The prince, the mayor, and the U.S. fish that ate Japan

An innocent gift from Chicago to Prince Akihito in 1960 caused a decades-long ecological crisis that Japanese scientists are now close to solving.

When Crown Prince Akihito visited Chicago on October 3, 1960, his sole request was to visit Shedd Aquarium. Then Mayor Richard J. Daley, an avid angler, presented the prince with a gift that he scooped with a net from one of the tanks himself: 18 bluegills, the official Illinois state fish.

The 26-year-old future emperor was already a passionate ichthyologist, and he planned to stock the exotic fish in the moat surrounding his palace, according to accounts in the Chicago Tribune at the time.

At windy Chicago O’Hare International Airport the next day with Princess Michiko, Akihito bid the city farewell, carrying a gift that he couldn’t have imagined would cause a decades-long ecological crisis in his homeland.

In the intervening six decades,

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