For one enterprising group of thinkers in Kochi Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku, their solution has been to turn the defunct local elementary school into an aquarium.
Called the Muroto Schoolhouse Aquarium, the new sightseeing spot is located in Muroto City, and is housed in the old school buildings of Shiina Elementary School, which closed in 2006 due to a low number of young children in the area.
After being left abandoned for over a decade, the old school is now teeming with life again, only this time it’s fish and marine animals that can be found around the school grounds.
The three-story school building reopened as an aquarium on April 26, 2018, coinciding with Japan’s Golden Week holiday period, during which time they received over 1,000,000 visitors. With more than 15,000 people people visiting the aquarium each day, locals say the site has brought a new sense of vitality to the sleepy rural town.
The first floor of the old school building now acts as a reception area for guests, while the second floor is home to a number of tanks, including a huge circular tank of mackerel in the middle of one of the old classrooms.
An old wash basin once used for rinsing calligraphy brushes and brushing teeth (which is customary after eating lunch) has now been converted into a seawater touch pool filled with starfish and sea cucumbers.
The third floor is an “Exhibition Zone” containing skeletal specimens and books about marine life. Outside in the school swimming pool, sea turtles, sharks and fish can be found, making for an unusual sight.
ヤバい！時間がたつの早い！！— akatuki (@akatukired) June 17, 2018
Muroto hopes that the Schoolhouse Aquarium will increase visitors and revitalize the area, and their project seems to be doing just that. The aquarium shows that abandoned schoolhouses still have a lot of life left in them, even after the children have left.
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