Thursday, August 20, 2009


On Thursday I had an outing - and got some love from a beluga whale. Kelsey's mom was in town, so the three of us met up for lunch and a train ride to Yokohama Sea Paradise, aka Hakkeijima. It's like mini-Sea World, only forty five minutes from home. We elected to skip the roller coasters and just commune with creatures - beginning with the oh-so-natural Marine Mammal Show. Somehow my photos of dolphins, waluruses, sea lions and seals didn't come out, but the belugas were born to be photographed.Gorgeous just doing what they do, aren't they? But of course there were tricks:

...and I was so jealous of those trainers, to be able to work so closely with the whales. Don't think the downside of all this was lost on me though, particularly in Japan. I've heard the Fresh Air interview iwth the creators of the movie The Cove, which exposes a small rural village in Japan where dolphins are cruelly corralled, tested for showbiz capabilities, and slaughtered if they're not chosen for a water park somewhere.

At Sea Paradise the pens the whales and dolphins waited in were very small, and the polar bears were so skinny, hot, and depressed that Kelsey and I both got teary-eyed. Japanese people still eat whales. The big predators are always what gets me - dolphins and whales, lions and wolves, bears...these animals don't belong in captivity, certainly not by themselves and cramped into small cages behind glass.

Still, I think places like Sea Paradise have an important role to play in reminding us why we love sea life, why we take care of the oceans and don't zip jet skis through the manatee habitats. The walkthrough 'aqua museum' featured bunches of animals that I really don't mind seeing behind glass.Run away! Run away!
What's up, Ray?
Look at those teeth!*Sorry about the quality of this photo, but I had to post it. On the left there is Kelsey, a normal-sized human being. To the right is a GIANT FREAKING CRAB. And I just accidentally wrote "crap" instead of crab, because crap is what I'd do if I ever saw one of these coming at me. Good God.

Last but not least was the dolphin building, where we saw a few dolphins in passing but bonded with another beluga. Before this trainer came out, the whale was diving down and playing with us. I wish I'd had my camera out when it first dived, because I swear I had my hand on the glass, and the whale swam down and nudged its head against the glass, just where my hand was. Then came the theatrics:

Yet another bittersweet moment, watching this gorgeous beluga blow bubbles and play with us through the glass. I don't ever need to go back to Hakkeijima, and I kind of wish I could've researched more about the treatment of their animals before I paid to go in. But the day was lovely, the animals were gorgeous, and I'm adding my name to the petition to stop the dolphin slaughter. And, um, no whale meat for me, thanks.

*I know sharks are big predators too, but somehow I'm okay with them being locked up.


Becky said...

Looks like a BLAST!

Melanie said...

I laughed out loud for real when I read about the giant crap. lol. The other stuff, not so much laughing, that's insane.

Kerry said...

I remember being really sad when I went to the aquarium in Gulfport, MS (the one that evacuated their dolphins to a hotel pool for Katrina - this was before that, though). The tanks were so small and DIRTY. When they opened it up for Q&A after one of the shows, I actually asked them how often they clean the tanks. I don't remember exactly what her answer was, but I do remember thinking she was lying.

Bethanyivy said...

I heard that the Enoshima Aquarium is awesome, with a fun dolphin show and a pool to lean over and pet the dolphins. We drove by, and it looked like a great area, on the beach, right next to the ocean (or bay, I guess). I'm so sad we never got to go there. I was bummed about missing Sea Paradise, but now, not so much. I hate seeing animals or mammals in tiny spaces. We went to the zoo in Kanazawa, and it was just too sad. It was hard to enjoy the beauty of the animals when they are in such tiny, unatural spaces.