Rain isn’t so much of a problem when you can plan on it. Yesterday we knew it would rain all day today, so we made plans to do the best thing possible on a rainy day.
We slept late into the morning again and left for the Mito Sea Paradise around noon. Andrew stayed behind to relax and catch up on some blogging while Dylan, Haruna, and I jumped into Haruna’s friend Mayo’s large station wagon to drive the 1.5-hr car ride to the aquarium. In defiance of Dylan’s objection, Mayo and Haruna paid for our admission, and we all shuffled excitedly down the hallway to experience the secrets of Japan’s oceans.
The aquarium had the basic colorful treasures that never fail to amaze the eyes of land-lubbers: sea anemones, starfish, coral, sharks, turtles, jellyfish, clown fish, etc. Right as we entered, however, there were a few pleasant surprises including a couple of old sea turtles and two huge manatees that were swimming laps of backstroke in their tank to entertain us. The craziest thing we saw was the fish with crab-like legs that it used to troll the bottom of its tank. A quick google image search tells me that it was probably a gurnard fish, but I can’t be sure since there was no label posted on the tank.
The highlight for most visitors to the aquarium is probably the performance at the main tank put on by a seal, two penguins, a sea lion, and three dolphins. The penguins were pretty unimpressive as they only waddled across the stage wearing bow ties, but the other performers put my best talents to shame. The dolphins jumped about 20 feet in the air, and the seal even wrote some kanji.
As impressive as this show was, the highlight of the day for me was seeing the series of outdoor tanks and pens that housed many different kinds of dolphins and seals. Most of the pens were actually just roped-off sections of a beach so the sea mammals always have fresh ocean water. I wandered over to this area at the end of the day as the rest of the group went to check out some penguins. It must have been the blue jacket I was wearing that fooled the dolphins into thinking I was one of their similarly dressed trainers, but they all seemed to be paying me a lot of attention. As I peered over the edge of the railing, they each took turns popping up from the water to stare and speak some dolphin at me. I waved, said “Konichiwa!” and tried out a few commands I had seen the trainers do during the performance. To my surprise, the dolphins actually responded! One dolphin even jumped three times for me before realizing that I didn’t actually have any fish for him. I then tried to use my new dolphin-whispering talents to communicate an apology subconsciously. He muttered something about never doing a trick again, but it was in Japanese dolphin so I couldn’t quite understand.
Tonight, we had our first home-cooked okonomiaki, made by Haruna’s mother, and it was amazing! Dylan also whipped up a delicious lemon custard for dessert. We’re now about to discuss plans for our departure tomorrow. It will be nice to get back on the road but difficult to leave this relaxing and welcoming home.
Crash: Virtually Present
Calves: Dolphin Master
Spock: Lightly Salted