It was peaceful, sitting there on the bench with soft shamisen music playing as I watched the pink bait at the end of my fishing line dangling in the water, but that bubble of serenity was about to be popped. Fish after fish swam right by my bait, but finally one was foolish enough to nibble, and as his fishy mouth swallowed up the bait, I yanked on the line, and he began wriggling and struggling, sending water splashing as he fought his fate, but soon the fish was scooped up into a net, where he spent his last living moments.
“Sugoi! (Amazing),” cried the people sitting behind me in our big fishing boat, as I stood with the fish in the net. I had a moment to admire my catch before the waiter took it away to fry it up.
At Zauo restaurant in Shinjuku, the first hint that this is not the usual dining experience is when you’re seated on a bench in what is essentially a giant fishing boat, surrounded by a moat filled with fish.
For a few hundred yen, the staff will bring you a fishing pole and bait, and you can fish for what you eat. In fact, if you catch a fish you get a discount. However there are no throwbacks: you catch it you eat it.
I’ll admit it, fishing for my own fish, and watching it struggle and die was kind of strange…bordering on disturbing. If you’re a squeamish or sensitive person, I wouldn’t recommend it. Still, I figured I wanted to eat fish, and someone’s gotta kill it right? And this way the fish is guaranteed fresh.
So if you’re looking to do something unusual, (possibly a bit disturbing) yet entertaining for dinner try fishing at Zauo. The location I visited was on the ground floor of the Washington hotel in Shinjuku, but there are more locations throughout Japan.
This post is part of the November 2011 J-Festa: Dining in Japan.