After years of attracting visitors from all over Japan, this quirky display has finally moved on.

Yamatokoriyama in Nara Prefecture is famous for goldfish cultivation, with the entire city filled with cute motifs and logos that hint at its long legacy of breeding practices. One of its most famous attractions is a beautiful phone booth filled with water and vibrant goldfish, often drawing throngs of people hoping to catch a glimpse of this enigmatic object.

Fascinating as it may be, the unusual telephone box fish tank also bears a striking resemblance to Japanese contemporary artist Nobuki Yamamoto’s work, and it comes as no surprise then that he recently lodged an official complaint to the association responsible for installing the display

▼ The fish tank in Yamatokoriyama (left) and Yamamoto’s work (right).

The infringement did not seem intentional, as the Yamatokoriyama phone booth aquarium was a project presented to the city by a group of students from the Kyoto University of Art and Design back in 2012. Most likely it was they who first copied Yamamoto’s idea.

▼ The city then installed the mysterious piece of art in 2014.

According to the written complaint, however, Yamamoto’s concept of placing goldfish in water-filled phone booths predated the students’ as early as 1998, and it was showcased all over Japan since then in numerous art exhibitions.

After becoming aware of the phone booth display being set up in the city, Yamamoto has repeatedly called for the association to credit him as the original creator, seeking 3,300,000 yen (US$29,290) in damages. They claimed that no copyright infringement ever occurred, but it wasn’t until April this year that the association removed the fish tank to avoid further complications.

▼ Patrons of a nearby cafe used to be able to sip coffee
and marvel at its otherworldliness, but no more.

“It was not my intention to have the display removed, but to have the city acknowledge my artwork. Many artists out there are victims of copyright infringement,” said Yamamoto at a press conference held in Nara on 19 September.

The display is no longer in Yamatokoriyama, so consider yourself lucky if you managed to catch a glimpse of it. Elegantly-designed fish tanks have an almost therapeutic quality to them, and for the four short years that it had stood, the telephone box aquarium brought smiles to the faces of countless visitors. Let’s hope a new piece takes its place soon.

Source: Sankei Shimbun
Featured image: Twitter/nyankobon