Minazo is Merzbow''s tribute to the beloved male elephant seal who lived life in captivity at a Tokyo aquarium. Masami Akita often visited the seal at the aquarium and was allowed to access Minazo behind the scenes. Minazo includes many phototographsand an essay by Masami Akita as well as illustrations by Jenny Akita. Minazo, an Elephant seal, died at 5:15 pm on October 4, 2005. He was 11 years old, still young for an elephant seal whose life expectancy is 20 years on average. Whatever the cause of death, I feel sad and angry each time I hear about animals dying in captivity far away from their natural habitat.
Minazo was raised at the Enoshima Aquarium in Kanagawa Prefecture. With a strong build, 5 meters in height and 2 tons in weight, he was the only male elephant seal in Japan. Director Yukiko Hori said in her book "The Story of An Aquarium" (published by Iwanami Shoten) that Minazo was brought to Japan from Uruguay in 1995. His name, which consists of three kanji characters meaning "beautiful", "male", and "elephant", was chosen from 1,500 public suggestions.
The aquarium had raised male and female elephant seals called Daikichi and Omiya, who had been brought from the Antarctic island of South Georgia in 1964. After they died in 1977 and 1979, specimens were made using their skins, which are currently displayed at the aqarium. Hori said that the previous experience with the two seals was of help in raising Minazo.
Minazo became popular through TV appearances. He was once introduced on a variety show as a look-alike for wrestler Bob Sapp, an insult to Minazo. Elephant seals have far greater strength than humans, and can even crush a car when they get really mad. Bob would have been beaten in a second. Minazo was forced to perform various stunts before audience at each mealtime, such as holding a bucket with one flipper, bending back like a prawn, and standing still while a keeper jumped and clung on him. The hard work made him exhausted and might have caused his early death. Many of the aquariums in Japan have become mere amusement establishments. If their mission includes breeding and protecting endangered animals, they must continue feeding the animals in captivity responsibly. I, however, believe that they should eventually end the exhibition of animals in the name of academic research, and instead start functioning as animal shelters only. - Masami Akita, Tokyo 2006