Red eye fish (Photo: Rod Walters)


An unusual riverine aquarium

Red eye fish (Photo: Rod Walters)
Anonymous   - 3 min read

Next to the Hiromi River, a tributary of the famed Shimanto River, sits an eccentrically styled pinkish building decorated with a cute fish motif. This is the Osakanakan, an aquarium of river fish, and a place that has won the hearts of many young children and their parents too. The official name of the aquarium is the Shimanto River Learning Center. If you read all of the panels explaining the exhibits, you can certainly learn a lot. But you can also ignore the signs and enjoy some very attractive and naturalistic displays of live fish.

The Osakanakan showcases the fish and fauna of Shikoku. The Shimanto River, which runs for 196 km in neighboring Kochi Prefecture has a variety of surprisingly big fish and animals, including a giant salamander and a giant eel. Both are large, dirt-colored creatures which cause most visitors to exclaim in surprise on first sight at their impressive size – Oooh! There are also giant perch and a variety of large fish with eyes that appear red from certain angles. These big fish tend to float in alignment in their river-like tank, gazing at the visitors who gaze back at them.

A recent addition to the Osakanakan is a pair of otters who are constantly on the move, climbing the various objects and dipping in their pool. Other less dramatic but still fascinating animals include a variety of red land crabs that can be found all over Ehime, eels displayed in the bamboo traps that are used to catch them in the nearby river, and sandskippers whose front flippers are uncannily similar to legs.

The Osakanakan also makes a significant attempt to link the local Shimanto River with other majestic rivers, specifically the Amazon. There’s a large tank and the obligatory tunnel walk featuring truly huge fish and turtles from the Amazon. These fish also provoke exclamations of surprise, which are understandable considering that a display of this kind even exists at all in a very small town in rural Ehime.

Another popular draw are the penguins from South America. Admittedly these have nothing to do with rivers, but the Osakanakan does need to keep people interested. The penguins walk through the corridors at certain times, much to the delight of small children who have never seen the like. There used to be a section dedicated to traditional methods of fishing on the local rivers. I found this fascinating, but repeat visitors no doubt walked right past it, so the display has been replaced by temporary-looking fish tanks. I hope the social-historical display will make a comeback.

Like aquaria the world over, the Osakanakan has a souvenir shop with many tempting goods. In vain, parents try to rush the little ones through this trap. Outside the aquarium flows a very attractive river with shallows that children love to play in when the weather’s warm. There’s also a glassmaking studio where visitors can make their own glass, or choose from the professionally created works. The local produce shop selling fruit, vegetables, and handicrafts at bargain prices is also worth a look.


Anonymous @rod.walters__archived

I was born in Bristol, England, and I came to Japan in 1991 … which means I’ve lived half my life in this island nation on the other side of the world. The theme of my career in Japan has been communication. I started as an English teacher, and moved into translation as I learned Japanese....