A large tank - perfect for large fish - Ocean Expo Park, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium - July 2017 (current)
Aquariums are a place where you can enjoy a magical underwater show with lots of beautiful fish and mysterious creatures swimming in front of you. There are more than 60 aquariums in Japan. There’s no need to go scuba diving. Just go to the aquarium and you can get close to all the well-known creatures of the deep, such as jellyfish, penguins, dolphins, seals and dugongs.
Aquariums keeping rare sea creatures use some of the latest technology. For example, using a table-shaped fish tank you can put a glass plate on top and enjoy watching fish swimming beneath the glass. The tank is made out of transparent plastic known as “acrylic resin”, which can be molded into different shapes and sizes just like clay. There are also large fish tanks that go to a depth of over 8 meters for holding larger species such as whale sharks and manta rays. They are so big that looking at them makes you feel like you’re at the movies!
Table-shaped fish tank - Aqua Park Shinagawa
Fashion show with jellyfish wearing "glowing clothes"
The lights used to decorate these fish tanks are "LED light bulbs". Using basic color combinations: red, yellow, green and blue, any color can be created and reflected onto the jellyfish as a "beautiful veil of light". Every time the light color changes, the jellyfish changes its veil as well.
Jellyfish glowing in LED lighting - Aqua Park Shinagawa
Recently, some aquariums have begun using video technology known as "3D projection mapping", to make jellyfish look even more beautiful. The jellyfish exhibition at Shin-Enoshima Aquarium (Kanagawa Prefecture) is very famous.
In one of its halls, where the jelly fish are on exhibition, there are 13 projectors hanging from the ceiling and other parts of the hall. These projectors are made by a Japanese company and they project three-dimensional pictures of sea creatures, such as life-like jellyfish, on the walls, the ceiling and the pillars of the hall.
On the wall, next to the tank containing the real jellyfish, appear large jellyfish drifting in the ocean. Projections of large jellyfish floating in the sea next to real jellyfish will make you feel like you’re looking into the deep from inside a "submarine".
Jellyfish projected onto the wall next to the tank using 3D projection mapping - Shin-Enoshima Aquarium
Dolphins swimming through a rainbow curtain
For the dolphin show at Aqua Park Shinagawa (Tokyo) they use a technique called the "water curtain", which pours large amounts of water around the dolphins, drawing beautiful patterns that bring the show to life.
On the ceiling of the stadium where the show is held, there is a circular "water curtain rail" big enough to fit several dolphins. Water falls from the groove of this rail and creates the pattern. Computers are used to calculate the volume, timing and position of the water flow, and to operate the machine automatically.
The "rainbow" appears when light is shone onto the water curtain. The dolphins jumping in time with the water curtain appear to be swimming in the rainbow.
Dolphins jumping in time with the water curtain and the lighting - Aqua Park Shinagawa
Touch the screen to learn the fish’s name
At Aqua Park Shinagawa they use the same "touch screen technology" that is familiar to us through our smartphones. Touching the fish tank with your finger displays information on the fish such as its name and its natural habitat. The transparent water tank is the display screen. You’ll learn the name of the fish while watching them swim. The tank displays the information in two languages – Japanese and English – making it ideal for those who don’t understand Japanese well.
We don’t often read the description written next to the fish tank, but perhaps the touch screen will make it more enjoyable to read the information.
Fish tank with a touch screen displaying information about the fish - Aqua Park Shinagawa
"Picture fish" swimming in the "Wall aquarium"
A strange "aquarium" with no sea creatures living inside was also created. In this “Drawing Aquarium” (Kanagawa and other prefectures), "fish drawings" done by children using crayons are projected onto a large wall and begin to move as if they were in a real fish tank.
The children’s drawings are scanned by aquarium staff and saved on a computer. The computer breathes "life" into the "fish drawings" as they swim around all over the wall; releasing them into the "wall aquarium".
The fish drawings move based on the movement of the person approaching the wall. If a child tries to touch the fish that he or she drew, the fish will dart off as if it were really alive. This effect is realized by using the many "sensors" that capture the movement of visitors and transmitting the signal to the computer to maneuver the fish drawings to create the effect of the fish escaping.
"Drawing Aquarium" where fish drawings swim around –teamLab IsLands, Lalaport Shonan Hiratsuka
Staff member scanning children's drawings to the computer –teamLab IsLands, Lalaport Shonan Hiratsuka
Aquariums staff many people who know a great deal about and love the creatures living in the water. Every day they diligently search for new technologies that can be used in their aquariums, just like fish searching for food. But what is this effort for?
It is because they hope that visitors, who previously had no interest in fish, will become interested in them and their underwater world by admiring funny shaped fish tanks, beautiful lighting effects, water curtains that create rainbows, or maybe even fish drawings that swim about. Indeed, new technology could be the "magic wand" that attracts a lot of people to the world of seas and rivers.