Lonely Japanese Eels Want You to Video-Call Them

Spotted eel.
She’s waiting for your call. Photo: FLPA/Shutterstock

So what fun shenanigans are we all getting up to this weekend, eh? Perhaps spending some quality time with Wikipedia’s wonderfully exhaustive List of Sandwiches or painting a very tiny tableau? I, personally, was contemplating listlessly hanging from my doorway pull-up bar as long as I could — that is, until I heard about a virtual “face-showing festival.”

Now, this festival is no run-of-the-mill jamboree. According to Quartz, the Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo recently noticed that its lanky spotted garden eels were exhibiting some funny behavior — namely, burrowing their slender bodies into the sand every time a human passed by their tank. This, the concerned workers realized, was likely due to the fact that the gorgeous, slimy fish haven’t been seeing many humans since the aquarium closed in early March due to the coronavirus, and they now find us disturbing. The “face-showing festival” is their remedy: a three-day-long “emergency event” to help the eels “not [forget] the existence of humans.”

Based on the very little information I’ve gleaned, I’m struggling to predict how the eels will receive this. From what we’ve seen since we all started social distancing, animals — captive and wild — have been having the time of their lives without the presence of humans. One might wonder, Why would eels feel any differently?

This festival, instead, feels like it’s more for all of us — and in particular, me. To participate in the festival, which goes from May 3 to May 6, all you have to do is call the aquarium’s account through an iPad or iPhone. Then, you get five minutes with the eels, during which you can do weird hand gestures, or even talk, as long as you’re not too loud! Sounds like the perfect weekend activity for someone with the precise amount of sanity I have left intact.

Lonely Japanese Eels Want You to Video-Call Them