You don’t get much more Japanese than an idol fishing for eel on the Dotonbori.

Being a TV personality on Japanese variety shows really involves enduring a range of experiences, with some good, like sampling fine cuisine, and some bad, like getting a pie in the face.

I’m not really sure where conducting marine biology research usually rates on that scale, but for Ken Kojima, the leader of Ae! group, an idol unit belonging to the Johnnys’ Jr. roster, it became a historic moment in the city of Osaka.

▼ Ae! group performing their single “Firebird” live

While filming a segment on the MBS variety show Kansai Johnny Haku, Kojima took part in a survey of Osaka’s famous Dotonbori River that runs through right the city’s downtown area. The idol joined members of the Osaka Prefectural Biodiversity Center as they set net traps to catch and catalog the populations of species.

However, when Kojima pulled up one of the net traps, he and everyone else present were shocked to see a Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) inside.

▼ Footage of the captured eel

At first, you might be wondering why catching a Japanese eel in Japan of all places is such a big deal, but it really is. It’s very important to note that this eel was caught in the Dotonbori River that flows right by Osaka’s iconic Glico sign in a highly commercial area. As such, its water quality is widely considered to be somewhere between that of a mop bucket and the greasy stuff that log flume rides float on.

Its most notable biodiversity usually consists of the drunk people that jump in after major sporting events and a statue of Colonel Sanders that some drunk people threw in after a major sporting event. So, finding not only one but 11 Japanese eels there, like Kojima and the team did, is nothing short of amazing.

▼ The Colonel was retrieved from the river in 2010 after a quarter of a century

In fact, Kojima’s eel is the first one ever recorded to have been caught in the Dotonbori, even including past ecological surveys.  Moreover, these eels are a predator species but are all healthy and appear to be well-fed, which strongly suggests that there is a whole ecosystem going on in the river for them to feed off of. In other words, the entire environmental quality of the Dotonbori river appears to be improving significantly.

Kojima seemed well aware of this upon discovering the eel and excitedly shouted upon his discovery, “Wow wow wow, hey! Johnny’s Entertainment!” which may very well go down in history as this generation’s “Mr. Watson, come here” or “Eureka!”

▼ News report showing the moment Kojima found the Japanese eel

It really can’t be stressed enough how uninhabitable the Dotonbori River has been considered to be, so this really is an epoch changing event. Even readers of the news online were shocked and in disbelief.

“I thought the Dotonbori was a terrible river, but I guess it’s become quite beautiful now.”
“I’m really happy to hear this.”
“So, maybe all those people who jumped in were eel fishing…”
“Haha! Kojima made the news! Congratulations!”
“It’s true. Now, when the sun hits the water, it’s so clear you can see all the trash at the bottom.”
“Colonel Sanders used to inhabit those waters too, but now he’s gone.”
“I remember them saying not to jump in because the water would make you sick.”
“That’s great, but I still won’t eat anything caught from there.”

It’s probably wise to continue refraining from eating anything out of the Dotonbori for the time being. The improvement is a very gradual process but for now appears to be well on the path to recovery. Besides, the Japanese eel is an endangered species so fishing them is prohibited and even the ones caught by Kojima and the others will be treated carefully to preserve and hopefully increase their numbers.

In the meantime, you can see what discoveries Kojima and the rest of Ae! group find on the Johnnys’ Jr. YouTube channel where they post weekly on Thursdays. Speaking of which, we really should push Japanese variety shows to get more Johnny’s groups to tackle other scientific breakthroughs. Maybe get Travis Japan working on a cold fusion reactor and 7 MEN Samurai studying images of distant nebulae from the James Webb Telescope.

Source: MBS News, YouTube/MBS NEWS, Hachima Kiko
Top image: © MBS via Johnny & Associates
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