Monday, May 16, 2011

Osaka, You Meet Whale Shark (Part 2 of 2)

In the morning we had breakfast at the guesthouse (included with room reservation) in Oji before heading to Osaka for the day. There are two breakfast rooms, we ate in one and the other couple staying there at the time ate in the other. Both are in the traditional sit-or-kneel-on-a-cushion style. I think I'm better at sitting on my feet now than when we first arrived in Japan, but both were soundly asleep by the time I was ready to stand up.
To one side of the table was this view of a garden, which was perfectly complemented by the ambient music playing in the background.

At the far end of the room:

On the other side were these sliding doors.
Beyond those were a living room or lounge area, then another glass-encased hallway around this courtyard garden.
It's a really big house.

I had the Japanese style breakfast: miso soup with mushrooms, mushroom omelet, small bowl of rice, and fruit.

Husband had the Western style breakfast: ham and eggs, toast, and fruit.

At the station in Osaka closest to our first stop, the Osaka Castle Museum.
Pet store advertisement, dog clothing boutique sign, or hypnosis offer? You be the judge!

It's the little touches that make even train stations interesting. I'm not sure a mural counts as a "little touch" but it may not be in the tourism brochures.

It never ceases to strike me, the contrast between Old and New.

The museum is in Osaka Castle, a very impressive building.

The view from the top floor.

Or, in video format:

On the rooftop there are sculptures of shachihoko, mythical fish associated with rain, often placed on roofs to protect against fire damage (so says Wikipedia, anyway).

Next stop, the Osaka Aquarium!
We've been to four aquariums in Japan (Tokyo Sunshine City, Tokyo Tower, Yokohama Sea Paradise, and here) and this one is my favorite. It had the smallest number of too-small tanks and some really innovative design.

The tagline on the brochure is amusing, too. Ocean, You Meet Whale Shark.

From the entrance, we walked through a tunnel tank of tropical fish and small rays, then queued up for the giant escalator to bring us to the 8th floor while we looked through the brochure and figured out what to make of the decoration on the wall to our left.

The top floor is part wildlife exhibit, part atrium. I was pretty impressed. Visitors start at the top floor and follow the pathways in a slow spiral down around several very deep tanks. Each tank and area is devoted to a different geographic region. This one centers on freshwater with otters, trout, and small crabs clinging to the walls under the waterfall.

Otters sure look cuddly.

We passed sea otters, sea lion feeding/show, and seals, which were all adorable and entertaining but popular enough that I couldn't get a good photo.

Something cool that they've done at this aquarium is have essentially two exhibits in the same area. This is a good example, it's like seeing two different worlds at the same time.

They had capybaras! I'm not sure why that's so exciting for me, they're just giant rodents (can get to be 65lbs, related to the guinea pig) and I've never been friends with one. But they are giant rodents and there was one  in a few episodes of The Tick, maybe that's it.

The penguins look like they're on a movie set because of the lighting. There was a small cart next to this with some tactile things, like a small patch of baby penguin feathers and some weighted toys so people could pick them up to see how heavy a live penguin would be for their size.

Part of the Seto Inland Sea tank:

This video is kind of crappy, but here's something cool. Well, something else, since I've mentioned a few things about this place already.

I've always been interested in animals and I like to think I know more about what's in the animal kingdom than the average person, even if I can't tell you about many in exquisite detail. But almost every time we go to an aquarium in this country, I see something that I've never seen or read about before. Like this fish. I have no idea what it is. Its fins are iridescent and it has small lobster-like legs under its mouth.

In one of the largest tanks, we saw the whale shark (not as large as the ones in the Atlanta aquarium, but that means it has more room to swim around) and several enormous rays on the other side of some temporary-looking net. I hope it's temporary, because these guys were big. That manta ray is probably the largest I have ever seen.

Again, this video doesn't really capture the experience quite like being there in person, so here's another video I happened to catch when the diver was nearby, to help with the sense of scale.

We also found a small section devoted entirely to anenomefish.

I had no idea there were so many kinds!

I'm not sure what I like more about this - that the male adult clownfish wears a snappy hat and sports a handlebar mustache, or that this diagram appears to be suggesting that they all grow up to be female.

Most of the displays were so small and in such low lighting that my camera rebelled and refused to take decent pictures, but I managed a few.
Hooray for blacklight! Letting us see how very cool nature can be with her color palette.

I can't tell if this little guy is tending to its own eggs or eating those of another fish.

I like to think of this one as Kabukifish, with a fierce pattern around the face.
Compare to kumadori pattern for kabuki theatre:

Crabs are still weird monsters, especially spider crabs.

This place even had an entire floor devoted to varieties of jellyfish, several of which I've never seen before.

In another part of the building there was another area called the Cawaii Collection (that's how they spelled it on the ticket). More cartoony designs on the walls (and stairs), smaller tanks, smaller fish in general.

Delicate little fish around one scary-looking urchin.

I have mixed feelings about this remora. It's neat to see because it looks like it has a flat rubber grip on its head, but it's a little sad because it didn't do any swimming, it just sort of lay there looking around. I'm not sure if that's healthy or not. Fish normally have to swim, but I'm not sure how much swimming they normally do in the wild.

This fish, according to what I could make out on the plaque, changes its colors. As a juvenile it has this semicircular pattern, when it gets to be an adult it will be more stripey and less circle-y.

Ugh. Spiny sea slugs or something. Not kawaii at all.

We did actually see some of these little dudes in a tank (smaller than ping pong balls, apparently called balloon lumpfish), but I neglected to get a photo. They're much more happy-looking in this advertisement than in the wall cartoons or on the stairs, I can say that much. In real life, they mostly sit on rocks and look around. I think. Like little gumballs with faces. (If you want more trivia, read this Reuters article)

We had some lunch nearby and headed over to our last stop before the trip home, Umeda Sky Building.

Along the street, this random terrible illustration next to a kebab place:
I don't know what kind of ice cream this guy is making,  but I'm pretty sure I don't want any.

Umeda Sky Building is a bizarre feat of architectural design.
We made our way up to the uppermost floors, looking for this "floating garden observatory" that is clearly mentioned on the cover of this brochure. I was a bit disappointed to find out that there is no floating garden. There is space for things to float (40 stories up), but there are no plants. There is, however, an excellent view.

What we saw almost immediately after stepping out of the elevator on the 39th floor.

The poster for the food court amuses me.

One outside wall of the building was dominated by a giant map illustration.

This illustration helpfully includes people looking at the map next to the "You Are Here" arrow.

Continuing on, there are wide open spaces looking both into the giant circle in the middle and outward over the city in all directions. Neat little feature, a series of slightly elevated booth seats facing the large windows.

The view from the elevated seat.

To our right, a goofy little heart-shaped stand for couples to pose behind. The little white stand to the right is for your camera, so you can set the timer and run behind the heart.
And a misplaced park bench. It really looks out of place next to all the elevated space age booth seats.
Bonus: the next-door seat had a sleeping couple. Some official-looking guy in a suit woke them up a few minutes later.

A video attempting to capture the scale of this building and its place relative to the ground:

Taking the escalator across that gap between the east and west towers, between the 39th floor and the 35th.

We eventually found out how to get to the rooftop observatory. The view was great and it's apparently known for a spectacular sunset and a bunch of things lighting up (thank you, brochure), but we had a long trip home so we didn't stay for it. Next time.

The way the clouds were rolling in made it look like things were being sharply divided between Light and Dark. It was more pronounced in the camera's LCD screen, but I still rather like this photo.

The photo that everyone has to take of this building:

A brief video providing just a little bit more context to that photo:

From there, we passed the Fun Fun Plaza and caught a cab for the train station and got home at a relatively decent hour.

Good weekend. We'll go back sometime.

1 comment:

  1. Once again a reminder that the two of you are having a great time.