Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise

We thought the Sea Paradise in Yokohama was just a standard aquarium, but it was actually three separate aquarium buildings of assorted sizes set in a park, which would have been a little more awesome if it hadn't been cold and rainy. This is not to say we didn't enjoy ourselves. It's got some neat technology.

Like the automatic train with the invisible driver. Keep out, he can't be disturbed!

Invisible or absent? You be the judge. The sign says it's an automatic train, but we weren't allowed to poke at the empty space where the driver should have been, so I prefer to think it was an invisible dude.

Language-independent sign urging people to be courteous and allow room for as many passengers as possible.

You can tell you're near the park even before you leave the train station.

Admittedly, the weather put a damper on things. (Har har.) It was more soggy than I would have liked, but at least it wasn't crowded.

We considered eating here, but decided to go to the less expensive food court instead.

The food court is a happy place. I had a shrimp burger, the guys had ramen, gyoza, and curry.

The main aquarium building had the requisite Large Tank of Fish, Rays, and Small Sharks. Pleasing to look at, and in this photo you can see the escalator moving up through the side of the tank.

I just happen to have some video of that escalator right here...

Penguin display
The curious thing about the penguins are that some of them were just as interested in the people as the people were in them. They would stare and pose for pictures.

I felt kinda bad for them, it's hard to tell if they're silently pleading to be let out. Maybe not, but it did seem a little crowded.

There was an area with a low, open tank filled with mud and gently running water. In that area were some hermit crabs and small nondescript fish, and these. Mudskippers! What weird creatures they are. Definitely fish, but also definitely walking. Or at least flopping about with purpose.

Here is a clip from a BBC special about mudskippers. The big species in the beginning isn't the kind I saw, but they do live in Japan. The second, smaller species might be the same as the ones I videotaped in the aquarium.

Random tank filled with fish and kelp. I thought it made for a decent photo.

Cuttlefish! All of them were coupled up with one darker male and one lighter female, it was kind of cute.

I've come to an unsurprising conclusion: crabs are weird. Like part alien, part robot creatures. This one was flapping its tiny mouth-hands around so fast it looked like an engine revving up to take off. It also seemed to be regarding the passersby with interest. As interested as a crustacean can be, anyway.

Now we move into the Low Light portion of the aquarium, filled with jellyfish, deep sea, and nocturnal critters.

My little point-and-shoot doesn't do terribly well in low light conditions, but sometimes I get lucky.

Jellyfish are weird. I don't understand how they work. They move, they're alive, they eat and reproduce, but they don't appear to have anything like a brain. Still, when they're not a danger to passing swimmers, they're really quite pretty.

I love that I'm nearly 30 and have grown up interested in all kinds of animals, but almost every time I've been to an aquarium in Japan I've seen something I've never seen before. One example of this is the small fish that live in empty bottles and cans. This is what they do, they just hang out in empty bottles with just their heads peeking out.

Or the fat crab that hides its butt from predators but leaves everything else completely exposed.

More proof that crabs are living alien or horror movie props. The blue light doesn't help dispel that perception at all.

This fish is highlighter pink, a color I didn't think existed in nature.

Eeeeeeeeeel! I like eels. I bet they have personality.

What are these, sandworms? Wormlike fish, anyway. Cute, but a little creepy.

Every aquarium has at least one giant fish that just sits by the glass and watches the people. This is that fish.

Sea turtle!

I have no idea what this is, but I can't help but wonder which set are the real eyes. If the ones on the nose are a decoy, they're darned convincing.

Calico duck?

Actually, that turtle and a dozen others were out in the "let kids pick them up" area. Great learning tool, but I feel a little bad for the turtles. Some random six-year-old ran up to us with a big one and started pointing out that it's all soft by the leg joints while it frantically (if slowly) swam in the air.

Another fish that I've never seen before, but if you told me it was a dinosaur, I wouldn't necessarily tell you that you were wrong.

One of the cool parts of the park was the open air setup where you could potentially make friends with sea mammals. First, though, guests are given a safety rule pamphlet and herded into a windowless warehouse where the doors were slid shut and the televisions gave a short presentation on how to behave. The usual, don't feed them, don't hit them, don't fall in. Then the warehouse doors opened and we asked to wash our hands, then allowed to freely roam an area of open tanks. This is so, if you are lucky, a dolphin/pilot whale/beluga whale would swim close enough to the edge of the tank for you to reach out and touch them. Or, around the corner, you can touch starfish, docile sharks, and sea cucumbers. Sea cucumbers are slimy and gross. And creepy. Just sayin'. Unfortunately, because my hands were wet from being freshly washed (so as to not contaminate the tanks with things living in them) I didn't dare bring out the camera. Even if I had, the rain had started to really pick up and we didn't think to bring an umbrella because we are Westerners that would rather get wet than have the inconvenience of carrying around an umbrella all day.

A short distance from the dolphin/whale tanks are where the walruses are kept. On the walk over, we passed the seal tank, with this interesting architectural aspect.

Walruses are amusing, too.

There are also a few theme park rides on the park grounds. Some weren't operating because of the wind or the rain, but there was one roller coaster working. You know how I feel about roller coasters; Husband and I had to try it out. Good news: no wait! We were the only people on the ride at that point, so we got to sit up front. It was a good roller coaster, too, except for when we turned a corner and were pelted with driving rain the face. It went like this:

"Wheee, wheeee, wheee! (turn corner) Owowow! My eyes! Owowow! (turn corner) Wheeeeeeeee!"

Totally worth it.
One other couple was waiting when we pulled back up to the station, so we weren't the only idiots riding a roller coaster in the rain that day.

A couple last photos of the train station that I wasn't able to get on the way in:

We may go back again sometime when the weather isn't quite so crappy.


  1. freaking jellyfish, their lack of insides confuse and terrify me. Especially because you can clearly see what they have eaten and when they are pregnant you can actually count the babies

    Also, I'd totally be that weirdo yelling at the mudskippers "you're fish! stop doing that!"

  2. Great pictures and commentary. Looking forward to visiting.