Yes, those really are sharks swimming around in the school pool.

For years, areas outside of Japan’s big cities have been dealing with the problem of population decline, with fewer births and few employment opportunities leading to abandoned housing and the closure of facilities, including schools.

In an effort to deal with the problem, regional groups are constantly coming up with clever solutions, including NPOs set up to assist new residents and the offer of free homes, but for one enterprising group of thinkers in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, their solution has been to turn the defunct local elementary school into an aquarium.

Called the Muroto Schoolhouse Aquarium, the new sightseeing spot is located in Muroto City on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and is housed in the old school buildings of Shiina Elementary School, which closed in 2006 due to a low number of young children in the area.

After being left abandoned for over a decade, the old school is now teeming with life again, only this time it’s fish and marine animals that can be found around the school grounds.

The three-storey school building reopened as an aquarium on 26 April, coinciding with Japan’s nine-day Golden Week holiday period, during which time they received over a million visitors. With more than 15,000 people people visiting the aquarium each day, locals say the new site has brought a new sense of vitality to the sleepy rural town.

The first floor of the old school building now acts as a reception area for guests, while the second floor is home to a number of tanks, including a huge circular tank of mackerel in the middle of one of the old classrooms.

An old washbasin once used for rinsing calligraphy brushes and brushing teeth (schoolchildren in Japan often brush their teeth after eating lunch) has now been converted into a seawater touch pool filled with starfish and sea cucumbers.

The third floor is an “exhibition zone” containing skeletal specimens and books about marine life, while outside in the school swimming pool, sea turtles, sharks and fish can be found, making for an unusual sight.

Since the above video was posted online, it’s received 3 million views on Twitter, with viewers leaving comments like:

“Those are hammerhead sharks in there!”
“To combat the depopulation problem they’ve created a breeding farm!”
“Omg this is like a dream I had when I was at school.”
“When I was in elementary school, we kept crocodiles at the school, no joke.”
“At our school we kept koi fish in the pool when it wasn’t being used, but I’ve never seen sharks in a school pool before!”

▼ Those really are sharks inside the school pool.

Muroto hopes that the Schoolhouse Aquarium will increase visitors and revitalise the area, and their project seems to be doing just that. The aquarium shows that abandoned schoolhouses still have a lot of life left in them, even after the children have left, and if you’re looking to stay overnight in one of them, there’s a place where you can do that too!

Source: Net Lab
Featured image: Twitter/@INO_R18

Muroto Schoolhouse Aquarium / むろと廃校水族館
Address: Kōchi-ken, Muroto-shi, Murotomisakicho, 533-2
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily