横浜 Aquarium Island and A Reptilian Tea Party

While in Yokosuka we decided to check out the nearby Aquarium near Yokohama on Hakkeijima (a small island just south of Yokohama). I really enjoy aquariums – I find the ambient music, dim lights and gently swimming fish to be very relaxing. Also in Yokohama was one of Japan’s many animal-themed cafés. Unlike the cat-cafe obsessives, I, being allergic to most fluffy cute things, found a reptile café for us to visit. This will be a post about the two animal adventures we had in Yokohama.

The aquarium we visited was Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, which can be accessed by train or car. It is an entire theme-park island, with roller coasters, an aquarium and several other sea-related attractions. It was a really beautiful day which made it even better.

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On the way into the island were some retro children’s’ rides – a pikachu pokemon game, several mini-rides, and a Gojira (Godzilla) game which we simply had to play. We squished inside Gojira and mashed the buttons as Gojira killed the evil hydra that was attacking Japan (at least we think that’s what was going on), the ride swayed from side-to-side as we played and we eventually won. It was a lot of fun.

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We started with the aquarium, as that’s what I wanted to see the most. It cost around 3,000円 each (£17) and that granted us access to the main aquarium as well as the outdoor aquarium and two other aquarium-esque attractions. The main aquarium covered 3 floors, with a huge variety of animals. There was one rather sad looking polar bear which I wish I could have freed or something – his enclosure was far too small and he looked miserable. Aside from the polar bear the animals seemed to be in good sized enclosures and happy.

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I saw walrus up close for the first time which was really cool. We were looking down on the tank from upstairs during feeding time and the attendant noticed us watching. He gave the walrus some ice and put a long tube in its mouth, the walrus blew out and the ice was fired at us! There was glass in the way so it bounced off, but it was a pretty amazing experience. I didn’t take pictures as I was too surprised and  generally enjoying myself too much to take lots of pictures. The aquarium had a cool escalator through a tunnel in one of the tanks which was surrounded by a hypnotic shoal of fish that acted as if they were one organism. The rays kept swimming through, dividing the shoal into spirals and circles.

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Once we’d made our way through the inside of the aquarium we came out into an outside area which had various fish and ducks, including piranhas in an open tank. Though there were big ‘do not put hand in‘ signs, it seemed a little weird that it was left open in a place where so many children visited. We watched a kaleidoscope of Koi being fed by a kid and bought some feed ourselves to feed the ducks.

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There was an announcement for the aquatic show, so we made our way to the large stands to check it out. There was a whale shark swimming around the big pool, but he didn’t seem bothered by the show going on around him. There were dolphins, sea-lions and a walrus in the show, and it was really spectacular. There were also some weird clowns but I didn’t really find them funny – I probably had to understand all of what they were saying to really get it.

We then made our way to one of the sub-aquariums which was called ‘dolphin paradise’ or something. It had a few dolphins in a big tank with a tunnel through it, but the surprise was at the end of the tunnel. In a large circular floor-to-ceiling tank there was a huge, white, flat, ugly fish. This was a sun fish. I don’t know how I knew the name, I think I owe my knowledge to David Attenborough. It was amazing to see, not sure how ethical it is to keep it in an aquarium though. Apparently it is not safe to keep them in a square tank because they can’t manoeuvre very well and end up rubbing up against the walls, hence the circular tank.


We also visited the outdoor aquarium which had a number of dolphins, beluga whales and seals. We got to stroke a dolphin and a beluga whale, which was really amazing. There was one seal which seemed to have a fascination with eating ice cubes and then spitting them out so that it could eat them again. It was pretty weird behaviour but it seemed to enjoy slurping up the ice. I couldn’t find any information on the internet as to why it would be doing that.


There was also an outdoor area that looked like a series of pontoons connected together. This was a fishing area where you could catch your own fish and the shop in front would cook them for you. We elected not to do this as neither of us enjoy fishing or killing things.

Once we were finished with the aquarium we had a wander around the island and had a go on the roller-coaster, which was really fun if a little scary! The roller-coaster extended over the water and had really low bars over the tracks, so if you put your hands up at some points you’d break your arms. We quickly learned this and kept our arms down. The sun was setting when we rode it, making it even more fun.

As we were leaving the island the sun was setting and we could see Mt Fuji in the distance. It was probably one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in Japan.


Our second animal adventure was a far more low-key affair. We visited Yokohama’s Subtropical Teahouse Reptile Café 横浜亜熱帯茶館. It was on the second floor of a normal building on a normal street and there wasn’t a big sign so we nearly missed it! The café consisted of a large room with tanks and cages around the room containing various reptilian life. There was also a low-walled ‘play area’ with a number of tortoises and some trees with lizards perching on them.

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We arrived at the café at 5, which meant the ‘play area’ was already closed (it shut at 5) but the café was open until 7 so we sat, drank Japanese tea, and watched the animals. The cafe policy was that you had to buy one drink but there was no hourly fee or entrance fee or anything, which was nice (most animal cafés do have a fee on top of the drinks). A lot of the lizards and snakes weren’t doing much, but a few came up to see us when we looked into their tanks. One even nodded his head at us when we nodded at him. The tea was really good, and had refills, so I had around 5 cups. The cafe was empty apart from us and one couple, so we could see all the animals easily. It was a really nice and relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

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I would definitely recommend both the aquarium and the lizard café. The aquarium was impressive and the café fairly low-key, but both fulfilled my wish to see animals. I hope to go to more animal cafés in the future – there are goat, penguin and owl cafés too!

京都 Snapshots: November

And so we plunge into December, and I begin to freeze in my woefully lacking-in-central-heating room. My air con does heat, but it also doesn’t seem to know what 21 degrees is and aims for more like 30 degrees, leaving me perpetually too hot or too cold.It seems Japan  missed the memo that central heating is actually a pretty good idea.

This minor issue aside, I look forward to my first Christmas in Japan, and it seems Japan’s looking forward to it too – there are Christmas lights and decorations everywhere. Hopefully my next month will be filled with fun things to write about even though its getting cold.

Also exciting news blog-wise: I now have my own domain – Japangie.com! I had to buy a storage upgrade because of all the pictures I’m hosting on here and it came with a domain which is pretty cool.

For now lets mop up those bits and pieces from last month that have been sitting by waiting their turn for some attention. This will be a miscellany of temples, interesting buildings, Christmas lights and food, so I hope you enjoy some snapshots of what I’ve been up to.

紅葉 Autumn is Ending

Here are a few more pictures of the koyo (turning of the leaves) in Kyoto. This month was definitely koyo month for my blog – beautiful red leaves everywhere. Sadly it rained recently and most of the red leaves were blown away, so no more picturesque temples with autumn colouring I’m afraid.

These pictures were taken in the park nearby, by the Kamo River and near the Heian Jingu.

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 武道センター The Kyoto City Budo Centre

I came across this building on my way to Heian Jingu. I initially thought it was a temple and went in to check it out. It turns out it’s actually a dojo, and not only that but its the oldest martial arts training hall in Japan, built in 1899. At this dojo  you can train in most Japanese martial arts – Akido, Judo, Kendo, Karate etc. as well as ping-pong for some reason. Apparently they are pretty foreigner friendly (though they don’t speak English you’re still welcome to go) and offer one-off classes, so if you’re into martial arts you can train in a beautiful old dojo as part of your trip to Japan!


 妙傳寺 Myoden-ji

This is yet another interesting building I found when I was wandering around Heian Jingu. This is a temple belonging to the Nichiren sect of Buddhism, founded in the 15th Century. It has been rebuilt several times – monks from Enryaku-ji burned down Myoden-ji in 1536 as part of Tenbun Hokke no Ran which was basically a war between the three main sects of Buddhism in Kyoto. The Tendai monks burned down temples like Myoden-ji for their affiliation to Nichiren Buddhism (Nichiren Buddhism was in competition with Tendai for taxing the people and owning land). In the process they also burned down over half of Northern Kyoto and a lot of Southern Kyoto too. So much for the peaceful teachings of Buddhism…

The current Myoden-ji was built in 1708. I couldn’t find anyone to stamp my book (it was after hours) but I had a quick look around.

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御辰稲荷神社 Otatsu Inari Shrine

This small shrine is opposite Heian Jingu, and I don’t think it gets many visitors as everyone wants to see Heian Jingu instead. I decided to go in and have a look because I think even small shrines are interesting to look around. This is one of the many sub-temples dedicated to Inari, the god of foxes and rice (the god of Fushimi Inari). The temple did have a Shuin so I got my book stamped. As it is a smaller temple the stamp is very simple – just the name of the shrine, the word ‘worship’ and the date – no fancy calligraphy but still nice to remember the shrine.

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Papa Johns Cheese Cake Company

This is a small shop just behind Doshisha University’s Imadegawa campus. I love cheesecake so I was happy to find that we have a shop so close. The cheesecake was absolutely delicious and the shop itself feels cosy. I would recommend it if you are living in Japan and craving cheesecake. I really like fruit cheesecake so I got a banana slice and a raspberry one, both were superb. Yes, two slices, sometimes you just can’t decide, and maybe you shouldn’t have to.

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Cafe-Creperie Le Bretagne

I got some really nice crepes at this place in Sanjo Teramachi doori. They also have this creperie in France so you know its going to be good, though it is a little pricey for students (around 1500円, £8, for most of the dishes).  My crepes were scrambled egg, ham and some onion mustard. They were really tasty. I would definitely recommend this place if you feel like some non-Japanese food for a change.


土支社エーブ Doshisha Eve

Japan really likes Christmas, or at least Christmas decorations. My university gave us 3 days off for ‘Doshisha Eve’, the university’s cultural fair where clubs create stalls and they get acts to perform to the students. I dropped by briefly but I was mostly doing other sightseeing stuff (like Kobe, or Kiyomizudera). The Christmas tree they’ve installed is pretty impressive and almost makes up for them making us go to class on both Christmas eve and Boxing day. Almost.

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花 Flowers

I have recently got a job at Tadg’s Gastropub, which serves hard-to-find foods such as decent fish and chips and chicken pot pie. They also do craft beer and ale, so it’s basically a perfect job for me. Last week we had a wedding party book up the pub and at the end they left us some of the flowers to say thank you. I got to take some home, they’re still alive even a week later! I hope the couple have a long and happy marriage.

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I hope you all had a lovely November and have sufficient jumpers to get you through the colder months coming up! Next month we’ll look at Christmas and New year in Japan, and if I’m lucky, maybe it’ll even snow!