I’ve done a lot of posts on this blog centered around images from Google Earth, but I have to say this is one of the most startling and unusual I’ve ever seen. Yes, that’s a shark in the foreground, or at least a replica of one. This room is at the heart of a shark museum located in the seaside town of Kesennuma, Japan. It has been abandoned for some time, though as you can tell from the visuals it hasn’t fallen into total decrepitude yet, and the colorful placards and exhibits look pretty modern. The museum, which is right on Kesennuma’s waterfront, was abandoned in 2011.

Google Earth Street View usually shows only exterior shots, so this one is clearly an anomaly, although interiors and other special views are cropping up on Street View all the time. If you’d like to explore this museum–you can spin around 360 degrees, go into the lobby and even see other parts of the abandoned building in which it sits–open Google Maps in a browser or Google Earth, and copy and paste the coordinates 38.900085, 141.579592. Zoom in pretty far so you can see the building, then grab the orange “peg man” from the street view menu. As soon as you do, you should see a transparent orange dot appear on the western side of the building. Drag “peg man” to that orange dot and you should fly into the interior of the museum, which is definitely worth a close look. It’s quite eerie!

Why was this museum–and in fact much of the surrounding neighborhood–abandoned in 2011? Unfortunately Kesennuma was badly hit by the tsunami associated with the Fukushima earthquake, one of the most appalling and dangerous disasters in modern times. The tsunami tore through this coastal city in less than seven minutes, ripping apart everything in its path. Fuel that leaked from fishing vessels caused a fire that further devastated the city. Officially 837 people died in the city, but there are over 1,000 additional missing whose remains have never been found. Since then Kesennuma’s recovery has been slow and sporadic though there are signs of renewal. Whether the shark museum will eventually reopen one day is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime its haunting images will evidently remain on Google Earth for some time to come.