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Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
More than 90 years have elapsed since the Port of Nagoya opened. The area surrounding it features an amusement park, museums, and other attractions and has become a familiar waterfront district frequented by many of the city’s residents. But the Nagoya waterfront’s most popular spot among young and old alike is the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium, the largest of its kind in Japan. More than 15 million people have visited this aquarium and seen its skillfully displayed exhibits since it opened in 1992.
The exhibits follow an adventurous theme, a voyage from Japan to the Antarctic. The Antarctic expedition ship Fuji, which in 1965 began some 20 years of active serv-ice, is now moored in the Port of Nagoya and has been turned into a museum. The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium faithfully replicates the marine habitats through which the Fuji passed on the way to its polar destination. Aquarium visitors can trace the vessel’s progress as it left the waters around Japan, entered the deep sea, navigated tropical waters, streamed past Australia, and reached the Antarctic Ocean. The aquarium is designed to give visitors the sensation that they are actually moving through the sea and experiencing for themselves each of these five diverse marine environments that the expedition ship encountered.
Each of the displays has been created on an appropriate scale and is truly impressive. One example is the enormous tank in which bonitos, tunas, and other migratory fish swim in an environment duplicating that of the Kuroshio (Black Stream), or Japan Current. Light from outside is used to realistically recreate the murky atmos-phere within the sea as sunlight spills down on its surface. Since bonitos sometimes swim along with objects like driftwood, pieces of it float on the surface of the tank’s water in a further effort to faithfully simulate the natural marine habitat of these fish. In the penguin tank, which houses four species of this bird, machine-generated snowfall reproduces the polar environment of Showa Station, Japan’s base for conducting Antarctic research. And the lighting is precisely controlled to generate seasonal changes so that the reproductive cycle of the tank’s inhabitants is not disrupted.
“I believe that one mission of this aquarium is to furnish as natural a setting as possible for greater numbers of people to observe the marine life in different environments,” explains Kazuo Kureha, the marine turtle project manager and superintendent. He adds that a modern aquarium not only fulfills the function of putting living creatures on display but also performs another important role: analyzing the living habits of creatures in danger of extinction and making efforts for their conservation and reproduction.
Along with being a favorite leisure destination for communing with the sea, the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium attracts global interest as a research center specializing in sea turtles and other aquatic creatures. The Chelonian Institute, which is attached to the aquarium, carries out research to learn more about the ecology of sea turtles, many species of which are on the decline or threatened with extinction. Staff members conduct studies jointly with other aquarium professionals, researchers, and students both in Japan and overseas. In 1994 loggerhead turtles laid eggs, which subsequently hatched, on the artificial beach connected to the swimming tank for sea turtles. This was the world’s first successful breeding and reproduction of these turtles in captivity. (This nesting program continues to operate smoothly seven years later.) Eggs of the hawksbill turtle were also successfully laid and hatched in 1998. Both success stories drew international acclaim.
As the aquarium proceeds with these breeding and conservation pursuits, it also proactively conducts activities to enlighten people and encourage widespread awareness of the value of nature and living creatures. One notable program is its annual release of turtles—loggerheads hatched from eggs laid in the aquarium—into the sea off the Akabane coast of the Atsumi Peninsula in southern Aichi Prefecture. The general public takes part in this event, which is well known throughout Japan. The spectacle of hatchlings being released into the sea, primarily by youngsters, has become a new image associated with this locale.
The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium is committed to being an aquarium that goes beyond merely displaying aquatic life and also enhances people’s understanding of the global environment. In its quest to do this, the aquarium has taken on an enormous role that is literally global in scale. A new building that will permit close-up observation of the habits of dolphins and killer whales is scheduled to open this November. That well-equipped facility and its sea of activities are apt to generate a rising tide of interest.
(Photos by Muda Tomohiko, Text by Masaki Yamada)