Sorry for the exhausted interruption to the first part of this blog entry. Now, here are even more scenes from an aquarium you probably already feel as though you’ve seen enough of!
Knowing Aardvark had already had an exhausting week jam-packed with temple, shrine and castle tours, running around at young-and-eager college student pace, and that she badly needed a kid interlude, we’d made our way to the Osaka Aquarium.
And knowing that she was in desperate need of a nap, not having had a chance to take one all week, I brought our baby carrier. So after a morning watching otters being fed, dolphins doing acrobatic dives, penguins prancing and preening, and trying to make blow fish puff up, we had a little snack in a quiet corner and I put her in the baby carrier, promised her we could start again at whatever part of the aquarium she fell asleep in, and walked her around until she passed out.
And then I got to enjoy the aquarium on my own.
Remember how I explained that the aquarium was divided into separate tanks for different regions of the world’s seas, and as you wind your way down from the top of the aquarium and the surface of the water, you keep circling back deeper and deeper to the same regions? Well, these tanks are on the outside of the building.
They spiral around the center of the building, which is the aquarium’s literal centerpiece: “The Pacific Ocean” tank, a 30 foot deep, 111 foot long tank filled with 5,400 tons of water, home to schools of fish both huge (tuna! etc.) and teeny, tons of different kinds of rays – all of which seem friendly and playful and willing to engage their observers, several different kinds of sharks, including a few hammerheads, and two whale sharks, about 30 – 35 feet long. (The Osaka Aquarium is one of the largest public aquariums in the world. This tank seemed evidence enough of that.)
Like the rest of the aquarium, you start near the top and can spiral down around it, catching the fish from different angles. I stood near the top, enchanted, for some time, but after a while, even with my fabulous Kinderpack toddler-sized baby carrier, 32+ lbs of sleeping child on one’s back can get to be a bit much. So I went in search of some viewing area that was a bit more forgiving of my tired back and feet (after a week of walking over 16,000 steps each day, the achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis and “unspecified stress fractures” in my left foot/heel were back with a vengeance. So much for the slight respite from pain the cortisone shots and medication gave me this summer – I’d had such hopes I was truly getting over it!)
Anyway, I didn’t think I would have much luck – the only benches I’d seen were located outside the bathrooms and were full of parents trying to pump some snacks into tired out babies and toddlers. But then I found a little niche, tucked away in a little corner in front of the huge aquarium, but outside of the spiral route visitors were being guided down. So it didn’t get much tourist traffic (and was obviously therefore a better place for benches and extended breaks in front of the tank than the more crowded areas.)
So I sat in front of this huge aquarium, taking pictures and videos (I had literally HUNDREDS to go through. Be impressed at my editing restraint – you may think this is way too many pictures of fish, but I could have made this much, much worse!) and then just staring in awe at this creatures as they swam by over and over again, for a little over an hour while Aardvark slept on my back.
There was a moving, almost movie-score-like music playing in the background, and it was incredibly powerful to just watch these behometh whale sharks, and flippery (yes, WordPress, I know it’s not a real word but it totally works to describe them!) ribbon like rays and these schools of fish swimming in unison, entire scores of them turning at the same time.
This ray with the pointy-out eyes – it’s actually not a ray but I forget what it’s called – was one of my favorites. Up close, those little eye posts/horns (which may not be eyes at all?) were shiny and beautiful. They almost looked like silver duck feathers.
The whale sharks, the stars of the whole aquarium, were incredible: so huge, and beautiful with their little polka dots and big ridges, and they swam so slowly but purposefully. Obviously I could not capture their amazingness on camera. But I DID take 4,327 videos, which might give you a better idea 🙂
This one ray wanted to be in ALL the photos. It kept swimming up to the glass walls and flashing its tummy at everyone.
Anyway, it was a hugely moving experience. No joke, it was possibly on par with spending an hour by myself in a 1,000 year old Zen rock garden a few days before.
Here are some videos. I will try to restrain myself and only include the best, but…I love them all. (If you’re not into the videos, keep scrolling down past them – once Aardvark woke up, we were surprised to learn there were still a few more sections of aquarium left!)
To give you some perspective on the size of the whale shark: a hammerhead shark swims above it in the video. The hammerhead shark seems to be easily longer than I am tall – and I am 5’8″.
This was just a delightful morning/early afternoon.
Then Aardvark woke up too early (some enthusiastic little ones were shrieking in delight at the rays right next to us) and a bit cranky, and she just wanted to leave.
Until we came upon this special exhibit:
It was totally devoted to Finding Nemo & Dory. They even recreated the tank from the dentist’s office in Finding Nemo. She saw the movie on a plane this summer (in Japanese! and she giggled through it anyway. This just goes to show you: if you don’t give them enough screen time, kids will watch anything. She practically shoved some bigger kid out of the way at the grocery store the other day to watch a little Doraemon ad for TOFU of all things they had on an iPad in front of the tofu section) and we’d found a manga version of Finding Nemo in the English language section of a used book store the week before, so she is in total adoration of Nemo right now. And this was great – in addition to Nemo’s captivity tank, they had tanks devoted to each of these creatures, plus huge Dory and Nemo statues to pose with and a wall of the jellyfish Dory and Marlin hopscotch through – you could look through the wall and see clear to the other side, so Aardvark enjoyed standing on one side and waving to me through the other.
Then it was back to the regularly scheduled tanks, but this seemed like a good segue tank, since Aardvark was convinced it was Crush or….Crush’s son (we JUST read that section at lunch today like, two hours ago and I still can’t remember both sea turtle names at the same time. Where are my brain cells going?) anyway, the surfer-dude sea turtles from Finding Nemo.
And then on to the Japan Deep Sea, with these giant spider crabs lurking about en masse to give you nightmares. Seriously, we saw two of these at Tokyo Sea Aquarium and it was fine, but this whole tank full of them, all staring down the humans and looking like they are plotting a way to destroy us all was….disturbing.
(Apparently these spider crabs are the largest crabs in the world, according to a sign in the aquarium. Are these what they go after in Deadliest Catch? These things are TERRIFYING.)
So thankfully we scurried past quickly and found our way in the Antarctic section, where we both fell in love with this little ringed seal, who was just bobbing and chilling, slowly rocking his (her?) head back and forth, for ages. We were there for at last 15 minutes and he made only slight head movements, and I’m pretty sure s/he was at it before and after we were there.
Aardvark wanted a selfie with the little dude:
Then, she just wanted to sit and watch him.
And then she requested a selfie with “Just me and the seal. Alone.”
So here she is, having a chat with her new best sea buddy.
Oh my stars, we were so enamored of this little cutie pie ringed seal. It was just chill and relaxed, even as other seals swam around. Can I get one for my bathtub?
Eventually, we had to head out (Don had finished with his class hours before and was hoping we’d join him in another part of Osaka.) But it was hard to drag ourselves away from the aquarium.
Luckily we got one more encounter with a whale shark: