The Magnet 078: Tokyo Journal, Part 3
Meguro Parasitological Museum
The entire family was excited to visit the Parasitological Museum in Meguro, which is a short train ride away from our hotel in Kabukicho. Though admission is free, the museum gratefully accepts donations. The museum was established in 1953 by a medical doctor, Satoru Kamegai, who used his personal funds for its foundation. Despite its small size, the museum spans two floors, which makes it seem bigger than it is. It houses about 300 parasite specimens, often accompanied by photos illustrating the horrific effects these parasites have on their human and animal hosts. All of the parasites are dead — they are either dried, encased in acrylic resin, or preserved in jars of formaldehyde. However, there was one exception: a mollusk in a glass dish, playing host to a pulsating, striped parasite. I filmed a brief video of the unfortunate creature:
The second floor housed the "Human and Zoonotic Parasites" collection. There, we saw a 29-foot-long tapeworm mounted behind glass. When Bill Gates visited the museum in 2022, he described the tapeworm as a show stealer. From Gates Notes:
What steals the show is the world’s longest tapeworm. In 1986, this garden-hose length parasite was discovered living in the small intestine of a Japanese man. He had dined on a piece of raw salmon that was infected with a tapeworm egg smaller than a grain of rice. Over the next three months it grew and grew until it reached 29 feet long!
Gates also posted a video of his visit to the museum.
One of my favorite things in the museum wasn't even meant to be an exhibit or an object of interest. It was a sign in the restroom providing information about a folding accessibility arm for the toilet. Japan is known for its plethora of informative signs, and this was no exception. The sign read “DO NOT play with the arm!” and depicted a person swinging from the arm like it was playground equipment. I imagined someone visiting the museum solely to play with the arm in the bathroom and I started laughing uncontrollably. I was still laughing when I exited the restroom, prompting quizzical looks from Carla and Sarina. I showed them the photo I had taken, and they too burst out laughing.
The museum also featured a gift shop where we bought a couple of furoshiki (traditional Japanese wrapping cloths) adorned with a pattern of parasites. Additionally, I purchased a small ruler decorated with images of various parasites.