The book set “Fishes of Japan with Pictorial Keys to the Species” published by the Tokai University Press, and of which Emperor Akihito is a co-author, is probably as close to an encyclopedic authority on all Japanese fish species as anyone can get. The three-volume ichthyological opus is on its third edition already, a landmark that was celebrated by the Japanese emperor and his co-authors in an event held in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district on Monday, April 22.
Nineteen Japanese ichthyology taxonomists, the emperor included, contributed to the 2,500-page set to create a thorough look at all fish species that inhabit fresh water and coastal seas of Japan. The current edition was edited by Professor Tetsuji Nakabo of Kyoto University. “We are convinced that the book will present the precise status of fish species that inhabit Japan and the rest of East Asia and provide basic and valuable insight into biogeography, fisheries science and environmental protection studies,” Nakabo said at the event on behalf of all the authors and contributors.
The emperor is also a card-carrying member of the Ichthyological Society of Japan, and according to Nakabo authored all of the 350 pages on the “Suborder Gobioidei” or the Japanese goby species. All 518 goby types are discussed in the section, including a species that Akihito himself discovered. The section he authored also has over 500 illustrations, some drawn by the emperor himself, to give a visual description of the characteristics and morphology of the species. Nakabo was impressed by the emperor’s thoroughness and zeal on the project – Nakabo himself paid monthly visits to the Biological Laboratory on the grounds of the Imperial Palace for long discussions with Akihito regarding his section in the book. “Whenever a small ambiguity arose, His Majesty would say, ‘Why not take a look at the specimens?’ and scrutinize the real fish,” Nakabo said. “And he would say, ‘OK, that was it,’ after making careful confirmations.”