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10 years on: man to open aquarium with memory of friend lost in tsunami

  • March 9, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 3:06 a.m.
  • English Press

Fukui, March 9 (Jiji Press)–Toshiyuki Tanaka, 42, is preparing to open a small aquarium featuring jellyfish in the central Japan city of Fukui in August, inspired by a friend who lost her life in a tsunami from the March 2011 powerful earthquake, which struck northeastern Japan.

With his proposal to convert a disused community center near the Sea of Japan coast into an aquarium accepted by the Fukui municipal government in February, Tanaka is now raising some 15 million yen needed to open the facility through crowdfunding and other means. He hopes the aquarium will attract 30,000 visitors in the first year.

He plans to exhibit jellyfish in a fantasy-like atmosphere with lighting and give visitors the opportunity to taste jellyfish in collaboration with a chef. Local marine creatures will also be displayed, to raise interest in the local community.

“I’m finally at the starting line,” Tanaka said.

Tanaka, who has carried an illustrated encyclopedia of animals with him since his childhood, started to work at a local post office after graduating from high school in Fukui Prefecture. When he was 24, however, he moved to Tokyo to pursue his dream of getting a job involving living things.

He learned how to raise and exhibit jellyfish by working for more than 10 years at Enoshima Aquarium in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, and facilities in Fukui Prefecture and the central prefecture of Gifu.

At the age of 36, Tanaka opened a shop to sell jellyfish in Fukui Prefecture with a friend who also has worked as a keeper at an aquarium. He has also given lectures about environmental issues at elementary schools.

Tanaka, who had a wish to create his own aquarium, made friends with a woman when he participated in a survey of sea turtles as a volunteer on Yakushima, an island in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, in 2004.

With both wanting people to be interested in creatures and the environment, they got along well and kept in touch after she returned to her hometown of Sendai, the capital of the northeastern Japan prefecture of Miyagi.

“I want to visit your aquarium someday,” Tanaka recalls her saying. But she lost her life in the March 11 tsunami 10 years ago when she was at her workplace in the Miyagi city of Natori, located next to Sendai. She was 29.

“I can keep going when I think she is cheering me up (from heaven),” Tanaka said.

“I want to make the jellyfish aquarium a place you can’t find anywhere else,” he said. It will also be “a place where her wish will come true,” Tanaka added.

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