The Scenery of Summer

The Spherical Fish Tank





The fish tank appears to be glistening under the golden sun, when the sun is setting, the reflected lights radiate like ripples. The Japanese call this spherical fish tank 金魚玉 (Kingyo Tama), which can be translated as “the jade of goldfish”. The name contains poetic quality of its own although the word  (Tama) simply means a sphere in this context.

The history of the spherical fish tank can be traced back to the Edo period when goldfish was a popular trend that was seen as chic and elegant. The goldfish seller would walk around with a shoulder pole, carrying two buckets of water with goldfish swimming inside. That was the time before plastic bag was invented, therefore a spherical fish tank, or, the jade of goldfish was used as a container when a goldfish was sold. After bringing it home, people would hang the jade of goldfish in front of the window like a wind chime or put it on the shelf as a decoration. However, the jade of goldfish is too small for the goldfish, so after a while, they would transfer the goldfish to a proper fish tank before it dies. The empty jade of goldfish then naturally got thrown away.

A beautiful jade of goldfish does not deserve such a sad life. We might find it hard to believe that this lovely small sphere was once a non-reusable good, but back then it was so poorly made — not only was it thin and rough, the rim was not at all polished that it could easily cut the fingers. Looking at its poor quality, it became understandable that they got thrown away so easily.

The usual jade of goldfish is around palm-size, this one, however, has a diameter of 20 centimeters. I wonder what kind of prestigious fish was given such a spacious area to live?