Osaka Aquarium

We knew that going to Osaka Aquarium on Sunday was probably a mistake....that a place that one would expect to be crowded would probably be even more so. As it turned out, It was even more crowded than we had envisioned in our wildest dreams, but we still had a great time.

Before our trip we had sent our Japanese friends a list of things we wanted to do, and one of those things was to visit the aquarium. I had become interested in whale sharks years earlier when our daughter Jeanette wrote about them for a school assignment. I never expected to actually see one, but when I found out there were two at the Osaka Aquarium, it became one of the places I most wanted to go. Our friend Mikki and her mother Sumi offered to accompany us. Taeko opted to catch up on her sleep, but wanted to meet us later.

After avoiding one long line by purchasing our tickets from a vending machine, we waited in a hallway that was solidly packed with people. We skipped the line where we could wait to have our pictures taken with a large model of a whale shark wearing a Santa Claus hat, but it was amusing to watch people pose as we waited in the queue that wasn't going anywhere. Then, suddenly, a guard allowed people to board an escalator to the second floor. Apparently, the procedure was to wait until the crowd upstairs moved forward enough so another 100 or so people could fit.

The first section of the aquarium contained pools of otters, seals, and penguins. The hallways were as solidly packed with people as the one downstairs had been, and we were soon separated. I moved slowly forward. A young boy beside me kept urging his diminutive grandmother to push through the crowd to join him in front of each exhibit. I was impressed by his concern that she should see everything he saw. I was also impressed that considering the crush of people, there was very little pushing or shoving.

The picture on the right below is of river otters which can be found in some areas of Japan. In the penguin picture, you can see the snow which falls in their enclosure periodically.

Eventually we maneuvered our way to the upper area of the huge tank which houses the whale sharks. The first glimpse of one swimming through the water took my breath away. It was so colorful, and the ridges along its sides are much more prominent than I expected. The tank itself is 9 meters deep (about 29.5 feet), and it holds 5,400 tons of water. The whale sharks share this huge expanse with manta rays, sharks, and an assortment of other fish. You can see both whale sharks in the picture on the left in the second row.

The walkway circles the tank and slowly meanders down, and as we descended the crowd gradually thinned out. There were other displays, but I was content to keep watching the whale sharks. Walt, on the other hand, was entranced by the giant crabs.

When I finally managed to tear myself away from the ocean tank, we met Taeko outside the aquarium and decided to look for some lunch. We went to a mall near the aquarium, but all the restaurants were packed and had long lists of people waiting to eat so we finally settled on the food court. There was some sort of gospel music festival going on, and the noise level was astounding. As we approached, a group wearing colorful muumuus was waiting to perform. We expected them to sing Hawaiian songs and maybe dance some hula, but when their turn came they belted out a Negro spiritual. Very unexpected.

After lunch, we boarded the Santa Maria for a cruise of Osaka Bay. The web page for the Osaka Aquarium says that the ship is a reproduction of Columbus' ship, but apparently someone in marketing had decided that a "Pirates of the Carribean" theme would be more fun so we were welcomed aboard by the characters in the picture below.

These pictures were taken from the ship. The picture on the left is the Osaka Aquarium (or Kaiyukan). The sky in the picture on the right reminds me of Seattle late afternoons in winter.

Here we all are posing for the camera.

We finished off the day with a visit to a large electronics store called Yodobashi Camera. Many stores have a little musical jingle that plays over and over and over. Surprisingly, the jingle for this store is a jazzed up version of the first line of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic". We spent most of our time in the store drooling over the new Canon digital camera models which haven't yet made it to the U.S. Then we bid Mikki and Sumi a fond farewell and headed back to the hotel.