Discover Tokyo’s Museum Dedicated to Parasites: A Unique and Disturbing Institution

Pho­to by Guil­hem Vel­lut

Weary as we are of hear­ing about not just the coro­n­avirus but virus­es in gen­er­al, shall we we turn our atten­tion to par­a­sites instead? The Meguro Par­a­sito­log­i­cal Muse­um has been con­cen­trat­ing its intel­lec­tu­al and edu­ca­tion­al ener­gies in that direc­tion since 1953. Locat­ed in the epony­mous neigh­bor­hood of Tokyo, it hous­es more than 60,000 species of par­a­site, with more than 300 on dis­play at any giv­en time. “On the first floor we present the ‘Diver­si­ty of Par­a­sites’ dis­play­ing var­i­ous types of par­a­site spec­i­mens with accom­pa­ny­ing edu­ca­tion­al movies,” write direc­tors Midori Kamegai and Kazuo Ogawa. “The sec­ond floor exhibits are ‘Human and Zoonot­ic Par­a­sites’ show­ing par­a­site life cycles and the symp­toms they cause dur­ing human infec­tion.”

Pho­to by Guil­hem Vel­lut

We’ve here includ­ed a few choice pic­tures from the muse­um, but as Cul­ture Trip’s India Irv­ing warns, “the real-life spec­i­mens are far worse than the pho­tographs; some of the dis­plays present pre­served par­a­sites actu­al­ly pop­ping out of their ani­mal hosts.”

She names as “the most repul­sive item on view” a tape­worm “rough­ly the size of a Lon­don bus — it is the longest tape­worm in world and is exhib­it­ed along­side a rope of the same length so vis­i­tors can get a phys­i­cal feel for just how enor­mous it actu­al­ly was.” What oth­er par­a­sito­log­i­cal muse­um could hope to com­pete with that? Not that any have tried: the Meguro Par­a­sito­log­i­cal Muse­um proud­ly describes itself as the only such insti­tu­tion in the world.

Pho­to by Guil­hem Vel­lut

“Some of the dis­plays are mere­ly dis­turb­ing, while oth­ers are slight­ly more ghast­ly,” writes Men­tal Floss’ Jake Rossen. “If you’ve ever want­ed to see a pho­to of a trop­i­cal bug prompt­ing a human tes­ti­cle to swell to the size of a gym bag, this is the place for you.” Like many oth­er muse­ums, it did shut down for a time ear­li­er in the pan­dem­ic, but has been open again since June. (If you hap­pen not to be a Japan­ese speak­er, guides in Eng­lish and oth­er lan­guages are avail­able in both text and app form.) If cur­rent con­di­tions have nev­er­the­less kept Japan itself out of your reach, you can have a look at the Meguro Par­a­sito­log­i­cal Muse­um’s unique offer­ings through this Flickr gallery — which gets many of us as close to these organ­isms as we care to be.

Pho­to by Steven L. John­son 

via Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er the Japan­ese Muse­um Ded­i­cat­ed to Col­lect­ing Rocks That Look Like Human Faces

The First Muse­um Ded­i­cat­ed to Japan­ese Folk­lore Mon­sters Is Now Open

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of the Müt­ter Muse­um and Its Many Anatom­i­cal­ly Pecu­liar Exhibits

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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