept in large ornamental ponds in the back garden. So when I joked that the orange fish swimming about in the main river that runs through the city, “must be Koi, because we’re in Japan”, I didn’t really expect this to be the case.


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However, from as far as my untrained eyes can see, these do appear to be wild ‘nishikigoi’ or koi as we would call them in the UK.


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The koi loitered around in the shallows near the river banks where water was flowing into the river from the city’s other waterways. Presumably this was the location of the greatest source of food and they certainly didn’t appear malnourished.


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I can’t promise that this is a common sight in the rivers of Japan, but if you ever get to visit Hida-Takayama as it’s commonly known (there’s more than one Takayama in Japan, so double-check), make sure you take a stroll down the river bank and check out the wild koi.


…bonus point on offer if you’re now singing “Wild Koi’s” in the style of Duran Duran.