Transparent Specimen

Tomita’s creatures, made transparent, their skeletal systems and organs given neon colors, are works of art to some. Their beauty is both obvious and magical, their allure, greater than most of what passes for art. To others, the beauty is the design of nature itself, revealed through the chemical process of his endeavor. Suspended in their vessels, the creatures are an opportunity for study and observation. They inspire philosophical reflection. More than a few people call it cruelty. For Tomita, they are simply transparent specimens.

Yokohama was ideal for Tomita, who moved from Iwate prefecture. “Yokohama has easy access to Tokyo and its suburbs. More importantly, it’s very close to the water.” Tomita has been fishing since he was a child and still works with fishermen he befriended on the Miura peninsula. But the main source of his income, and his inspiration, are his transparent specimens.

Aquariums purchase his work for display and educational purposes. Schools also have a need for his specimen. But Tomita insists he is not making them for any specified purpose. He’s just making them. “What people do with them is not my concern. You could use them for education. Or for art. Or just for collection. When I first saw one in a university class, I simply thought, ‘They’re beautiful. I want one.’ I like living creatures, so that’s the root of my fascination.”

The process of making a transparent specimen takes about six months according to Tomita. And it’s only then that you know whether you have failed or not. It’s an activity for the very patient. His specimens are placed in jars with a special liquid. He adds enzymes that break down the proteins in their flesh and turn them transparent. He then uses chemicals to color their bones, cartilage and organs. Generally speaking, young reptiles and aquatic creatures are the only suitable materials for his work.

Individuals can purchase his specimens at Tokyu Hands at the moment. He has also developed an i-pad application to view photographic examples of his work. Tomita has published two books with text and gorgeous images of his specimens, too—one of his books even includes English text.






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