Art & Culture

Tokyo's Sumida Aquarium Implores People To Facetime Its Eels

Claire Miles
Apr 21, 2020

Thanks to the current quarantine state, most of us are feeling a bit lonely these days. And apparently, that includes eels. Recently, the Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo has made an unusual request of its social media audience: to please call in through FaceTime so that their garden eels so that they don’t get too shy. The aquarium has been closed since March 1 on account of the Coronavirus pandemic, meaning that the sea creatures haven’t had human contact in months, apart from their keepers. So far, there have been five tablets set up by the eel exhibit. People can call in between May 3 – May 5, anytime between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. Callers can have up to five minutes socializing with the tiny garden eels before giving the next caller a turn.

This species of eel is typically more reserved and cautious around humans. But having grown accustomed to having human visitors, they gradually became more socialized, and willing to peek out of their burrows. The aquarium recently posted a video to their social media which explains why it’s crucial that these eels have human contact. In the clip, the eels can be seen hiding in their burrows when people try to approach their tank, a behavior they have apparently been exhibiting ever since the aquarium closed. This is problematic because the keepers need to inspect the eels in order to check on their health and breeding stats. These keepers are asking people to FaceTime into the aquarium so that the garden eels don’t forget their human visitors and become too shy.

garden eel poking out of the sand

Getty Images/Melissa Ta/Moment Open

The Sumida Aquarium houses 10,000 marine animals from around 400 different species. The garden eel tank is one of their most beloved attractions, as the tiny eel species has been popular in Japan for a long time. They are so popular that there is even a national day devoted to them; the Japanese anniversary association dubbed November 11 as the “Spotted Garden Eel Day”. Some people even take their love of these tiny sea creatures to a whole new level. In 2014, one couple had their wedding ceremony at the Sumida Aquarium in front of the eel tank. Appropriately, an eel-themed cake was served.