Meguro Parasitological Museum
Meguro: Museum
Meguro Parasitological Museum: Meguro
Meguro / Museum
Open 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays.
Free admission
Average visit time: 20-40 minutes

Forget the usual superlatives for Tokyo - the highest concentration of pachinko balls in the world, the greatest number of geographically challenged taxi drivers anywhere, etc. - what really makes me want to punch the air in civic pride is knowing that this city is home to the world's one and only museum devoted to parasites.

Admittedly, the Meguro Parasitological Museum might not appeal to some types, such as those of a squeamish nature or those who have just eaten lunch. But the place is certainly fascinating - vaguely sinister, perhaps, but fascinating.

The museum is a proper research institute, well organized and thoroughly educational. You learn that fully 70,000 species - 6% of all animals - are of the parasitic persuasion. And 300 such specimens are on show here. The star attraction is undoubtedly the 8.8-meter tapeworm that was hauled out of some guy after he ate raw trout (believe me: if you get a trout, you cook it). Compared with some of the denizens of the formalin jars here and the hideous effects they wreak, John Hurt's late dinner companion in Alien seems almost benign.

On the second floor is a gift store, where you can have a grand shopping spree on parasite presents - the key chains, phone straps, jewelry and T-shirts that announce to the world your parasite of choice. Romantic old fools can buy bracelets with charms shaped like Diplozoon nipponicum to let that special someone in their lives know that they think of them in the same loving terms as a parasitic freeloader that lurks inside a cold fish.

Mark Twain once said that only kings and people with tapeworms should refer to themselves as "we." Royalty aside, you do emerge from a visit to the Meguro Parasitological Museum abundantly grateful that you can continue referring to yourself in the first person singular.

by David Capel

Meguro-ku, Shimo-Meguro 4-1-1.
8 minutes from Meguro Station (JR)
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