Yes, you heard me correctly. No blizzard can stop us.
Over Christmas vacation, Ryan and I decided to go to the Asamushi Aquarium, which is about a 90 minute drive on a good day. When we left the base we thought all was good because it wasn't snowing too bad. We didn't know what the weather would be like over in Aomori City, but it is right on the water in the Bay, and it tends to snow more there, but still, snow is snow, right?
So we get on the road and all is well. At least at first. Then the snow picks up and the roads are not well plowed. But the good news is that you drive slow and use the markers on the side of the road as a guide. Well, all is going well until you reach the mountains. What happens at the mountains you ask? Oh, that's easy. You drive through them. Yep, right through them. Tunnels. One of these tunnels is by far the longest tunnel I have ever been in in my life. The tunnels are actually a great relief from the heavy snow this time of year, but once you come out, you are smack in the middle of the mountains and it really looks like you are in a movie. People drive through there all the time, and the road gets plowed, but for us, not being used to the snow, we were picturing a Hollywood movie where you get lost in a white out and stuck in the snow. Yeah, I won't lie. We watch too many movies.
We knew that driving cautiously would pay off, and did just that. So it may not have been as crazy as a Hollywood movie, but it was definitely not something we were used to and probably seemed worse at the time that it really was. Although I will say, it was pretty rough at times. I believe in the US, that is what we call a Blizzard!
We arrived at the Aquarium just over 2 hours after leaving our house.
The snow stopped just long enough for me to actually take a picture. If it had let up just a few minutes longer I would have tried to take a picture in the other direction where we had another one of those Hollywood moments. We were driving in and Ryan mentioned that the foggy area to the left must be the ocean. Then in a quick sweep of the wind, the fog lifted and we realized we were in fact riding along the water and then we saw it. We saw it, and it was like nothing I have ever seen before. Out in the Bay was a giant tree covered rock, coated in white fluffy snow. A tiny island. Just far enough from the land that it would make it difficult to swim to shore if for some reason you found yourself trapped out there. Yeah, it seems a little dramatic, and I am sure in the summer this is a beautiful and not scary at all sight, but on this day, in those weather conditions, it was eerie. It was eerie, but in that beautifully haunting kind of way. It was breath taking. And then it was gone. Hidden. The fog rolled back in and we set our sights on locating the aquarium.
Given the weather conditions, it was definitely not busy.
Walking in you are first greeting by some very large turtles. Pretty neat!
Then we had a big decision to make. Lunch before or after the otter feeding. We had just under 30 minutes before the feeding, so if we wanted lunch it was now and fast, or wait. I am not kidding, after just over 2 hours in the car (yeah, we made a stop along the way at a convenience store and may have gotten a snack), we were famished and lunch now was the final answer. They only had the cafe for lunch, so quickly made a decision and waited for our lunch.
Ryan had the curry.
It came with a salad...
and a soup.
I had the fried shrimp. Shrimp is not the right word for these. Prawns (yes, there is a difference between prawns and shrimp), but oddly, these were more like lobsters. They didn't look like lobsters, but these were large and I hate to use the word, but they were meaty. It was impressive for a dish ordered in an aquarium cafe.
Since we are in Japan, you can bet this dish came with rice.
Once we were stuffed, we made a mad dash for the otter feeding. The 3 "shows" they have daily are the otter feedings, dolphin feedings, and dolphin show. They have them a few times each day. We wanted to make sure we saw all 3. Since the animals are mostly so cute, I left the pictures a little larger than I usually have them here.
First was the otter feeding. This little guy was so cute. He floated on his back and ate the little squids tossed at him. I know it's tough to see in the picture, but trust me, he is cute.
Right after, the trainer moved over to the penguins and fed them a little.
While that was going on I headed back to get a closer peak at the cute otter.
Can you spot him? He's down at the bottom.
Then I got a little closer to the penguins.
Next up were the sea lions. My camera is not good enough to capture them when they move so quickly, but I did try.
Then we moved around to some of the other exhibits and displays. I couldn't resist this little salamander guy. I hate slithery, crawly things, like snakes and little lizards, but I found this guy to be exceptionally cute, hiding in the little hole.
Then we looked at the big fish tank.
Lots of funny looking fish around. Remember, we are in Japan so some animals we have here would not be found in US aquariums, and some of the fish we are used to seeing were no where to be found at Asamushi.
So, from the looks of things, this is the largest squid, at least we think. It showed where they found it. Needless to say, this is not still living. I think it was from years and years ago.
Then we entered the Sea Promenade.
You get to walk in the glass tunnel and the fish swim all around.
Including the big ray. This thing was HUGE!
Plus lots of pretty colored fish.
I love this picture. Great shape and coloring.
These were neat too.
Eels! Yuck! I have seen these in the wild before (different kind of eel, but still an eel). This reminded me of The Little Mermaid (the Disney version).
Crazy little squid thing.
Very crazy blue colored jellyfish.
Here I am chillin' with the happy aquarium mascot.
Couldn't even begin to tell you what this is. Really crazy looking though!
Not sure what this is, but it looks a little prehistoric!
Then we headed off to the dolphin, which came just before the dolphin show. I thought this sign was awesome (and yes, a tad on the really funny side). They tried, so I give them credit for that.
This is where the dolphins are for the feeding, and then it connects through to the tank where they have the show.
Alright, this was the moment we were waiting for. Obviously everyone wants to see the Dolphin show.
I hope it does not offend anyone, and if you feel questionable about the status of dolphin shows in Japan (after seeing The Cove), please do not keep looking at the pictures. I personally feel confident about the treatment of the dolphins in this region and I can't speak about what goes on in the area where they filmed The Cove because I have no idea. Like I said before, I may agree with the topic or focus of a documentary, but I don't always agree with everything stated in the context used in documentaries. So, until I actually see proof that this aquarium mistreats animals and has questionable ways of obtaining their dolphins for shows, I will continue to go to my local aquarium, and perhaps others in Japan as well. I understand this is my personal decision and some of you may choose the opposite if you were here. This is not really what I want to focus on, but I don't want anyone thinking I didn't consider the welfare of the dolphins in light of the movie The Cove.
So, back to the dolphin show! I am not going to deny that the Japanese love ocean creatures. Japan is made up of islands. Many cities are along the water. Sea creatures are cute. It is a way of life here. So, dolphin shows (just like in the US) are a popular component to the aquarium.
Here they come!
Here is the trainer, getting them ready for a trick.
Scootin' along the water.
Jumping over a rope.
Through the hoop.
Touch the ball.
A final set of jumps.
Check out that height! Awesome!
It was a fantastic show, and a fantastic aquarium, especially for a smaller city. I was glad we went, blizzard or not. Too bad it took another 2 hours just to get home! I know we definitely plan to go back. Probably when we have visitors. It's a fun place to go and not too far away.
QUESTIONS: Do you have an aquarium near you? What's your favorite part of the aquarium? Have you ever tried going out during a blizzard? Do you like the snow?