Aquamarine Fukushima

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Aquamarine Fukushima”

An Aquarium for the New Millennium

Aquarium du nouveau millénaire,

Aquamarine Fukushima”

Yoshitaka Abe
Aquamarine Fukushima, 50 Tatsumi-Cho, Onahama, Iwaki City,

Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. 971-8101


This is to introduce the new Aquarium built in Northern Honshu, Japan. Officially the Marine Science Museum, already known as the Aquamarine Fukushima- which opened its doors on July 15, 2000. The Aquamarine Fukushima was constructed as part of the Prefecture’s long-term waterfront development plan, and is expected to be a major first step in the development of the coastal area of Iwaki City, in the Onahama Prefecture. The Aquarium is managed by the Prefecture’s Board of Education. The exhibits start with evolution of Paleozoic fossils such as the Coelacanth and living fossils. Then, under the sunny glasshouse, the ecosystems of the district’s mountain streams and tropical Asia are exhibited. Schools of tuna and herring are presented in two giant tanks, as well as some delicate species never seen in aquarium tanks, such as Sanma, Cololabis saira, successfully bred and raised cultured here in the aquarium.


Un nouvel Aquarium, construit au Nord de Hoshu, Japon, est présenté. L’Aquamarine de Fukushima, déjà connu officiellement comme Musée des Sciences Marines, a ouvert ses portes le 15 Juillet 2000. L’Aquamarine de Fukushima fut construit dans le cadre du projet de développement à long terme de la préfecture sur le bord de mer. Il est considéré comme le point de départ majeur du développement de la zone côtière de la préfecture d’Onahama, dans la ville d’Iwaki. La gestion de l’Aquarium a été confiée au Conseil d’Éducation de la préfecture. Tout d’abord, la visite commence avec une présentation de l’évolution, assortie d’une collection de fossiles paléozoïques, comme le Cœlacanthe, et de fossiles vivants. Ensuite, sous la maison de verre ensoleillée, est abritée l’écosystème des torrents du district et de l’Asie tropicale. Puis des bancs de thons et de harengs sont exposés dans deux bacs géants, comme aussi d’autres espèces que l’on peut observer plus rarement derrière les vitres d’un aquarium, telles que le Sanma, Cololabis saira, qui est reproduit et cultivé avec succès ici à l’Aquarium.

Aquamarine Fukushima, Onahama Harbor


Aquamarine Fukushima is located 220 km north of Tokyo, at the second wharf in Onahama Harbor, Iwaki City. The harbor once prospered as the base of seine and pelagic fishing operations. Today, the harbor is also known as an international trading port, with a container-shipping route to the rest of Asia. The Onahama Marine Industrial Complex is located near the harbor.
Information on the Facility

Second Wharf, where the Aquarium is located, is about 400 meters long and 190 meters wide, while the aquarium building itself is about 165 meters long and 76 meters wide, 30 meters high at the observation tower. Building area: 8,815 m2, floor area: 13,714 m2, total volume of water: 3,990 t of which, volume of the main water tanks: 2,050 t. Cost of construction: US$ 142 million. The building contains four concrete stories semi-cylindrical in shape. The wall and roof are covered with some 3,000 glass panes, providing unrestricted sunshine inside. The escalator takes visitors to the uppermost 4th floor, then the visitors can walk down the gentle sloop of about 750 meters.


The entrance hall is also the return route to the exit, a boardwalk about 100 meters long, with openings for the prologue, rooms for educational and temporary exhibits. This is also where people communicate, like the confluence of sea currents. The Aquamarine Fukushima prologue shows the Evolution of Life. Lighting is controlled for an underground image. Evolution can be considered as the story of extinction. Evolution and extinction in the Paleozoic seas, through fossils and living fossils, the witnesses to evolution, displayed in the water tanks and showcases. They may have a message for humans, the only creatures having developed civilization. A fulltsize Dunkleosteus hangs from the dark ceiling. Of particular interest is the collection of fossilized Coelacanths, including examples from various eras.

Ecosystem of the Mountain Stream

Exhibit of Mountain Stream Marine Mammals

The ecosystem of the district’s watersides, complete with the flora and fauna found along its rivers and coastline, has been recreated in a section on the 4th floor. We have made full use of techniques for making typical Japanese Gardens (Abe & Ito 1996, Kawahara 1993) in the space available, to achieve a semblance of ideal nature. In the middle, a water tank is surrounded with thick vegetation.

Marine Mammals

The origin of the Kurile Current is the sea of Okhotsk and the northern seas. Here are exhibited the four species of marine mammals, Larga Seal, Steller’s Sea Lion, Walrus, and Sea Otter, that inhabited the northern seas. We know visitors love watching our dolphin show and the sea lions being fed or performing tricks; there is a choice of many places for the public.

Tropical Asian Watersides

The section Tropical Asian watersides is under the greenhouse area, which takes in abundant natural lighting. Its theme is the ecology of Tropical Asia’s freshwater plant life and mangrove swamp. Considerable effort has been put into recreating the plant-life environment. Our policy is not to put too much information around the aquarium windows, since this may spoil the ecological surroundings. Only the name of the fish is indicated on small transparent plates, without any frame. Asian Arowana, Scleropages formosus, Datonioides are kept together with small cyprinid species and catfish, a combination of species found in the wild. Some tropical flowers attract the visitors’ eyes.

Mangrove Forests

The Black Current has its source in the lush forests of Southeastern Asia. The mangrove forests recreated provide the perfect home for a wide variety of life forms under the sunlight. We all know the waterside aquascaping exhibits at the Tokyo Sea Life Park. The aquascaping techniques are developed here, at the Aquamarine Fukushima. Habitat group exhibits inevitably require the most careful treatment of plants and animals; here, aquarists become underwater gardeners. The Aquamarine Fukushima is closed every Tuesday, except during the summer season, to take care of exhibits.

The Amami Isles Coral Reef

This is the 120-ton main tank in the Coral Reef exhibits. Sunlight penetrates to the bottom at a depth of 5.5 meters, and the corals are in very good condition.

Giant Marine Tanks

Giant Marine Tank

The main attraction is a pair of tanks recreating the environment off the coast of Onahama where two ocean currents mingle: the Kuroshio, Black Current and the Oyashio, Kurile current. These tanks have their ceiling on the 4th floor and their base on the 2nd floor; the two tanks together contain about 2,050 tons of water. Under natural sunlight, visitors look down from the 4th floor into the tanks, 8 meters deep, which simulate both currents. The people walking on the 4th floor can be seen from the 2nd floor. A rest area with seats has been set to observe the show of the ocean environment. Under the natural lighting, we can enjoy the fishes’ natural colors and the migratory fishes’ behavior. You can sometimes observe skipjack tuna chasing sardines, illustrating the natural food chain. In the large Kurile Current tank, the rocky shore environment is recreated, with the water temperature at about 10°C. Here are exhibited 40 species of algae, and other living creatures. Japanese tangle, Laminaria and Sargassum grow under the sunlight. Cultured sea urchin strings hang in a corner.

Triangular Prism Tunnel

Triangular Prism Tunnel

Visitors may view fish from the two currents darting around in a tunnel shaped like a triangular prism linking both tanks. At the boundary of the prism, it is possible to compare the differences between the Kurile and Black Currents. Visitors can make out school of migratory fishes, Skipjack Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Sardine, Hammerhead Shark, while Rockfishes, Herring, Flounder and Giant Octopus can be seen swimming in the Kurile Current tank.

Pacific Saury (See Poster Presentation)

Artificially bred Pacific Saury, Cololabis saira, are displayed in the seas of Fukushima section on the 2nd floor. Although the Saury is a familiar fish to the Japanese, its life history remains largely shrouded in mystery.

We have achieved artificial spawning with eggs retrieved from seaweed found drifting off Onahama, Seas of Current Rip. At present, the exhibit includes 5th-generation Sauries, which are continuing to reproduce.

Marine Culture and Science Museum

The third floor houses another outstanding feature of the Aquamarine Fukushima: the Ocean Gallery, whose role is defined as a marine culture and science hall. This 100-meter wide space provides visitors with the opportunity of obtaining various kinds of information on the sea. 19 items are displayed in the first half of the section, the Marine Cultures Museum, with information and data on the ancient fisheries, such as during the Jomon Period (10,000 BC to 300 BC in the Iwaki district) as well as recent fishing techniques and cultures. The Jomon people developed innovative fishing techniques and implements. Throughout the Fukushima coastal region, archaeologists have discovered a large number of shell mounds and fishing hooks, as well as detachable harpoons. Today’s Japanese fish-eating cultures can be traced back to the Jomon period.

In the Marine Science section, endangered species and environmental issues are presented. Visitors are also informed with commentaries on the current situation of fish farming in the Fukushima Prefecture, as well as reports concerning the results of seedling production.

Information System

Touch panels for species information on system terminals are located in all nine exhibition areas. Visitors can refer to species information, which can also be checked on the computer terminals at the information center located at the end of the visitors’ route. The entire facility’s multimedia system is controlled by the Gigabit–VLAN network, which is also connected to the Government Prefecture’s education centers.

Touch Pool

In front of the information center, visitors can find the experimental station and the Tidal Zone, which shows the evolution of life and the oceans’ most fragile zones. “To touch the waters extending hands to other life forms” is the epilogue of the Aquamarine Fukushima.

Observation Tower

At the end of the visitors’ route, the seafront observation platform perched 30 meters above ground gives visitors a sweeping view of the Onahama harbor and the Pacific beyond. On the right side is located the Onahama Marine Industrial Complex, which is actively operated, and on the left side the fishing port and natural shores. This is another epilogue to the Aquamarine Fukushima, where people are “Pondering through the Sea, the Future of Humankind and the Earth.”

Aquamarine Fukushima Policies

The Aquamarine Fukushima has established three policies,

  1. focusing on the breeding non-charismatic species like the Saury,

  2. raising awareness of the importance of sustainability, such as total allowable catch regulation information,

  3. Microcosm, to create ideal nature within the Aquarium.

  1. Non-charismatic species

Non-Charismatic Species , Pacific Saury

It is essential for us to manage the display of such rare items as the Saury. There are so many species awaiting our research, even among commercial marine species, which are never charismatic. Breeding and keeping non-charismatic species is the best way to revive public interest in Aquariums. We have succeeded in breeding two species of flying fish, by collecting the eggs from floating algae in the nearby seas and breeding them in round tanks. The techniques for breeding such delicate species (though they still remain preliminary) are briefly mentioned in the poster presentation I hope you have seen.

  1. Sustainability


When we talk about sustainability, we talk about sufficient biological information and knowledge on each species to be sustained. Aquariums should exchange information with the Government Fisheries Agency, Research Institutes and all the District Fisheries Experimental Stations for these purposes. Aquariums should also provide up-to-date fisheries information from these organizations to visitors. There are so many non-charismatic fish species awaiting biological studies, if only at the nearby Onahama Fish Market, where there are so many ideas to be challenged. Whales are also present off the Onahama coast, where the currents converge. This picture scroll shows the old-style harpoon whaling used in the past in the Iwaki district, where it has been described as a cultural asset. The whale was worshipped by the local population of Iwaki as Kujira Daimyoujinn, the God of fertile oceans. The use of whales as a source of protein will not be taboo in the sustainability category.

  1. Microcosm

The present author talked about aquascaping (Abe, 1996) in the Aquarium exhibit and concluded on the creation of a microcosm, which is one of the ideal abstract goals of nature. This diagram shows the structure of Japanese gardens, where rockworks alternately block each other, emphasizing the perspective. The level of completion of the exhibits may be a state of Microcosm. Bonsai are also a Microcosm. People working for fisheries in the Iwaki district love Bonsai, and prefer native the black pine tree that clings to the cliffs over the sea. A temporary exhibit of Bonsai was held in early November. Bonsai, some more than 300 years old, are ideal trees that cannot be found in nature; they, too, are a Microcosm.


To all those involved in the Aquamarine Fukushima Project, the present author would like to express his gratitude for their hard work and congratulations for the successful opening of the Millennium Aquarium.


Abe Y., Ito T., 1996.- Aquascape in the Aquarium tank-. Proceedings of 4th
IAC in Tokyo. 205-211.

Kawahara K., 1933.- Japanese Gardens.- Tokyo University of Agriculture. 3rd ed. fig.1-20.

Bulletin de l’Institut océanographique, Monaco, n° spécial 20, fascicule 2 (2001)

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