An exhibit so soothing that it can literally put you to sleep.

Located on the top of Sunshine City, Tokyo’s shopping mega-complex in the Ikebukuro neighborhood, Sunshine Aquarium has recently renovated its jellyfish exhibit, making it one of the largest jellyfish displays in the country. Our Japanese-language reporter Ayaka Idate went to scope out what changes were implemented, and more importantly, what the Jellyfish Panorama entails.

▼ To adhere to COVID-19 preventative measures, Sunshine Aquarium posted reminders about social distancing. Next time someone asks me how much personal space I need, I’ll definitely respond with: “two penguins.”

Upon entering the exhibit, Ayaka was first stunned at the Jellyfish Panorama’s level of immersion. The Jellyfish Panaroma spanned a width of 14 meters (15 yards) and was filled only with moon jellyfish. Ayaka felt like she was swimming in the middle of the ocean surrounded by jellyfish without the actual fear that would strike someone in such a situation.

▼ While moon jellyfish are venomous, their venom isn’t enough to kill a grown human being—if that’s any comfort.

Additions to the Jellyfish Panorama which helped bring it to life include mood lighting, background music imitating the sound of waves, and even the briny scent of the ocean. Though it’s only expected that an aquarium can’t dunk guests into the exhibits, Ayaka thought this was the closest experience she could get in a metropolitan hub like Tokyo when it came to observing jellyfish close-up.

She took a seat at one of the exhibit couches to fully take in the elegant, beautiful sight of moon jellyfish moving through the water like how a falling discus of snow glides through the night sky. A calming, therapeutic feeling overcame her.

▼ Entranced by the soul-healing atmosphere of the exhibit, Ayaka leaned back in her seat to relax…

▼ … and felt the tides of sleep catching up to her… zzz…

▼ … ZZZ.

Ayaka woke up a few minutes later, realizing that she had accidentally fallen asleep in her seat! A rush of embarrassment welling up inside her, Ayaka self-consciously glanced around only to see that other people who sat on the couch for a quick break were also fast asleep. Perhaps the Jellyfish Panorama was too soothing…?

▼ Therapy by jellyfish, anyone?

Feeling a little more rested from her sudden power nap, Ayaka went to check out the other jellyfish exhibits in the re-hauled space. Another attraction which caught her eye was the Jellyfish Tunnel.

Though more of a bisection of the wall than an actual winding tunnel, the Jellyfish Tunnel nonetheless was a spectacular sight, providing a breathtaking reflection of shimmering moon jellyfish on the floor. Ayaka went beneath it, gazing in awe at the jellyfish swarming above and around her. Ayaka could see all parts of the jellyfish thanks to the tunnel’s transparent roof—no doubt a useful reference for the enthusiast or occasional artist who needs to see the underside of a jellyfish for whatever reason. 

Other jellyfish-centric displays included were the Jellyfish Screen, the Jellyfish Drop, and the Fantastical Jellyfish. All exhibits were designed in a way to highlight the respective, distinctive traits of their jellyfish.

▼ The long, elegant strands of the sea nettle illuminated within a dark space evokes the image of a silk screen painting.

▼ The structure of the Jellyfish Drop matches up extremely well with the bulbous figure of these adorable jellyfish!

▼ Facing a one-way mirror, the floating jellyfish and their otherworldly reflection contributes to the dreamy nature of the Fantastical Jellyfish exhibit.

Walking around the various exhibits, Ayaka realized that there were also jellyfish carrying eggs. Though it took her a while to identify one such jellyfish, she figured that hardcore jellyfish lovers would enjoy de-stressing among the exhibits while searching for spawn-bearing jellyfish.

▼ Imagine putting this in the “Interests” section of your CV: “Spotting pregnant jellyfish at the local aquarium.”

For the rest of her time at Sunshine Aquarium, Ayaka made the most out of her ticket by also visiting the other rare marine animals on display such as the Australian ghostshark, sea lions, and Sunshine Aquarium’s famous sky-penguin exhibit.

▼ No, you cannot touch the shark genitals this time, but you can gaze from afar!

▼ Due to COVID-19, all shows are canceled though curious onlookers can still watch sea lion feedings.

▼ The closest the penguin as a species will ever get to flying.

At the end of her visit, stopping by the aquarium’s gift store, Ayaka made sure to treat herself  to nothing other than… jellyfish-themed sweets! Modeled after the iconic moon jellyfish of the Jellyfish Panorama exhibit, the jellyfish sweets were fashioned with ingredients found in traditional Japanese sweets, such as sweet bean paste, and priced at 400 yen a pop. (US$3.74) Ayaka felt exceedingly lucky as there were only three of the suckers left when she bought her portion.

▼ Rather than eating it, I feel a desire to… pinch it?

For individuals interested in the Jellyfish Panorama or Sunshine Aquarium’s other attractions, tickets to Sunshine Aquarium are available at 2,400 yen (US$22.43) for adults, 1,200 yen (US$11.22) for elementary as well as junior high school students, and 700 yen (US$6.54) for toddlers. Annual passports are also available if you wish to frequent Sunshine Aquarium more often for jellyfish-therapy, or for the more steel-hearted, jump scares in the autumn.

Related: Sunshine Aquarium
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