This year, our summer has begun in Tsuruoka, a beautiful town in the north of the country (Yamagata Prefecture).
While for Yo is his hometown, for me is the place where I first came into contact with the Washoku culture, where I learn for the first time about Sake explained by an expert, cooked delicious meal together with lovely grandmothers living in the mountains, and where I was able to discover the true Japanese hospitality and kindness.
Tsuruoka is famous for the presence of the sea with long sandy beaches, flat areas covered by Km and Km of rice fields and three famous mountains linked to the Shinto and Buddhist tradition (the Dewa Mountain Mountains) that attract visitors from all over the country.
For both, is a land to which we feel particularly connected, and where we often like to return to explore something new. Or at least, while for me it’s a discovery, for Yo it’s a way to relive the memories of the past.
Driven by the desire of find a new place for both of us, we decided to visit the city’s aquarium, located near the beach of Yunohama, famous for his Ryokan and his waves (documents from the Edo period report that on these beaches it was practiced for the first time board surfing in Japan).
Also called “The dreams house of Jelly”, you can easily understand what is the main attraction.
If like me, you had the opportunity to detest them or to be terrified by their tentacles during the summer holidays, once you see them close up maybe they will start to appear less … ugly?! Dangerous?! And maybe (maybe) you’ll also start to appreciate them a little bit more.
Kamo Aquarium is a place of history and science. Not only in the past were published important scientific discoveries, but there is still a research laboratory that studies their growth and development. With his Guinness Work Record obtained in 2012, at Kamo Aquarium you will have the opportunity to observe more than 50 varieties of jellyfish, dancing in large portholes with dim lights. All, in an atmosphere similar to that of a museum.
The aquarium was founded in 1930 by a group of volunteers.
At the beginning, the focus was not on jellyfish but on different species of fish from the sea of Japan.
While at the beginning there was a good response from the public, after a few years fewer and fewer visitors arrived. For this reason, director Tatsuo Murakami decides to risk the survival of the aquarium by focusing on something new and different: jellyfish.
At the time very few aquariums exhibited this marine animals, due to the short life span and the difficulty of raising it outside its natural environment.
Faced with this problem, the aquarium employees collected jellyfish from the sea every morning and displayed them in the tanks. By the time more then 80 different races were discovered.
The public became interested, and the first important numbers of visitors began to appear. But the real improvement came with the scientific discovery of Osamu Shimomura.
Nobel Prize in chemistry (2008), Shimomura was the ones who discover the fluorescent green light protein present in a variety of jellyfish, the VVVVV. Fate made Kamo’s aquarium one of the few centers where these jellyfish species were exposed.
People from all over the country cam ein order to see this variety and the acquarium was rebuilt in two years with double the exhibition space.
In 2012 Guinness World Records alsoprized the aquarium for his largest number species in its collection.
Last but not least, inside the aquarium it is possible to have lunch in the restaurant located in a wing of the building, overlooking the beach of Shonaihama. On the menu, you can choose between Ramen, Soba, ice cream or sashimi, all crowned with a special ingredient: jellyfish.
The Kurage(Japanese name of the jellyfish) is a gastronomic delicacy belonging to the Asian culture. In particular, China and Japan are the two countries where their consumption is highest. They are eaten raw or cooked and, with their very delicate flavor (they have a slightly salty aftertaste) they are mainly appreciated for their jelly and slimy texture.
Eating or not eating jellyfish?
Regarding this, opinions are controversial. While some scientists promote their nutritional benefits (jellyfish are composed of 5% fat and 90% protein) others say that these values are not exact and they retort by saying that we avoiding their consumption due to a small percentage of the aluminum present.
That said, if you are starting getting curious about Jellyfish, it is strictly not recommended to cook them by yourself using those fished during a day at the beach and the reason is that in the world, only 6 varieties of jellyfish are edible.
If the idea of trying the flavor and texture intrigues you, Kamo aquarium is a place where you can enjoy them!
I recommend you try their main dish, Kuraage Ramen, and finish your meal with Jelly Fish IceCream. A meal out of the ordinary.
Indirizzo: Yunohama, Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture
Come raggiungerlo: da JR Tsuruoka Station, 40 min. con il Shōnai Kōtsu bus direzione Yunohama Onsen; scendere alla fermata di Yunohama Onsen
Tel.: 0235-75-2258 (Yunohama Onsen Tourism Association)
Website disponibile in Inglese: http://www.yunohamaonsen.com/en/