Meguro Parasitological Museum
- darkometer rating: 4 -
A small specialist medical museum in Japan
's capital Tokyo
– in fact it's said to be the world's only museum dedicated to the singe topic of parasites. And it's an infamous institution – a prime destination for the "icky medical tourism
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
What there is to see: Two small exhibition rooms on two floors (plus an even smaller historical side room) contain mostly all manner of hookworms, tapeworms and whatnot preserved in formaldehyde-filled jars. The star piece is an enormously long tapeworm that was removed from the intestines of a 40-year-old man. It is complemented by a piece of fabric tape of the same length rolled up on a hook mounted next to the specimen – you can unroll it to get an even better impression of just how long the monster worm was. 8.8 metres (nearly 30 feet)! Hands-on ickiness!
Another famously icky specimen is that of a dolphin stomach infested with "noodle-like" growths/worms. The sight can give you an instant tummy ache. But even freakier than the specimens are the photos of the effects of some parasites. The grossest of them all must be the picture of a scrotum grotesquely enlarged through elephantitis. It's truly elephantine in size: reaching to the ground and twice as thick as the thighs it's hanging between!
The primary purpose of the museum is supposed to be educational, however … it's part of a renowned research institute after all. Accordingly, a big point is made about ways of contracting parasites and how to prevent infection.
The labelling and explanatory texts are almost exclusively in Japanese only. Just the odd specimen has an extra English label added, most have not. So if you can't read Japanese, which presumably will be the case for most readers of this website, then the informational value of the place may appear rather limited. To alleviate this it's a good idea to head to the upstairs room first, go to the counter at the back and purchase the guidebook in English that's on offer there – alongside pendants and T-shirts with icky parasite images printed onto them. You will normally have to use the phone provided to alert a member of staff to your presence and tell them that you want to purchase something.
Once equipped with this book you can, if you so wish, get a lot more detail out of the museum, although not all the exhibits are reflected in the brochure. But some of the grosser exhibits are rather too self-explanatory as it is … if you just want a quick shock and cringe, then you could possibly do without the brochure.
in the south-western Tokyo
district of Meguro, a couple of miles south of Shibuya.
Access and costs: free and fairly easy to get to.
Details: get the metro (Namoku or Toei Mita lines) or the Japan Rail Yamanote ring line to Meguro Station and take the West exit. From here it's about a 15-minute walk (or two bus stops – hardly necessary) westwards along the main street (Meguro Dori), just across a canal bridge.
The museum is on the first two floors of a rather non-descript five-storey dark-red brick modern building on the right, just past a Shinto shrine and diagonally opposite a large restaurant called Royal Host. The letters MPM at the top clearly mark the museum building.
Opening times: daily except Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If Monday is a national holiday the museum closes on the following Tuesday instead. It remains closed for the entire period between 29 December and 5 January.
Admission free, but donations welcome. Or spend some money in the small shop.
There are 'no photography' signs by the small shop upstairs, but not downstairs, so their scope remains unclear. No visitor I saw (mostly Japanese) seemed to pay any attention to the signs anyway and just snapped away happily, so …
Time required: depends on the depth of your interest in the medical details. For a brief icky impression you won't need more than 20-30 minutes, if your stomach is strong enough and your interest in the medical nitty-gritty runs deeper, you could probably spend significantly longer in here.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
– the immediate vicinity, or indeed the district, doesn't hold anything else of touristic interest, but it's interesting to wander through such a non-touristic part of the city. The nearest mainstream attractions are the shopping districts of Shibuya and Harajuku, just two or three stops, respectively, north on the JR Yamanote line.