Posts Tagged izu mito sea paradise
This morning we drove to Izu Mito Sea Paradise, an aquarium in the south part of Numazu on Uchiura Bay. The first time I ever went to Sea Paradise was in 2014 with The Penpal on my first ever trip to Numazu, and I have been to a few times since. Tiny Dog (TD) has never seen the ocean or been to an aquarium before, so we were excited to show him something fun and new.
When we arrived, I noticed artwork for some kind of animated idol pop group all over the building. Since I hadn’t seen this on my previous visits, I assumed (correctly) that “School Idol Project” is probably one of those things in Japan that is massively popular for a while but then disappears suddenly. We must still be in the massively popular stage.
Sea Paradise has an impressive collection of aquatic life from near and far. Usually I take the time to read all of the signs and learn a bit about the animals on display, but this time I had an excited 3 year old dragging me to see the next thing. “So cool” he assured me as he spent about 10 seconds looking at the octopus before moving on to the jellyfish.
After a whirlwind tour through the main building, we went outside to kill some time before the dolphin show. TD fed some fish and then got into the kids wading pool where children can walk in knee deep water with small fish swimming around while their parents alternate between taking pictures and hoping the kids don’t fall because they didn’t bring a change of clothes. TD loved the dolphin show; he was excited and clapping every time they jumped out of the water.
The real highlight for TD was not the fish, the amazing dolphin show, the wading pool, or even the idols plastered all over the place. It was the kids play area in the gift shop that featured a ball pit and indoor sandbox. We could have come to the play area without even buying a ticket!! He was having so much fun that we let him play for almost an hour while I shopped for souvenirs.
Sea Paradise is a great place to visit in the Numazu / Mishima / Izu area. It’s a lot of fun for kids of all ages, but I would recommend that if you’re traveling with small children that you avoid the gift shop until end unless you want to hear “ball pit! ball pit!” for the duration of your visit.
For fans of the animated group Aquors, there are a bunch of cardboard models in the gift shop. I didn’t know anything about the group before I arrived, but I knew that I had to do what any mature adult would do on vacation:
The Penpal and I met up with some of her friends and we spend a beautiful sunny day at Izu Mito Sea Paradise, which is always fun. I have been a few times before and you can read about them here and here. The friends brought along their young daughter, hoping she’d pick up some English from a real live gaijin. After a few years in Japan I’m getting used to the fact that I am a bit of a novelty to most kids, and have actually started enjoying the experience.
While we were driving, I had the window down and rested my arm on the door. In the short time that we were driving there and back I got a wicked sunburn on my left forearm. I am a very pale person, and the sun is NOT my friend.
(2016 note from the author) Holy crap I was skinny back then!! I’m still pale as a ghost, but I at least have a bicep now.
On the morning of July 4, my family and I checked out of our hotel in Kyoto and boarded the Shinkansen for Mishima. The Penpal (who as you all remember is also my girlfriend), and her family wanted to show us around their hometown of Numazu in Shizuoka prefecture.
On the train, I told my family that The Penpal’s parents were traditional Japanese parents and couldn’t speak any English. It was going to be their first time spending the day with foreigners. My family is usually very polite and friendly, so I wasn’t terribly worried. However, my parents are huggers. I reminded them that Japanese people aren’t big on physical contact, so they might bow or shake hands as a greeting, but hugs were right out.
The Penpal and her parents were waiting for us at Mishima station. She introduced my family to her parents, who proceeded to give the Penpal’s family big Canadian hugs. Urgh.
The Penpal’s father drove a small Nissan, which was not big enough for the 7 of us. We divided up our group – the men went in the Nissan, and the women all piled into The Penpal’s tiny Honda. The idea was that we would have one translator in each car. We took off towards our first destination – Izu Mito Sea Paradise.
The ride to Sea Paradise took about twice as long as it should have due to Sunday traffic. I have never understood why every Japanese person with a car decides to go for a family drive on Sundays. The narrow streets end up looking very much like parking lots. During the long ride I did my best to translate between my father and The Penpal’s father. I did remarkably well considering my limited vocabulary.
When we got to Sea Paraside, The Penpal’s father opened his trunk and pulled out a couple of cans of cold Yebisu beer for my father and I. My dad was confused, so I explained that drinking in public was allowed in Japan. He still seemed a bit hesitant, and waited for us to get a seat at the dolphin show before drinking his beer.
My father and The Penpal’s father were both wearing a nearly identical hat and pants (slacks for you British people who are now giggling). During the dolphin show, the Sea Paradise staff brought out a large trained walrus. As the giant walrus got close to the water, the staff announced in Japanese that the first few rows would likely get wet. My father and The Penpal’s father, with no communication between them, both stood up at the same time and stepped over their seats to the next row, both stepping with the same leg first. It was like watching a bizarre mirror image.
After Sea Paradise, we all loaded back into the cars and drove to Uobun, a Numazu tempura restaurant that has been in business for 100 years. The restaurant was exactly the kind of place that foreigners would avoid; there were no models of food outside, no English signs anywhere, and the menu was all written in Japanese on the wall behind the chef. The Penpal’s father ordered tendon (天丼) for all of us. Don’t be confused by the spelling – in this case tendon is “tempura donburi”, not tissue that connects muscle to bone. We all got a big bowl of fish, shrimp and squid fried in delicious tempura batter served over rice. Lunch was fantastic, and before we knew what was happening, The Penpal’s father had snuck away to the cash register and paid for everything.
We thanked him for lunch and then piled into the cars again. Our next stop was The Penpal’s house. This was my first time to ever visit her house. We all sat into the living room and The Penpal did her best to translate conversation over tea. The parents swapped stories about when we were kids, and then The Penpal showed off her piano skills for my family.
We spent a few hours at the house and then decided to go out for dinner. By this point in the day, the Penpal’s mother was a big fan of my sister because she was “kawaii”. They sat across from each other at the table, and The Penpal’s mom started trying to teach my sister some Japanese by pointing out items on the table and getting my sister to repeat their names. Hey, whatever gets my girlfriend’s family to like my family is a good thing.
While we were eating, I leaned in and quietly told my father that he should pay for dinner. The Penpal’s family had driven us around all day and treated us to lunch and I wanted to even the ledger a little. Like most Japanese restaurants, the bill is left at the table when the food arrives. I created a distraction and sent my father running for the register with the bill. There was the usual polite protest, but I insisted that it was the least we could do. It’s much easier to be generous with other people’s money 🙂
Outside the restaurant my sister asked me to teacher her some Japanese to thank The Penpal’s family for showing us around all day. I was about to teach her how to say “domo arigato gozaimasu” (a polite thank you), but instead I got her to practice “watashi wa okii neko desu” (I am a big cat). My sister has an amazing ear for language, and was able to pick up the phrase and correct pronunciation immediately.
The Penpal’s family dropped us off at Mishima station. Everyone started saying their goodbyes when my sister walked up to The Penpal’s parents and used her new sentence “I am a big cat”. She smiled and bowed while saying it. They looked confused. Worried that she had pronounced it badly, she tried again, speaking slowly and clearly. The Penpal, looking confused, explained “Lisa-chan – you just said that you are a big cat”. At this point I cracked up laughing while my sister started yelling at me. Being a big brother is awesome.
I am very happy that my family and The Penpal’s family got along. Most tourists only get to see famous places in Japan, but thanks to The Penpal’s family, we got to drive around, visit a Japanese house, and eat fantastic food at places that tourists would usually avoid. For the wonderful day we spent together, I would like to say 私は、世界最大の猫です。 I assume it means thank you.
Today I went to Numazu and hung out with The Penpal and Williams. I really love the change in scenery when leaving the greater Tokyo area and getting into Shizuoka. Mt. Fuji was snow covered and looked spectacular.
The first stop of the day was Izu Mito Sea Paradise, a marine park just south of Numazu along the coast. Sea Paradise has tanks with a great selection of fish and other underwater life. They also have a dolphin show, which is much like a dolphin show just about anywhere else in the world.
After Sea Paradise, we went to a beach along the coastline where people were practicing various water sports. For the first time ever I saw someone kiteboarding. Imagine someone on a small surfboard holding on to two handles connected to a large parachute like kite. Unfortunately for the man, he wiped out and his kite started blowing away. None of the onlookers at the beach stopped to help.
Following the beach, we went 10 pin bowling and then spent some time in a game center. I specifically mention that the bowling was 10 pin because bowling in Canada is typically 5 pin. I prefer 10 pin, except for the time it takes to find a ball the right weight with proper holes.
In the game centre I played a Dance Dance Revolution clone (badly) and tried a very strange train simulator game. You can’t drive off the tracks, but you lose points for being late to the next station or for giving the passengers a rough ride. I was very fast but I actually had a passenger fall out when I opened the doors at top speed.
It’s always good to get away from the Greater Tokyo area for a while, and I had a fun day with The Penpal and Williams. Fortunately the train driver on the way home was much better than I had been on the train simulator.
(partial rewrite of original post for detail)