Scheduled Exhibition Heisei Unagi Exhibition: Closing in on the Mystery of the Eel

Exhibit Period

Friday, August 3 - Sunday, September 9

Exhibit Times

9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(last admissions at 4:30 p.m.)

Organized by

Organizer : The Nakagawa-machi Bato Hiroshige Museum of Art Co-organizer : Nakagawa Town Folklore Museum

Museum closed

August 6, 20, 27; September 3

Admission Fee

Adults: 500 (450) yen High School, College Students: 300 (270) yen ※Fees in parentheses for groups of 20 or more ※Visitors age 70 and above, and junior high school age and below admitted for free Visitors with a disability certificate, and one accompanying caregiver admitted for half-price.


Kabayaki-a thick, juicy filet of eel, slathered with a salty-sweet soy-based sauce. Roasting over glowing charcoals, the fragrant smoke beckons to us, and before we realize it we find ourselves at the entrance to the nearest eel restaurant. And we’re not alone.
 With the exception of a few regions including Hokkaido, eel is caught in rivers and seas across Japan, and its connection with the Japanese people goes back to days of old. When kabayaki, flavored with soy sauce and mirin cooking sake, made its appearance on the scene in the Edo Period, it became a big hit with Edo-ites when they dined out.
 On one hand, the culture of eating eel and loving eel is a part of Japan, but on the other hand the biology of the eel had long been wrapped in mystery. No one had ever seen either an eel egg or a newborn eel. Thatfs why some naturalists even thought “the eel spontaneously emerges from mud.”
 However, eel eggs were discovered in recent years near the Mariana Trench by researchers from Tokyo University, and we now know at long last about the eel’s migration and reproduction.
 In this exhibition, you will see the connection between the Japanese people and the eel - through Edo Period ukiyo-e, eel restaurant rankings and books. Alongside, we will also exhibit eel eggs, eel fishing gear, and live leptocephalus (baby fish), for a multi-faceted look at the eel. The research logs from the Tokyo University’s research ship the Hakuho Maru during its search for the eel, last December’s records from Bato High School in Nakagawa Town when its students succeeded in fertilizing an eel egg, as well as the latest research findings will also be on display.
 So familiar, yet so unknown - but now you can immerse yourself in the mysterious world of allure of the humble eel.


Tsukamoto Katsumi, Professor, Atmospheric and Oceanic Research, Tokyo University
Saturday, August 4, 2012 Lecture begins at 1:30 p.m.
Nakagawa Town Chamber of Commerce Building