Japanese city Shimabara reels in tourists thanks to beautiful koi carp swimming in the DRAINS

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Fishy business: The Japanese city that reels in tourists thanks to beautiful koi carp swimming in the DRAINS

  • Koi carp were introduced into the town of Shimabara, near Nagasaki, in 1978
  • The fish swim through over 100m of canals filled with natural spring water
  • Tourists often ignore ‘do not feed the fish’ signs and stoop down to offer morsels

When it comes to bait for tourists, few places have anything quite as quirky as this town in Japan.

Shimabara, near Nagasaki in the far south-west of the country, reels in visitors with fish-filled drains.  

The street-side channels boast water so pure that colourful koi carp swim around in them.

Despite 'do not feed the fish signs' tourists frequently stoop down to offer treats

Despite ‘do not feed the fish signs’ tourists frequently stoop down to offer treats

Shimabasa may boast 17th-century castles and samurai dwellings, but it's the canals and their fish that are the biggest tourist attraction

Shimabasa may boast 17th-century castles and samurai dwellings, but it’s the canals and their fish that are the biggest tourist attraction

The natural spring water flows through over 100 metres of channels and canals around the town

The natural spring water flows through over 100 metres of channels and canals around the town

And despite the ‘do not feed the fish signs’, visitors often stoop down to give them treats. 

Tourists throw them chunks of bread, which are gratefully received, or even pet them like cats. 

Known as Koi-No-Oyogo-Machi – or the City of Swimming Carp – Shimabara boasts dozens of natural water springs that gush and trickle around the town, with the carp introduced by the authorities in 1978. 

The brilliant colours of the fish help to bring a sense of calm to the area

The brilliant colours of the fish help to bring a sense of calm to the area

Visitors to Shimabara can also take a look around old samurai lodgings

Visitors to Shimabara can also take a look around old samurai lodgings

As word got around that the fish were worth seeing, they decided to introduce more.

Now there are hundreds of these colourful additions to the town, each one growing up to 70cm long.

This zen-like place harbours beautiful gardens, an impressive 17th-century five-storey castle, old-style minka houses and former residences of samurai warriors, but it’s the carp that take centre stage.  

It’s not often tourists flock to a town’s drainage system to see its contents, but Shimabara’s koi carp – a revered fish in Japan – make for a relaxing distraction.

The town, at the foot of Mount Unzen and on the coast overlooking the Ariake Sea, has enjoyed a colourful, violent and eventful history – including a devastating 18th-century earthquake and tsunami that killed up to 15,000. 

For more on its amazing waterways, click here.

The carp - a revered fish in Japan - come in all shapes and sizes

The carp – a revered fish in Japan – come in all shapes and sizes

Affection: Tourists often bend down to pet the carp like cats

Affection: Tourists often bend down to pet the carp like cats

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