OSAKA--Although she's scooped up enough goldfish to stock a lake, 17-year-old Rio Miyake never thought her special knack would also land her a university admission.

The third-year student of Kinrankai High School in the city was accepted to a university in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, through her excellent goldfish scooping skills.

Miyake, who lives in Osaka’s Hirano Ward, has placed near the top many times in the National Championship of Goldfish Scooping held annually in Yamato-Koriyama, Nara Prefecture.

The city is famed for breeding and cultivating goldfish.

Miyake applied to Kansai Gaidai University to take a special entrance exam by listing scooping goldfish as her special skill in the application form. She was admitted to the university after passing the selection process, including a document screening and a written test.

Miyake became interested in goldfish scooping when she was an elementary school fourth-grader. She tried the scooping game at a shrine near her home and scooped goldfish one after another, catching far more than other children did.

She asked her parents to look for other festivals and opportunities for her to play the game. They found a souvenir shop called “Kochikuya,” which runs a goldfish scooping school.

Miyake, her younger brother, Seitaro, 15, a third-year junior high school student, and her parents decided to attend the school. Her father, Toshiyuki, 54, who runs an iron factory, took them to the school by car every Sunday.

At the school, which has many students, she practices the difficult skill of scooping five to six goldfish at a time using a “poi” (paper scoop) among other techniques. The school has a wide range of students from children to the elderly with women accounting for half the students.

She sometimes thought while the training was difficult, “Everyone is kind. I felt like we’re on the same team.”

Miyake competed in the category for elementary and junior high school students at the 18th National Championship of Goldfish Scooping for the first time in 2012, when she was a fifth-grade elementary school student. She placed 18th among 374 participants.

Miyake cried in disappointment because she became nervous and was overwhelmed by the tense atmosphere. She has taken part in every championship held since then.

At the 20th championship, when she was a first-year junior high school student, she caught 25 goldfish to come in third. But she couldn’t overcome the pressure of expectations from people around her who encouraged her to aim for winning the title.

She ended up finishing ninth in the 21st championship and sixth in the 22nd championship.

Yumi, Miyake’s 49-year-old mother, looked back on what her daughter was like at the time, saying, “She got too nervous to eat as the championship approached. She looked pale on the day of the championship.”

From the 23rd championship onward, after she entered high school, she started competing in the category that included adults. She surprisingly placed fourth in the championship.

“I think she no longer gets upset after she became a high school student. She was able to scoop goldfish carefully as usual,” said Yumi.

Rio demonstrated good performance as Yumi said. She finished third in the 24th championship and second in the 25th championship, held in August 2019, when she was a third-year high school student, scooping up 56 goldfish.

While participating in those championships, Miyake also studied hard to prepare for the entrance exam for Kansai Gaidai University by attending a cram school. Her dream is to become a licensed guide interpreter because she enjoyed teaching foreign tourists how to participate, often by using gestures, at other goldfish scooping events held around the country. She went to the events to offer help together with students of the goldfish scooping school.

She learned in April 2019 that the university has special entrance exams for those who possess special skills. She asked the university over the phone whether she can apply for entrance with her goldfish scooping skills.

The university the following month told her that she could do so. After submitting copies of her competition records and certificates that she received during her three years in high school and other documents in September, she was allowed to apply for the university’s entrance exam.

After taking an essay exam and interview, she learned on Oct. 26 on the university’s website that she passed the exam for the School of English Language and Communication, College of Foreign Studies.

“I was surprised. I never imaged that I would be able to pass a university entrance exam with my goldfish scooping skills,” said Miyake.

Her goal is to win the National Championship of Goldfish Scooping and become a government licensed guide interpreter.

Miyake still attends the goldfish scooping school with her family.

“There’s no reason at all to stop (going there),” she said. “I’ll be happy if I can make myself useful as a guide interpreter as well at goldfish scooping championships and other related events.”