As the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon spans approximately six million km² of land, which is around twenty times the size of Japan! Extending mostly over Brazil, Peru, and parts of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, the Amazon is so huge that it contains every single type of plant existing in all of South America, with countless other plants, birds, mammals, amphibia, insects and the like to be discovered.
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Until Sep. 4, you can learn about and explore parts of this gigantic forest at the Fukuoka City Museum! According to the Peruvian Embassy in Japan, it is an honor to introduce the abundant species of animals living in the Amazon, and convey the vital importance of the Amazonian land through this exhibition. The Great Amazon exhibition is on the second floor, with approximately four hundred items on display – you certainly won’t miss it with its large souvenir shop and entrance decorated with pictures of exotic animals. You can find more information on the event here.
Upon entering the exhibition’s venue, the first room focuses on introducing the animals and plants that have evolved over the past one hundred million years. Various fish, plant and insect fossils are displayed on the walls, all surprisingly intricate, preserving the utmost details and traces of history.
Home to approximately sixty thousand kinds of plants, over one million species of insects, one thousand eight-hundred species of birds, four-hundred-and-twenty species of mammals, over three thousand kinds of fish, and with many more species waiting to be discovered, the Amazon is a hodge-podge of organisms living in symbiosis with one another, constantly evolving to adapt to their environment. This next room scratches the surface of the staggering variety of species inhabiting the forest, by displaying taxidermied mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and unpleasantly gigantic insects. Although most displays are off-limits, there is a small section where you can touch the different claws of the sloth, jaguar or armadillo.
Make sure to check out the taxidermied South American family of parrots – they’re strikingly diverse! There are 30 genera of 150 different species, including 3 genera of 17 species of the largest parrots with the longest tails, known as the Congo parrots. While the Amazon’s trademark parrots have huge beaks, capable of cracking hard nuts and shells, and flaunt their showy bright colors, some wear muted grey-ish colors, depending on the sex, to conceal themselves from predators when the dark hours settle in.
When you walk through the reptile room, you definitely won’t be able to miss the Giant Anaconda, which is said to have reached up to 10 meters long. Early European explorer accounts of the 18th century even claim to have spotted 18-meter long anacondas!
If you get cold sweats from the mere thought of large crawling insects, you might want to whiz by the following section: the creepy-crawlies section. The exhibition displays various species of the world’s largest rhinoceros beetle – the hercules beetle (reaching up to 15 cm long!), longhorn beetle and tarantula. You can also browse some stunning vibrantly colored butterflies. Particularly eye-catching were the butterflies in the genera Morpho, which has over 29 species and 147 subspecies, known for their striking metallic hues of blue.
The next section introduces some of the most unique fish inhabiting the area. Species of the characiformes and catfish families are the most numerous and common. The Amazon is also home to the largest freshwater fish in the world (reaching up to 3.6 m and weighing 200 kg), infamous electric eels, and said living-fossils, the lungfish. Dangerous fish such as the piranha and candiru lurk in the waters. You can watch these fish in motion in the videos playing on TVs around the room, and revel at the large size of the Amazon river dolphin’s skeleton put on display at the center of the room.
The last room presents artifacts from the lives of indigenous peoples of the Amazon. This is a culture heavily ingrained in festivals and rituals, with rites of passage such as birth, adulthood, marriage and death, as well as abundant harvest and changing seasons all being celebrated, with a sense of respect and gratitude towards nature as a common point. Ornaments decorating the torso during these festivals are not solely meant for celebration–they also carry social and cultural meanings. Feathers used in ornaments or costumes display power, authority and social status, and are believed to increase mystical power, while tusks and fangs are reserved for warriors and are said to protect against evil spirits.
Towards the center of the room you can find a scaled version of their homes. And in the tent, you can look at the shrunken head of a Shuar person from Ecuador, treated by taking out the skull and only using the skin. Originally practiced for religious reasons, shrunken heads are now sold to rich tourists and collectors. (Photos prohibited)
The Great Amazon Exhibition is a great place to learn about the majestic forest – as up close as possible without having to take a very expensive flight! This exhibit is popular with couples, children, families and senior citizens – in other words, it’s enjoyable for all ages! Also, don’t miss out on the two other exhibitions the museum offers while you’re there! The Fukuoka City Museum presents a Permanent Exhibition Room about the city and its people, and a Feature Exhibition Room highlighting different cultural topics. And if you’re looking for a bite to eat, there’s a lovely cafe on the second floor, next to the exhibit.
• 6/25 (Sat.) ~ 9/4 (Sun.) (Closed: Mon.)
• 9:30~17:30 (last entry: ~17:00)
• Adult: ¥1,300 (Adv. ¥1,100), HS and Uni.: ¥900 (¥700), ES and MS: ¥600 (¥400)
• Fukuoka City Museum
• 3-1-1 Momochihama, Sawara-ku
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amazonfukuoka/
Text and photos by Alba Tinelli, for Fukuoka Now