Touching outpouring of support comes from across the country as owner calls for burglars to apologize, but not to him.

Earlier this month Kazunori Yamada showed up at Tsuribori Honpo, the indoor fishing pond he runs in Toki, Gifu Prefecture, only to find a heartbreaking scene waiting for him. During the night, burglars had broken in, stealing cash and electronics from the facility’s office. The real tragedy, though, was the thousands of fish that were killed in the robbery.

The thieves cut the power line to the building when they broke in, which didn’t just shut down the security cameras, but also the air pumps and filters for the tanks in which Tsuribori Honpo’s fish lived. With no oxygen being pumped in, roughly 3,000 fish died during the night. 30 or so were still alive when Yamada discovered the break-in, and even a number of those have since perished, having suffered infections from spending hours choking in the still water clogged with bacteria from the bodies of their dead brethren.

In describing the loss of aquatic life, an emotionally devastated Yamada said “My employees were killed.” Tsuri Honpo is somewhat unique among Japanese fishing ponds in that it is strictly a catch-and-release facility, as Yamada doesn’t want the fish to be killed and eaten. “I called them my employees,” said Yamada in a follow-up interview, “but you could also say the fish were my family, or my war buddies.”

Yamada’s desire to keep the fish from being eaten, though, has put Tsuribori Honpo in a difficult position financially. Since customers were not allowed to take fish they caught home, under Tsuribori Honpo’s insurance policy the animals were not classified as “inventory,” and thus Yamada will not be reimbursed for their loss. Yamada estimates it would take five to six million yen (US$37,600 to US$45,100) to restock the tank, which isn’t a small or easy expenditure for a business that’s already been hammered by the economic effects of the pandemic, especially since the break-in occurred just before the start of Japan’s summer Obon vacation period, usually a critical earning opportunity for the pond. Thankfully, though, kind-hearted people tend to draw similarly empathetic people to them, and there’s been an outpouring of support for Tsuribori Honpo since the incident.

First of all, the building’s electrical system has been repaired, and it didn’t cost the pond a single yen. It turns out that one of Yamada’s regular customers is an electrician, and he handled the repairs free of charge. Another regular customer is in a line of work where he has access to industrial cleaning equipment, and he too, for no charge, came by and performed a power wash of the facility’s floors following the removal of the deceased fish.

Then there are the letters of encouragement Yamada has been receiving, which often contain donations to help get Tsuri Honpo back on its feet. These aren’t just from people in the local community, either, as funds have come from donors as far north as Iwate Prefecture and as far south as Okinawa.

▼ Some of the letters and donations Yamada has received

Unfortunately, investigators have not yet been able to track down the burglars. Should they ever be brought to justice, though, Yamada wants an apology, but not one directed at himself. “I want them to come here and think of the fish, the fish that died gasping, and apologize. Not to me, but to [the fish].”

On a happier note, Yamada has expressed his deep gratitude to everyone who’s offered aid and encouragement, though he mentions that he hasn’t been able to read all of the letters just yet, as he’s sure the touching words will cause him to cry. Odds are he doesn’t have time for tears right now, seeing as how thanks to everyone’s support, Tsuri Honpo is looking to reopen in mid-September, and there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then.

Location information
Tsuribori Honpo / つりぼり本舗
Address: Gifu-ken, Toki-shi, Hida Asano Asahimachi 1-4

Source: Tokai TV via Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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