This Tokyo Pond Contains Fish From Space

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Feb. 10 2014 12:42 PM

Tokyo's Roppongi Hills Garden is Home to Extraterrestrial Fish

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When office workers at the 54-story Mori Tower in the Roppongi Hills urban community need some fresh air, they head downstairs to Mohri Garden. The tranquil green space contains a pond that was once part of a 17th-century feudal estate. Now, the pond is home to thousands of Medaka fish with an unusual pedigree: they are the descendants of fish who were born in space.

In July 1994, four Medaka — a hardy, inch-long species found in lakes and rice paddies around Japan — traveled to space aboard the NASA shuttle Columbia. During the 15-day voyage, scientists observed the breeding of the Medaka to see if the microgravity environment would affect their behavior. The fish mated and their eggs hatched normally, giving the four adult Medaka the distinction of being the first vertebrates to mate while orbiting Earth.

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When the shuttle returned, the offspring of the astronaut fish spent a few months being studied in a Japanese lab before being distributed to "foster parents" at schools, museums, and homes across the country. In 2003, the Roppongi Hills complex opened, boasting four apartment buildings, a corporate high-rise, museums, hotels, and a shopping center. During a welcoming ceremony involving 1,000 school children, Japanese astronaut Mamoru Mohri released 10,000 descendents of the extraterrestrial fish into the garden pond.

With a lifespan of three to five years and a breeding age of seven weeks, the Medaka of Roppongi Hills have thrived. Meanwhile, aboard the International Space Station, microgravity experiments on their species continue.

roppongi2
The Mohri Garden pond by day...

Photo: machu/Creative Commons

Something fishy's going on here:


View Roppongi Hills in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.

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