Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wading with sharks...

My oldest son, Will, who's 11, is really in to studying fish right now. River Monsters is one of his favorite shows to Netflix, and he is constantly bombarding us with fish facts. He wants to be either an ecologist or a marine biologist and has even has created a fish journal to record all of his findings. Being the scholarly parent that I am, I figured a trip to the Oshima aquarium would be a good place to go last Sunday afternoon.

I had heard there was an aquarium on the small island of Oshima, about 40 minutes from Iwakuni, but didn't have details about Nagisa Aquarium until I went on to one of my favorite sites, Iwakuni Explorer. A fellow military family created this website in the spring to help out adventuring Americans such as myself. I highly recommend it.

Despite the threat of rain, the Guthries headed out to Oshima island, but we needn't have worried - the aquarium, all three and a half rooms of it, was indoors. Now, don't let the size of the aquarium allow you to dismiss this place. Although it is small, and nothing (including the signs telling you to stay out of certain areas) is in English, this was still worth an hour of our time and it was about $6 for all four of us to visit. A bargain, in my opinion.

Upon entering, you find yourself in the reception area, with a fish tank, a cashier and a freezer full of ice cream. Move in to the building and you'll find, basically, a concrete bunker with aquarium windows lining the walls. These appear to be local fish, although I cannot swear by it, because all of the informational signs were in Japanese and Latin, and I don't read either language. But here are some of my favorite fish:

I think these guys get the "Ugliest Fish" award.

These jellyfish were about the size of golf balls and just so relaxing to watch.
I felt bad for this guy. He's more than a yard long. It was just him in a tank about the size of a dining room table. No rocks, no other fish, nothing. He looked thrilled just to have someone stop by his tank. Well, as thrilled as a fish can look. 
My absolute favorites were these puffer fish... they were as curious about my camera as I was about them.

In the center of one of the two aquarium rooms was a touch tank the kids enjoyed playing in... but the real fun was in the last room.

Xan, who was curious, but left the real, ooh-ing and ahh-ing to his big brother.

Will did not want to pause to look at me ad smile for this photo. But I told him to cooperate once and I'd leave him alone. He cooperated once.

The final, and largest, room was where you could take your shoes off and wade with sharks. And sea slugs and sea cucumbers and starfish and crabs and sea stars and other sea life. It was a lot of fun. And we had to put a time limit on Will since we were getting hungry. I think he could have stayed there for days.

Touching a shark.

This guy was just trying to not get stepped on.

That area back behind the woman in the denim skirt is a wading pool you are not supposed to wade in. Apparently a sign in Japanese tells you this, but since I couldn't read it, I waded. And was told in decent English by one of the employees that I had to get out. Whoops! Chalk up one for the dumb American.

Someone who had no desire to stay there for days was Rodney. He grudgingly waded with the sea life for about 10 minutes before quietly escaping back to the benches when I was too busy being intrigued by the kids' delight in the feel of shark skin. But, at least he can now check "wade with sharks" off of his bucket list. (Author's note: Rodney just informed me that no such thing was on his bucket list. OK, fine. My bucket list for him.)

The water was a bit cold at first.

A case of "If I can't see you, then you can't take a picture of me"? I think not.

I asked Will to make sure he got our feet. I should have been more specific and told him to make sure to get both of each of our feet.
Escape to the benches.
After we got our shoes on and darted out to the car through the rain, we headed back off of the island, first stopping at the tasty Aloha Orange restaurant for some Hawaiian grub. A new favorite of all of ours. If you go, you MUST try the macadamia nut pancake!

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