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OU in Amazing Places - A Machikane Crocodile Appears at the Living Museum, NIFREL

The Concept of “Touching Sensitivity”

NIFREL can be found inside Expo City, Japan’s largest complex, located quite close to Osaka University’s Suita Campus. The concept of NIFREL, “Kansei ni fureru (Touching Sensitivity)” can even be found in its name (kansei ni fureru -> NIFREL). OBATA Hiroshi, Director of NIFREL, explained, “Kaiyukan, which operates NIFREL, has 25 years of experience as one of the largest aquariums in the world. At NIFREL, this experience is utilized to develop a means for guests to ‘intuitively’ enjoy living things and nature, just as if they were enjoying a piece of art.”

A Whole New Kind of Museum

NIFREL is a “living museum,” one that transcends the genres of aquarium, zoo, and art museum. “For example, we use techniques seen in installations which combine artistic lighting and video in the shape and arrangement of our water tanks. Here you can meet some 2,000 animals from 150 species, from fish with beautiful colors and mysterious shapes swimming in crystal-clear water, to white lions, mini hippos, and penguins at a short distance.”

In a large two-storied room, a ball of 5 meters in diameter hangs from the ceiling. Director Obata explained, "In this section, visitors will be surrounded in sounds and videos of “Wonder Moments” clipped out of nature. We hope this will touch the senses of each and every guest and link the memory of each experience and exhibit together.”

Meeting the Machikane Crocodile

What awaits visitors at the entrance of the “Behavior” Zone is a giant recreation of the Machikane crocodile, completes with its enormous mouth, smashing right through the wall. The Machikane crocodile (machikane crocodilydae) was discovered on Osaka University’s Toyonaka Campus, and was the first full crocodile skeleton fossil found in Japan. “Not only did we want to show living things that exist in the present, but we also wanted to transcend time and express a link with the past. We want people to think ‘There were crocodiles here?! Wow!” said an enthusiastic Mr. Obata. This Machikane crocodile also serves as a service spot for taking photos.

Collaboration with the Museum of Osaka University

“We suggested the Machikane crocodile because we wanted our exhibits to be meaningful, but at we almost gave up because it was too academically-focusced and not an animal that exists today,” mentioned OKUMACHI Takuhiro of the Management and Operations Team. So with the cooperation of the Museum of Osaka University, through lending replicas of the skull and lower jaw bones as well as some helpful advice, they were able to recreate the Machikane crocodile from its front legs all the way to its skull and fully realize the exhibit.

Former Director of the Museum of Osaka University, as well as co-author of a book on the Machikane crocodile itself, Osaka University Professor Emeritus EGUCHI Taro had this to say about the appeal of the crocodile: “Crocodiles living in a temperate climate are rare, and there is still research being performed on what we haven’t yet been able to explain.” Professor UEDA Takahiro of the Museum of Osaka University had high expectations for the exhibit, saying, “This is the first time that the Machikane crocodile has been faithfully recreated from the bone. I hope that many of you come and have a look.”

Osaka University and NIFREL have entered into a collaborative agreement to produce even better research and exhibits, and the two plan to continue to take their cooperation to even greater heights.

•NIFREL (2-1 Senri-Banpakukoen, Suita, Osaka)

NIFREL is operated by Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. It opened in November 2015 as a “Living Museum” inside Expo City. NIFREL is open every day from 10:00 ~ 20:00 (last entry: 19:00). Entrance fees are 1,900 yen for adults (16 and up) and high school students, 1,000 yen for elementary and junior high school students, at 600 yen for children 3 and up. The closest station to NIFREL is Banpaku-kinen-koen Station on the Osaka Monorail.

For inquiries: TEL 0570-022060 (Navi Dial)

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