Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – Part I

(It’s getting late, and WordPress is not able to save drafts right now, so it turns out I’m going to call it quits and just publish halfway through.)

On Saturday, Don’s class was going to some museums and buildings by Tadao Ando, a famous contemporary architect actually from Osaka, and Aardvark and I (well, really Aardvark and her increasing temper tantrum rate) decided that after a week absolutely full of grown-up sightseeing, it was time to skip out on the students and do something fun and age-appropriate for Aards.

So while they got off to do school-field-trip stuff, we went to the famous Osaka Aquarium.

And it was well worth it.

You may remember that I love aquariums, so I might be biased, but this one was pretty incredible.

It’s right on Osaka Bay, so there are beautiful(ish – it’s still a bay in Osaka) vistas right from the start. The museum is divided into tanks featuring different regions around the world; for instance, Aleutian Sea, Monterey Bay (woohoo!), Panama Bay, Ecuadorian Jungle, Tasmanian Sea, Great Barrier Reef, etc. Once inside the museum, you are guided to the very top, and you wind your way down, seeing these tanks again and again – so at the top, you see the surface – otters floating on their backs, eating; dolphins flipping somersaults out of the water; seals and sea lions skimming the surface, etc., and then as you wind your way down, you see those same animals, now swimming underwater – but you also see some of the other types of sea life that share their water, only deeper in those oceans and seas. It was a pretty amazing way to view these animals.

At the very tippy top was an exhibit called “Japan forest,” featuring two Japanese Giant Salamanders.

I’d never heard of a Japanese Giant Salamander until the day before, when one of Don’s students showed me a picture of one from the internet – it was HUGE. They grow to about 5 feet long and can weigh up to 55 pounds.

These were huge and Aardvark was NOT thrilled by them – she was fascinated, so wanted to look closely, but also terrified, so wouldn’t let me step back even a few feet to take a picture of her with one.

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These aren’t even as big as Japanese Giant Salamanders get – they were probably only 3.5 feet long – and they were almost – almost – cute in a weird sort of way. But if one were to come upon one while out hiking or something, they would be hella scary.

In addition to eels and other fascinating creatures, this tank included blowfish – a controversial but apparently popular dish in Japan,  if I base my assessment of “popular” purely on how many restaurants seem to offer “fugu” as a specialty (and if you offer it, it does need to be a specialty. It has to be prepared correctly or it can kill you. Don, of course, has eaten it. Pre-me days. Please never again!!) – and visitors to the aquarium were excitedly pointing and squealing about the “fugu!” – the Japanese word for blowfish.

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I was fascinated by the contrast between “above” and “below” in this tank. A pink stork-like bird was quietly sipping a drink at the water’s edge, while below, these behemoth fish lurked.img_5518

It was hard to capture a sense of how big these fish were – the one in the foreground is a pretty large fish, the lone ones behind it are HUGE.img_5523

It is easier to see from an above-water angle: the long ones are easily 6 feet long.

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Penguins! Many different kinds. These little flappers are all real. (When Don first saw the photo, he thought they might be stuffed, like those Museum of Natural History penguin dioramas.

They also had Pacific sunfish – those weird, truncated-looking (but still massive) fish that fascinated me when I first saw them at the Tokyo Sea Life Aquarium. This time around, I made sure to take some photos!

img_5590img_5585For scale, here is one swimming right up to an adult.

Here are some videos I took – these guys are both weird and endearing, with their exaggerated side-eye and flippy-fins. (Having watched them up close for a while, I think they actually have side-closing eye lids?!) It is worth watching just to see the crazy-side-eye! But you may wish to turn the volume down; the sounds are not relevant and are mostly loud kiddos in the background, etc.

(It’s getting late, and WordPress is not able to save drafts right now, so it turns out I’m going to call it quits and just publish halfway through. Just found out it’s because Don is uploading a lot of stuff to his class website. At least that makes sense as to the internet misbehaving here!)

More aquarium soon! I know you can’t wait.

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