An artist filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a local merchant association in the western Japan prefecture of Nara, alleging it had plagiarized one of his works featuring a telephone box filled with dozens of swimming goldfish.

Nobuki Yamamoto, a 62-year-old artist from Iwaki in northeastern Japan's Fukushima Prefecture, is demanding compensation of 3.3 million yen ($30,000) from the association for displaying a similar phone box in a shopping district in the city of Yamatokoriyama.

Yamatokoriyama is known for its abundance of goldfish farms and as host of a nationwide goldfish scooping competition, a popular event at summer festivals in Japan.

(Yamamoto's work on the right) [Supplied photo]

The plaintiff claims the telephone box in the shopping district "has a similar exterior" to his and is "a duplicate" of his creation.

"I want it recognized that I have copyrights to my creation and want it displayed as an original piece," said Yamamoto at a press conference after filing his complaint.

According to the complaint filed with the Nara District Court, Yamamoto had created his art work around 2000 and had later displayed it in various galleries.

Yamamoto has lodged protests since 2013 when he found that the telephone box was being displayed at an event in the shopping district.

The merchant association denied the allegation but removed the telephone box in April to avoid complications over copyright issues.