Well sorry everybody for the state of last week’s blog. As I write this I am sick as a dog and only really just got out of bed but here is the entire epic post that I complete last week with all the videos and photos attached.
What follows is all from last week.
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For everybody that was on the edge of their seat my last minute rushed class actually worked out okay. In fact it’s probably one of my more successful classes to date in terms of keeping the kids attention (I question its educational merit but the JTE came up with it and she knows more than I do). It was a bit of mess today though. Between a visit from the local elementary school and the fact that it was snowing it was virtually impossible to get the kids to focus on anything.
Oh until I showed a picture of my friends and they all asked me if the girl in the picture was my girlfriend. Despite the fact that they’ve:
a) seen a photo of my girlfriend
b) know that my girlfriend is half-Japanese
One bonus of the elementary school visit was that a boy I got to talk to a boy I see everyday on my way to work and who says hello to me everyday.
Anyway enough work natter lets move onto
EXCITING THINGS 4: OSAKA AQUARIUM
Osaka Aquarium is one of the best aquariums I have ever been to. Not the best, that’s Seaworld, but Seaworld is more a sort of amusement park. It has rides and shows and that’s what puts it over the edge. In terms of simply having really cool fish to look at Osaka Aquarium edges out. I mean it has a whale shark for god’s sake, A WHALE SHARK. THE BIGGEST FISH IN THE WORLD!
I had wanted to see the whale shark for some time now but what actually prompted me to seek out the Aquarium was a mission I was sent on by one of my Nakayoshi kids. Sannai is obsessed with penguins and she’s autistic so she can get properly obsessed with things. People might joke about being obsessed but Sannai really does border on it. She has a stuffed penguin pokemon doll that she has in class with her everyday and she involves it in nearly every activity, if she so much as hears the letter p she yells penguin, basically she really likes penguins.
Incidentally she’s really, really good at cards. We’ve been learning the alphabet recently and playing matching games to practise the lower and upper case versions of letters. You know the game where you have a load of cards face down and have to pair them up? She beats me every time. I used to let her win but now she beats me even if I’m trying. It really is like Rain Man.
The link between penguins and aquariums is of course that Osaka aquarium has penguins. More than that though, for a limited period they have a “penguin parade”. Sannai had seen the flyer for this and really wanted to go but her mother was too busy to take her. Well being something of a penguin fan myself I resolved to go and take as many photos and as much penguin video as I could.
Taking my travelling crew of Ryan and Patrick with me we set off bright and early and got to Osaka around lunchtime. On our way to the aquarium we got stopped by some kids who started speaking to us in English. After a brief and awkward chat (an occupational hazard I’m afraid) one of them randomly shouted Fantastic Four at us. Ryan pointed out that there were only three of us and I corrected him that this was because the fourth member, the invisible woman, was invisible of course.
Before we got to the aquarium we stopped for lunch in some strange marketplace that was made out to look like Japan in the 30’s or 40’s. Complete with old film posters and old cigarette packets. It was really quite cool and completely unexpected. Had we not been on a mission we could have easily spent hours wandering around there. As it was we had a quick lunch of ebi tempura and soba (prawns fried in batter and noodles) and headed on our way.
The penguin parade wasn’t due to start in about half an hour leaving us in the awkward spot of not being able to do anything but having to wait. Fortunately the aquarium had laid on some street performers to keep the waiting kids entertained. The guy we watched had a signature act consisting of giving a rubiks cube to the audience to randomly scramble up then finishing it in less than 30 seconds. Impressive but odd. Then he put a rubber glove on his face and blew it up…….only in Japan.
However, not long did we have to wait for soon the penguin parade began and luckily for you I have videos of such a magnificent spectacle.
Yup, it was completely naff.
Basically the guards put out some crowd barriers between two pens creating a walkway and then chased the penguins down it. As Patrick said, “it was less the march of the penguins and more the leisurely jog of the penguins.”
Still naffness aside we still got to see some penguins and Sannai was delighted when she saw the video.
Most rewarding part of this job? Seeing kids when they’re happy.
Penguins dispensed with we headed onto the aquarium proper which was significantly less naff. Our first amazing sight was this replica of a fossilized Giant Sea Turtle shell. This thing was HUGE! Ryan said it reminded him of Gamera and I had to agree.
This is Gamera.
Gamera is a Kaiju. Literally a Sea Monster but more truthfully a film genre in which blokes in rubber monster suits hit other blokes in rubber monster suits while a really tedious/mad human story happens in the background. Godzilla would be the Kaiju most people are familiar with but Gamera has the distinct advantage of “being friend to all children.”
No really, that’s his catchphrase. Giant fire breathing sea turtle monster thing, friend to all children. In Japan that makes perfect sense.
I am quite a fan of Kaiju films and weirdly myself and Ryan had watched one the night before that unbeknownst to us was set in an aquarium. Ironically though it was sea world (and at not point in the film did they explain why the last defence of the planet earth was being co-ordinated from seaworld.)
After a fairly dull “Japanese Forest” exhibit we moved on to the cool stuff. Sea Otters!
Look at ‘em go. Pay special attention to the little girl in the tank with them. This was feeding time and along with the 2 members of staff they had clearly got some little girl to volunteer to help them. The problem being that the little girl was absolutely terrified. She was too scared to even cry. She was just frozen to the spot staring at these enormous monsters within inches of her. Although as Ryan quite correctly pointed out they are about 3 times the size of her. I know I’d be shit scared of an otter 3 times the size of me.
A sloth, living up to the stereotype.
I have decided that Porcupine fish are very cute. Look at his face, he’s smiling. Awww who’s a cute widdle smiley fish, you are, you are.
An absolutely demonic looking crocodile.
The single ugliest living creature I have ever seen. It’s either some kind of turtle or a genetic experiment.
Rockhopper penguins. Made all the funnier by the description on the website.
“King penguins, gentoo penguins and rockhopper penguins are displayed in KAIYUKAN. You can easily distinguish their differences by their figures, as well as their feet colors. King penguins have black feet while gentoo penguins have yellow feet and rockhopper penguins’ feet are pink.
Their characters are also different. King penguins and gentoo penguins have rather mild characters. On the other hand, rockhopper penguins show an aggressive nature, featuring red eyes and decorative yellow feathers. Being fond of fights, they may tend to fight even with human beings. So, watch out not to fight with them.
Penguins are monogamists. Like human beings, they select their own partners. They sometimes divorce or get remarried.”
The fighting with humans thing is true by the way. When we were watching a woman came in to take the temperature of the water. The penguins clearly thought this was feeding time and wandered over to her. All the swimming penguins leapt out of the water and landed on the ice. However one leaping penguin smacked her right in the shoulder and knocked her back. She did not look best pleased.
The fluffy penguin is an adolescent before his feathers have moulted. So he’s big AND fluffy.
Patrick should have a career narrating nature documentaries. Here he proceeds to make stuff up on the cuff for ages about some phenomenally big and ugly fish. Ryan believes everything he says.
Okay this was more than a bit freaky. When we came to this tank the fish were swimming against the current. What this looked like though was loads of perfectly still fish all looking in the same direction. Now that is creepy.
Especially when we saw that they were all looking at one fish pointed in a different direction. Was he making some kind of a speech? What are the fish planning!?
It was of course at this point that my camera’s battery gave out like the useless piece of crap it is. So from here on out we’re camera phone only. Sorry folks.
This is a Sunfish and its one of the strangest fish I’ve ever seen. It looks like most of it is missing. Also the museum guide for it is hysterical.
“The popularity of ocean sunfish is as high as the whale shark. Visitors love its innocent charming expressions. At the time of feeding, it rushes to the feeder keeping its mouth small and round eyes wide open.
He skillfully eats a mixture of ground shrimps and squids in small bite sizes. When the feeding time is over, it looks disappointed.”
I think in this photo we really captured his disappointment.
Ryan also looks disappointed when feeding time is over.
This Manta Ray was huge! From tip to tip he easily cleared 10 foot. I could have watched him for ages moving lazily through the water, he seemed tso majestic and alien and just plain cool.
There is a Pixies song called “Manta Ray” in which Frank Black screams “fish no swim, fish fly”. Watching them in motion I totally agree. It seems to be swooping through the air not paddling against currents.
Eels scare me.
Unless I’m eating them.
There were some awesome (and again huge) Sea Turtles in one tank. I dunno if its because of their age but turtles always seem to look wise to me and kind of melancholy. They’re absolutely beautiful to watch swimming though.
This guy was a “cowfish”. He looks grumpy.
Ryan’s favourite exhibit was the “Japanese Deeps” feature. I’ve used the word alien a lot in this post but it’s entirely appropriate here. These crabs were freaky. The exhibit had some really odd fish too but the stars were these enormous Spider Crabs that littered the floor and walked across it like the alien tripods in War of the Worlds. At one point two even had a fight.
Easily the most disturbing part about them though was that in addition to their legs and claws they each had a miniscule set of pincers above their mouth constantly snapping. And their jaws were just another complicated set of claws. All told we counted about 12 limbs! The things seem to be made of nothing but claws.
Many weird and wonderful Jellyfish.
And here he is, the man of the hour, KAI-KUN the Whale Shark.
Whale Shark’s are the biggest fish in the world, FACT.
“Kai-kun swims in the Pacific Ocean tank very well.” FACT (according to the guidebook)
Unfortunately he wasn’t as cool as the crabs. Still he was mightily impressive. I don’t think my pics give a proper sense of scale so try this video to appreciate just how massive the guy is.
Also take note of the other fish hitching a lift underneath him.
So that was it. I hope you enjoyed looking at fish. I certainly did. However when we left the aquarium we were greeted by an even cooler sight.
Everywhere I go in Japan Pop-Up-Pirate follows.
I leave you with the cutest fish photo ever.
Awwwwww who’s a cute widdle smiley fishy.