The concrete heart of central Tokyo is the last place you'd expect to find a fishing hole that would do Tom Sawyer proud. But it's there, smack between the Iranian and Finnish Embassies in the exclusive Minami Azabu neighborhood, tucked away on a narrow dead-end street next to an elementary school. Shurakuen is quite possibly the world's unlikeliest angling haven. On any given day, a handful of old men in baseball caps and windbreakers sit around the perimeter of this dinky 230-square-meter pond, sipping vending-machine sake and casting their lines in the hopes of a nibble. As breezes rustle through the cherry trees, the occasional fish jumps in the air, twists, and lands with a plop. Sitting here, it's almost impossible to believe that you're less than two kilometers from the high-rise neon jungle of Roppongi.
According to Hideko Tsubota, the 73-year-old proprietress of Shurakuen, the spring-fed pond has been here since the Edo era, when it was most likely part of a great lord's gardens. Though the adjacent Shonen Temple now owns the pond, Tsubota's family has leased it for nearly 80 years. She and her husband keep it stocked with hundreds of herabunaa type of wild carp and a popular Japanese sport fish. If you're aching for some inner-city angling, it's best to come with a Japanese-speaking friend, since the Tsubotas don't speak English. A half day of fishing costs about $13; a full day, $23. The unequipped can rent poles and buy bait here as well. In a city renowned for its hardworking ways, Shurakuen is a slacker's paradise. But to do it in true Tom Sawyer style, make sure to leave a sign on your door that says "Tsuri ittekimasu." That's Japanese for "Gone fishing."