Yesterday, Code Name: M and I bid farewell to Kyoto and set our sights on the Hotel Monterey Osaka, as we had scored ourselves a really good deal on accommodation. So we dropped off our luggage for the day and headed out into Osaka. A short train ride lead us to the bay area and the Aquarium, which we had heard was really amazing. What we had heard, hardly prepared us.
The Aquarium building is 8 floors of stylised whale-tail goodness, themed around the aquatic life of the waters of the Ring of Fire, starting with Japan. The Japanese river-life exhibited includes the fascinating giant salamander, the large amphibians, were hiding at the back of their watery enclosure, barely distinguishable from the rock and wood debris surrounding them, in great contrast to the gambolling antics of the river otters in the next pen, playfully tumbling over each other and sending schools of fish into a panic.
Just when you think you can't possibly find anything cuter, you reach the sea-otters. Much larger than their river cousins, with heavier coats to brave colder waters, floating on their backs, with their tails waving gently as rudders, burying their furry faces in their paws to groom themselves. Lick the paws, pad the face, lick the paws, pad the face, lick the paws. So cute.
The enclosures continue, through seals, dolphins, penguins, and a large slice of home in the form of the Great Barrier Reef, until you reach the main tank. Stepping up to the glass, and leaning against the pillar beside it, I begin to admire the large manta rays and various breeds of shark, when an enormous silhouette casts a shade on where I am standing I look up, I am forced a step back in astonishment, as a whale-shark effortlessly glides up and over the ledge I am standing under. When it is feeding time, I watch the enormous fish in awe as it rises to the surface, my jaw actually drops, as the whale-shark inhales vast amounts of water through its gaping mouth and expels it out the gills in deep vacuumous breaths. Heaving in the water and burly it is being fed, exhaling through its gills, and repeating, heaving in the water, and exhaling again, heaving, and exhale, until the meal is complete and it returns to the depths.
I keep walking, following the exhibits, losing M in the crowd and catching up again, til we reach the petting zoo, I wash my hands, and plunge them into the tank, a stingray sidles up to me, my fingertips close on the top of it the texture is smooth, silky almost, the feel of wet felt or velvet. A shark swims within reach, I run my hand over it, rough but wet, like a cats tongue.
Plagued by tourists, M and I decide to leave to return later in the day, when the waves of people have ebbed. Not knowing what it holds we decide to examine the nearby Suntory Gallery, we know that Suntory produces Midori and Makers Mark and this is good enough for us, so we dawdle over. By pure chance, it turns out the gallery is holding an exhibition of Impressionist and Modern Art that M had been very keen to see. We purchase out tickets and head on up. The collection was marvellous. It held some beautiful works by Monet, a couple of very charming Renoir's, one especially, titled 'Les Sirenes', a depiction of two gorgeous fertility goddesses, singing men to their doom, caused me to start humming Queen's 'Fat Bottomed Girls'. Another couple of works, one by Giovanni Segantini, 'Vacca bruna all'abbeveratoio' and 'Les Mimosas' by Bernard Buffet really ensnared my eye, due to the painterly fashion of the brushstrokes used. The paint applied heavily, but with such skill, I could not help but nose almost to the glass, to glance across the plane of the canvas to appreciate how high the paint stood above the flat of the taut fabric. It was an amazing accident that we ended up seeing what is likely to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Project M and I returned to the Aquarium to see the fish once more, and I emerged with a serious craving for sashimi, which I did not have the opportunity to satisfy until tonight. We checked into the hotel, marveled at the quality, congratulating ourselves on the deal we had received, and settling in for the night, turtlepack in the corner looking decidedly out of place, me curled up in a plush twin bed.