Colorful Koi Fish Swim Through the Street Drainage Canals in This Japanese City

Koi Fish Swim in Drainage Canals Shimabara Japan

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

In most cities, drainage canals are the last place you’d expect wildlife to thrive. However, in the city of Shimabara on Japan’s Kyushu island, the street’s gutters are so clean they are home to hundreds of koi carp. The unusual fish habitat is a product of the volcanic activities of Mount Unzen that resulted in the 1792 earthquake and tsunami. The tragic natural disaster killed 15,000 people, but it also triggered an abundance of fresh water springs. Clean water began to flow through the city’s drainage channels; so in 1978, authorities decided to release colorful koi into the 100-meter-long waterway.

Koi fish are known to rely on an extremely high quality of water for survival, so the fact that they can thrive in this peculiar environment is a true testament to the purity of the area’s water. Today, Shimabara is known as the “City of Swimming Carp,” and has become a popular destination for both tourists and locals to enjoy watching the graceful fish swim through the narrow canals. It’s no surprise the locals take great pride in their famous street koi—they work together to make sure the canals stay as clean as possible.

The fish living in Shimabara can grow as large as 70 cm long and come in a variety of natural colors and markings. You could easily spend hours observing them as they flash vibrant hues of white, black, red, and orange. The unique area is a beautiful example of the Japanese culture of harmony between nature and man.

The city of Shimabara on Japan’s Kyushu island is home to hundreds of koi fish that swim in the street's drainage channels.

Drainage canal in Japan is so clean they even have fishes in it from r/BeAmazed


The unusual fish habitat is a product of the 1792 Unzen earthquake and tsunami that triggered an abundance of fresh water springs.

Koi Fish Swim in Drainage Canals Shimabara Japan

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 1.0)

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Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is an artist now based in Berlin. After graduating with a BA in Fashion and Textile Design in 2013, Emma decided to combine her love of art with her passion for writing. Emma has contributed to various art and culture publications, with an aim to promote and share the work of inspiring modern creatives. While she writes every day, she’s also devoted to her own creative outlet—Emma hand-draws illustrations and is currently learning 2D animation.
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