Takeshi Yamada's Museum of World Wonders: Cabinet of Curiosities: Coney Island Circus Sideshow at brooklyn Public Library - Coney Island Branch, July 2007, Poster, Mummified Mermaid (Fiji Mermaid)
Other Common Names: Ningyo (人魚, “human-fish”)
Latin Name: Mermaidicus japonicus ningyo
Specimen collected by: Takeshi Yamada, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Origin: Shikoku, Japan
Date: circa 1868 AD (The first year of the Meiji era)
Size: 1294 x 325 x 254 mm
Description of the specimen: This well preserved specimen of half mummified mermaid was acquired through the local government in 1868 AD during Meiji Ishin in Japan, as one of the international cultural exchange programs to save and propagate traditional Japanese culture in the United States. The Meiji Ishin (Meiji Restoration) is a chain of events that led to a change in Japan’s political and social structure. It occurred from 1866 to 1869, a period of 4 years that transverses both the late Edo (often called Late Tokugawa Shogunate) and beginning of the Meiji Era. Due to the drastic government policy called Haibutsu Kishaku (“throw out Buddha and overthrow Shakyamuni”), many Buddhist artifacts were destroyed. Haibutsu Kishaku was an anti-Buddhist movement enforced by the Meiji government that led to the destruction of Buddhist temples and images to “catch-up with the advanced/civilized Western civilization”. The Haibutsu Kishaku was completely abolished in 1945 when World War II ended with Japan’s unconditional surrender.
Specifically, this adult mermaid was originally part of a collection of mermaids enshrined at the prestigious Buddhist temple, Yasaka-ji (“Eight Slopes of Buddhist Temple”) at the Yasaka mountain of Shikoku island of Japan. Shikoku Island is the fourth largest island in Japan. The temple is huge and has a great main pavilion, Goma-Dou (“Sesame Hall”). A variety of large and small mummified mermaids are enshrined and worshipped as deities at the main pavilion. A stone statue of a mackerel is enshrined in a small hall to be worshipped as a deity there as well. This Buddhist temple is one of the Shikoku 88 Kasho Reiji (The Eighty-eight Sacred Temples of Shikoku). There are 108 such sacred Buddhist Temples in Shikoku. Ningyo Shinkou (Faith/religion of worshipping mermaids) can also be found in numerous Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan, and Thailand even today. In Japan, not only Buddhist temples but also some of the Shinto shrines enshrine the mermaids as one of their deities (including white snakes and foxes) to be worshipped. Shinto is the Japanese-originated national religion.
Reference: Dr. Takeshi Yamada as “Immortalizer” of the AMC cable television competitive fine art reality show, “Immortalized”, season 1, aired in 2013: