"Get your little ass back to the penitentiary, motherfucker. You know what you did last time you was here."

Fine Colorday

After a good night’s sleep on incredibly squeaky beds we were back on the road again. Like wild beasts driven by hunger alone, we jumped in the car and tried to find a place to eat breakfast. The Okinawan soba place recommended by Yuutatsu earlier was not yet open, however, so we decided to drive north “until we run out of gas”. Fortunately, north was the exact direction in which was located the Ocean Expo Park, home to one of the biggest aquariums of the world, the Churaumi Aquarium. After a short brainstorming session it became our unanimously chosen program for the first full day. It took us a while to reach the place but once we arrived it became clear that there was no reason to leave before the day was over: The park was huge. The sun was shining. The scenery was magnificent.

Ryan ruining the scenery with the Japanese Cool Walk (c)

We walked through the entrance taking copious amounts of photos of the sea, the island in front of us and the colorful flower animals that had invaded the area around the central gates. We did not have a clear plan on which way to walk in order to reach the aquarium but quickly found sign posts that offered directions to the dolphin pool (!), turtle lagoon (!!) and manatee lagoon (!!!). As if that information enough hadn’t made my day, the actual aquarium was a thing apart and the outdoor pools were just a free bonus for even entering the park.

Random Obaa-san took this picture. Doomo.

I forgot to mention the One Thing that enormously affected the whole trip: It was low-season in Okinawa. Beaches were closed or empty, there was road work in progress everywhere and tourists were nowhere to be seen. While this was a very good thing in a few places, it also meant that the dolphin shows at the ocean park were rare. That added to the fact that the dolphins were really lazy in-between shows, only showing themselves to breathe, I did not manage to get good photos of them.

This is what a dolphin looks like when you can't see it

Following the Usual Route ™ we arrived to the next stop, the turtle pools. These guys were much more interesting, as I don’t really recall seeing big sea turtles live ever before and also because there were incredibly many of them. I was even able to get a picture with Mr. Cool Guy, one of only three Eastern Pacific Green Turtles ever found in Japan. The best was yet to come, however.

Mr. Cool Guy

Dugong, Dugong, it’s the cow of the sea-ea-ea!

In the last batch of outdoor tanks were specimens of probably my favorite animal of all time, the manatee. These plushie-looking lazyass creatures are so harmless and slow that I wonder how evolution has allowed them to survive this far in the first place. I would’ve stayed there staring and smiling at them for the rest of the day if Tim hadn’t dragged me out by the ankles after a while.

Dugong, Dugong, also known as the manatee!

What's not to like?

We were all getting really hungry at this point but happened to Stumble Upon a small food stall that sold snacks for tourists at tourist prices +1. The playful beach was also just around the corner so we went there to get some sunburn and play beach volley for a while. No pictures from the volley ball, so instead I would like an answer to the riddle that the information poster presented us. Why is the playful beach “calm” while the calm beach is “no swimming”? This is some zen shit.


This post will be crazy long so this is the time for a short intermission. Be-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop. All right, back to the story.

Ryan had noticed someone drinking juice out of a whole coconut earlier so he absolutely had to get in on that. He ended up paying 900¥ for maybe the equivalent of one glass of juice and a few pictures of Sayumi sticking the straws up her nose. Soon thereafter Ryan also tried cracking the outer shell of the nut open by tossing it mercilessly to the ground.

Coconuts are fun!

By that point the Hands of Time were nearing three pm and since none of us had eaten an actual meal until then, we opted to go eat at the only restaurant on the premises. All they offered was a buffet of Okinawan food for a reasonable price of 1260¥. With the laws of supply and demand quickly reviewed, we accepted the deal that seemed to be the only option with a positive result on Leivo’s Starvation – Happiness-scale. The food was, with the exception of spaghetti naporitan, typically Okinawan. In addition, it was very mediocre. The deliciously greasy rafute pork cubes were mostly cold, and the goya champuru was probably the bitterest meal I’ve ever eaten and made me reconsider my old statement of “there are no vegetables I can’t eat”. I finished all of it, but not before I had thrown up my left lung.

Goya Champuru is the green stuff on the far right. I would avoid that side of the plate altogether.

Tell me have you seen the marvelous breadfish

Koko ga pointo! Once we were all stuffed with food nobody immensely enjoyed, we were able to enter the lair of the dragon. That main reason to drive north in the first place had been the aquarium in the expo park and now we were finally about to take the last step of paying the entrance fee to be able to see everything about sea life we had never even wondered about. The Churaumi Aquarium was worth every penny of the entrance fee. Right after the entrance was a small open aquarium full of starfish and sea cucumbers people could continuously torment by “touching gently” as the instructions explained. I don’t know about you, but if I was a sea cucumber I’d feel very disturbed if people were constantly moving me around and touching my private parts.

"Merimakkara, eiku banaani!"

From that point onward the corridor we were following was surrounded by aquariums ranging from small to huge and I could not help constantly wondering how it is possible to keep that many species of fish in the same tank without them devouring each other. I also met my favorite sea dweller in the aquarium, the Giant Sadfish (Surullisus Surullisus). One of the tanks was home to thousands of fish and one sea turtle, who was obviously the gaijin. Soon the exhibition rooms began to be filled with smaller aquariums:

Teenage Mutant Gaijin Turtle

Giant Sadfish not enjoying his time, as usual

Lobster has antennae but don't you grab it!

Happy Eel (That guy was stuck in his tiny excuse for an aquarium but it didn’t seem to bother him in the least.)

Random Stupidfish

Kuroshio Aquarium & Shark Research Lab

Yet even after all of the aforementioned, we weren’t prepared for the main attraction of the inside aquarium. The largest fishtank contained anything from whale sharks to manta rays and also held the record for largest aquarium window in the world. The acrylic glass had to be 60cm thick to handle all the pressure. Due to the poor functionality of my camera in the low light environment, the pictures from the Kuroshio tank and the Shark tank are blurry and tell too much about my photographing skills to publish. But I was able to see the fish live anyway. So there! Antti 1 – Readers 0

I bought myself a beautiful manatee T-shirt as a souvenir as well as a few postcards that I will never send as we left the aquarium and headed for the other big attraction of the Ocean Expo Park, the tropical dream center. (Yes, I’m not done yet. I really hope I was because it’s 4 in the morning right now but I gotta finish this.) We walked through a “village” built around a few ancient ryukyuan houses I was too tired to care about in order to examine the entire beautiful flora in the dream center. Unfortunately, after having seen so many new things and done so much during the day up to that point, I just could not forcefully arouse my interest to look at flowers for hours. I mean, they are just flowers. They don’t move and they don’t do anything cool except be there. There is a limit to how cool you can be if you just are.

I can see flowers forever!

The park as seen from the Obeservatory (Their engrish, not mine)

The rest of the evening was spent home playing international and Japanese drinking games until we all slowly passed out from fatigue, and, I cannot stress this enough, not the booze.



Leave a Reply