Leave it to the Japanese to fetishize all things in the natural world, not the least of which are aquatic animals, through the fine art of collectible figurines. If keeping an aquarium is too much time, money or hassle, a whole range of aquarium figurines exist to commemorate a huge diversity of freshwater and marine animals.
Sure there’s figurines of just about every real or imagined creature or character imaginable, but this set of realistic reproductions of reef fish are on another level. While doing a cursory search of giant clams we happened upon this one exquisite example of an Tridacna maxima that actually served as the base for a pair of wrought iron butterflyfish.
The attention to detail in this and other figures is really bordering on obsessive because not only can you tell that the figure depicts a giant clam and a butterlfyfish, you can also easily identify each one to the species – not an easy feat considering how many similar-looking giant clams and butterflyfish in existence.
At first we thought this was perhaps a one-off sculpture but a little while of sleuthing led us to a whole treasure trove of different series of figurines, some of which were parts of sets that commemorated different public aquariums in Japan. Another of the eye-catching examples is a impeccable napoleon wrasse in full adult coloration that is part of a set which “links up” with a manta ray and a whale shark also in the series.
This style of aquatic life sculpting seemed to explode in the 80s and 90s but these were much larger desktop creations which usually depicted whales or dolphins, you’ve definitely seen them before. But this new breed of miniature marine life sculpting depicts everything from Japanese Spider crabs, to hermit crabs, to fruit bats and more iconic members of the reef ecosystem community. We’ve also uncovered some examples showing iconic species of garden eels, maculosus angelfish, tiger prawns and many more.
Of course we’re not shocked to see charismatic and well known reef life like clownfish and “Dories” being reproduced in this manner of figurine style, but wrought iron butterflyfish and napoleon wrasses are another level altogether. If these kind of aquarium figurines start being created in the likeness of conspicuous angelfish and femininus wrasses, we may have get some to keep our peppermint angelfish doll company. [Fumuo, Kaiyodo]