Meguro Parasitological Museum draws praise from Bill Gates

Bill Gates points to an exhibit of the world’s longest tapeworm at the Meguro Parasitological Museum in Meguro Ward, Tokyo (from his Twitter account).

A parasite research center in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, has attracted a lot of attention recently, following a series of major developments this summer, including a visit from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and a impromptu online donation campaign.

The Parasitological Museum of Meguro, which has suffered a drop in attendance due to the COVID-19 crisis, hopes that this will be a good opportunity to increase interest in the world of parasites, which the general public does not know.

The Parasite Museum was founded in 1953 by Dr. Satoru Kamegai, a physician who became the museum’s first director. He invested his own money to establish the museum to conduct parasite research and to educate and raise awareness about the prevention of parasitic diseases. The museum has a collection of approximately 60,000 specimens acquired in Japan and overseas.

In keeping with Kamegai’s philosophy – “no money should be paid for education and outreach” – the museum has no admission fees. Funding for the operation of the museum comes from the investment income of the foundation that operates the museum, profits from goods sold to the museum, and donations.

The number of visitors to the museum, which was more than 50,000 per year before the pandemic, halved in fiscal 2020. in fiscal 2020, prompting the museum to set a goal to raise donations of 5 million yen starting in fiscal 2020.

Although the target for the same fiscal year was met, the next fiscal year failed with only 4.5 million yen, so they appealed for financial support on their website.

This caught the attention of someone with a large number of social media followers in the field of biology who put out a call for donations for the museum on Twitter on August 21. The appeal has been shared more than 30,000 times, increasing donations for the current fiscal year from about 2 million yen to more than 5 million yen in the same month. As of September 10, donations amounted to 6 million yen.

Bill Gates also has an interest in the museum, having worked to fight infectious diseases around the world through his charitable foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He traveled to Japan in August this year to receive the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun and stopped at the museum during the visit.

At the museum, he was interested in the exhibit on parasites that can be transmitted from pigs to humans, and he also bought a ballpoint pen and a bracelet with Miyairi-gai freshwater clams that serve as host to parasites.

After the visit, Gates posted about his visit to the museum on his Twitter account, saying “I saw what is believed to be the longest tapeworm in the world”, among other things.

The number of visits to the museum’s website, which normally receives around 1,000 visits per day, increased to around 7,000 two days later.

Museum director Toshiaki Kuramochi, 66, said: “We will take full advantage of the recent attention to our museum to focus more than ever on research, education and outreach, and services. to visitors.