Japan to show prized ‘marimo’ algae overseas for the 1st time

[Japan, Taiwan] Japan’s rare ball-shaped “marimo” freshwater algae, a designated special natural monument, will be shown overseas for the first time when specimens are rolled out in Taiwan later this year.

The exhibition at the National Taiwan Museum will mark the 120th anniversary of the algae’s discovery at Lake Akanko here in 1897 by Takiya Kawakami, who was then a student.

Kawakami went on to become a botanist and served as the first director of the museum in Taipei, hence the anniversary tie-up.

“It’s significant to exhibit marimo in Taiwan where Kawakami’s achievements have been highly acclaimed,” said Isamu Wakana, head of the marimo research department at Kushiro’s education board.

Since the cherished balls are a special natural monument they are not allowed to be taken out of Japan, so the ones traveling to Taiwan were cultivated from cells extracted from marimo inhabiting Lake Akanko.

Kawakami named the algae balls after their peculiar shape. In Japanese, “mari” means “ball” and “mo” is “algae.”

Kawakami, who studied at Sapporo Agricultural College, now Hokkaido University, published his discovery of marimo in an academic journal in 1898.

The Kushiro city government and other entities have arranged for the marimo to be exhibited at the museum from Dec. 2 through Dec. 17 as an international exchange event to celebrate Kawakami’s treasured discovery.


Photo: The “marimo” moss balls to be shown in Taiwan were cultivated from cells extracted from the algae in Lake Akanko in Hokkaido. (Yasushi Sato)

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