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kyonoki - 京のキー The Somersaulting Manta

kyonoki

京のキー The Somersaulting Manta

The Somersaulting Manta

This weekend we visited the aquarium in Osaka.

I took my mum and dad a few years ago, and remember being captivated by the sheer number of fish on display. Kobe has a small aquarium, with giant turtles squeezed into tiny pools, but it is nothing compared to the time, love and attention that went into creating the displays in Osaka.

My one complaint is the size of the tanks, but then again maybe it is unrealistic to expect them to create an environment for the fish and other sea dwellers big enough to genuinely mimic their natural habitat. The dolphins, seals and sea otters certainly looked cramped, but not unhappy. Unlike England, Japan does not have a fine track record of looking after animals. I remember the sorrowful sight of a full grown hippo sitting in a pool a little larger than itself at Oji Zoo in Kobe. But zoos are really in a different league. It seems a lot less cruel to keep fish this way.

There are many highlights from the day, but aside from cuteness (otters, sealions, dolphins and turtles), the more exotic animals caught my eye. A giant manta-ray somersaulted dozens of times in a stream of bubbles from the air-tank of a diver cleaning the filters. Spider-crabs silhouetted monstrously against a blue light, with their thin legs looking like those of an alien tripod. Then there was the sunfish - a moon shaped fish with a perpetual pout, netted within his tank. As he swims round and round, his misplaced fins propel him gently along. You'd be forgiven for thinking evolution has simply stopped when it came to him.

A few months ago a small boy in Wales was injured when a sunfish launched itself out of the sea and into his boat. A notice on the tank explained that a net surrounds the fish because they are prone to massive leaps which in the past have killed them. In the wild they are often found on beaches, having jumped too far out of the water to find their way back. Sunfish swim in the shallows, soaking up the sun, thus their name.
Wales, over the past few years, has become overcrowded with exotic sea creatures...Portugese Man'o'wars, Sun-fish and even giant squid. With the earth's climate fluctuating towards warmer seasons (not necessarily because of greenhouse gases, but because the Earth goes through natural cycles of hot and cold over many centuries) the seas around Britain are becoming inhabited by creatures we would never expect to find. It might horrify us if we knew the full catalogue of creatures in those oft plain looking seas.

Osaka Aquarium is expensive, but every penny of the fee is worth it. All the money gets channeled towards protecting and keeping these amazing fish and sea mammals. What it lacks for in space, it makes up for in ingenuity and careful caring for the hundreds of animals in its charge. Being surrounded by so much water is alluring. Hypnotic even.

The trip has made me think it is time to buy a new fish for our small kitchen tank. We tried hard to keep the last ones happy, but it didn't work out. The combination of a horribly humid summer and the unhealthiness of Kyoto water (Kobe's water is not much better. After the earthquake most of it was contaminated and the government warned nobody, claiming that hardly anyone drinks tap water!) probably did not help the fish, so maybe with Autumn coming it would be a chance to get them out of the horrible department store tanks.
  
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Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.

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