Japan is practically overflowing with museums. Everything from ukiyo-e to prisons to Edo period buildings have been preserved for the benefit of public knowledge, and we’d say that almost every museum has something unique or fun to offer. But here’s a museum that is literally one-of-a-kind: The Meguro Parasitological Museum.
They claim to be the only museum in the world dedicated solely to parasites – and we’ve got to say that we believe them. We recently headed down to Meguro to check out their collection and learn a little bit about the critters that might living inside of you right now.
Just a short walk from Tokyo’s Meguro station, the Meguro Parasitological museum itself is nestled on a corner with the sign pictured below standing outside. Split into two stories, it’s not particularly large in terms of floor space, but their collection features parasites from nearly every environment you can imagine. And some you probably can’t as well.
Admission is free, though they do request donations – and we’d strongly encourage you to give. Though the subject matter may not be the most glamorous, the displays are excellent. As strange as it may seem, we might even say that they border on being beautiful.
An enormous sign on the wall at the entrance is the first thing visitors see when they enter. It shows off the “Diversity of Parasites” including everything from protozoa, a type of unicellular organisms, to insects to pentastoma, or “tongue worms.” No matter how many kinds of parasites you might think exist in the world, this sign will show you many, many more. It’s truly mind-boggling just how diverse life can be.
Walking around the first floor, there is a central display case in the middle of the room with more specimen on either wall. Below from left to right, you can see some parasites that primarily affect fish, like the tongue-eating louse. Fortunately, these kinds of parasites seem not to bother humans too much.
Also on the first floor is one of the most fascinating dioramas of the human body you’ll ever see – it shows just a few of the 100-plus parasites that infect humans found in Japan. It turns out there are more than 200 parasites world-wide that can infect humans, so let this serve as a warning to you: Wash your hands and thoroughly cook your food.
The second floor, in addition to featuring more parasites that can infect humans, also has a small room dedicated to the history of the museum and the study of parasites. In 1953, the museum was established to facilitate parasite research by Satoru Kamegai, a well-traveled doctor who ran an internal medicine clinic.
The museum also has research notes and samples taken by Sachu Yamaguchi, one of the foremost parasite researchers of his day.
We also got a chance to talk with Seiichi Kamegai, the current manager of the museum, and had to know what was the one display he definitely wanted people to check out. His answer?
“The 8.8-meter cestoda (also called tapeworms) is the highlight. Aside from that, there are close to 300 different displays. And it’s not just specimens – there are videos of parasites and large-scale models and other types of materials as well.”
The museum is relatively easy to get to, so you should definitely go and check the place out. Whether your interested in biology, ecology, or just things hiding in the world around us, the parasite museum is literally an experience you can only have in Tokyo.
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