Exploring the Nightlife of Fish!4 consecutive evenings of talks by experts at Tokyo Sea Life Park

What do the fish in an aquarium do at night when there are no people around? To answer that question, The Nippon Foundation organized a series of special events titled “Night of Wonder” at the Tokyo Sea Life Park aquarium in Tokyo’s Kasai Rinkai Park, as part its Umi-to-Nippon Project (The Ocean and Japan Project). Over four evenings during August 13-16, experts including the popular “Sakana-kun” (Mr. Fish) and aquarium staff gave talks on the wondrous life of fish at night.
The open area next to the illuminated aquarium, where the talks were given
Fish swimming in an unlit tank
This was the event’s sixth year, and again it was held during the Obon summer holiday so many families with young children could attend. The aquarium usually closes at 5:00 pm, but on these days it stayed open until 8:00. At around 6:00, as it was beginning to get dark outside, the lights in the building and in the tanks were turned off, and visitors were able to see the fish as they appear at night. During this period each year special programs are held on a temporary stage in the open space next to the aquarium. This year, in cooperation with The Nippon Foundation’s Ocean and Japan Project, academics and other experts who study ocean life were invited to give talks on each of the four nights.
Underwater photographer Ikuo Nakamura speaks in front of a photograph of a crab taken in Tokyo Bay
On the first night (August 13), underwater photographer Ikuo Nakamura gave a talk titled “This is Tokyo Bay.” With photographs he had taken in Tokyo Bay projected against a large screen, Mr. Nakamura talked about the environment that sea creatures inhabit. Roughly 20 years ago, when he began taking photographs in the bay in the Odaiba area where the park and aquarium are located, the water was quite polluted, but there were still large numbers of crabs and other shellfish living there. This was when nearby Haneda Airport was being expanded and the construction took a heavy toll on the ecosystem, but he was surprised at how much life there still was.
With Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, major construction is anticipated in areas including Tokyo Bay, and Mr. Nakamura pointed out that we need to think about how to protect the environment in Tokyo Bay to maintain the ecosystem. On the second night (August 14), Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Museum of Nature and Science gave a talk titled “The Mystery of the Giant Squid.” In 2004, Mr. Kubodera and his colleagues successfully photographed a live giant squid for the first time, deep in the ocean off the coast of the Ogasawara Islands. In 2006 he raised a living giant squid to the ocean surface, and in 2007 he was selected as one of Newsweek magazine’s 100 of the world’s most respected Japanese people. His giant squid photography was shown on NHK in 2013 to great acclaim.
Tokyo Sea Life Park staff members share their experiences
On the third night (August 15), three staff members from Tokyo Sea Life Park shared their experiences working at the aquarium. Using photographs projected onto the screen, they discussed whether fish are asleep or awake during the night, and how their appearance differs between night and day. For example, the hawksbill turtle sleeps during the night, but rises to the surface every 20 minutes to take a breath, breathing air through the lungs like a human being.
The sailfin tang is a saltwater fish in which the size of the fins changes between day and night. Another unusual fish is the butter hamlet, which has both male and female reproductive organs and can mate as a male or female.
Sakana-kun using an illustration to explain fun facts about fish (courtesy of Tokyo Sea Life Park)
On the fourth night (August 16), Masayuki Miyazawa of Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, who is also a popular television personality known as “Sakana-kun” (Mr. Fish), presented interesting and fun facts about fish. The venue had to be moved indoors because of heavy rain that night from an approaching typhoon, and only around 100 people were able to attend. First, he discussed environmental issues in Tokyo Bay, emphasizing how water and marine plants are essential to preserving the environment. Next, he asked children questions and illustrated on a whiteboard while sharing a variety of fun facts about fish. Finally, using live video from the aquarium showing fish including the Pacific bluefin tuna, scalloped hammerhead shark, spiny red gurnard, and whitespotted conger eel, he talked about the characteristics and interesting habits of these fish, to the crowd’s delight.


Communications Department The Nippon Foundation