Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Out on the Tail of the Dog

Ah...finally...a Saturday in which I didn't have to work! It was the first this month! Wouldn't you know it, after all those surprise squalls of the night before, the weather today decided to be calm, clear, and warm...so warm that flies and honeybees came out. Well, I wasn't about to spend a day like this cooped up at home, so the kids and I finished all the day's chores (and studies) quickly in the morning. As it turned out, however, my wife did have to work, and she wound up not being able to come home at noon like she'd hoped. That left just the three of us with the afternoon to play with, which may actually have been a very good thing. You see, it allowed us to spend the day somewhere besides a shopping mall for a change.


So, where did we go? I'm glad you asked! We went somewhere I and my wife used to visit a lot before we got married but hadn't been to in years. My daughter had only the faintest recollection of it, and my son had never been there at all. I'm talking about Inubosaki (lit. "Cape Dogtail") on the coast of the sleepy (many would say "dying") fishing city of Choshi. Getting there was a bit of a drive, but the normally chilly, wind-blasted cape turned out to be just as mild as Namegata had been. The park next to the lighthouse turned out to be crowded, too, so I parked over at the nearby beach, and we hiked up.

There was a film crew at work as we walked by. I don't know what it was for, but they had all kinds of cameras, portable mikes, and light reflectors set up, they were herding people around them asking them to be quiet, and a director was barking orders. From what I could see, they were filming an area of rocks in which a group of children was playing around a seated couple. A TV drama perhaps? Or a movie? Who knows? (Hear that sneezing gaijin in the background? It's me!) We went around it, hoofed our way up the stairs leading to the top of the cape, and hiked down to the rocks on the other side.

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The kids sure seemed happy to be there even without any video games.


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The cape is famous for its bizarrely-shaped rocks. I'm not sure exactly what kind of rock it is (granite?), but it's a bit different from the basalt headlands of Oregon.

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It's hard to tell from this picture, but the sea was rough and churning and dancing among the rocks. (I had a hard time convincing my son not to stand too dangerously close to the frothing surf!)

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Here's a view looking back up toward the lighthouse. Why am I being reminded of a set from Star Trek TOS ?

Across the street from the park was a big, pink building that was the Marine Park Aquarium. We decided to go in. It turned out that the facility was managed by the Minstry of Education and Technology, which explained why the place was generally faded, rusty, and smelled bad. (It rather reminded me of the public senior high schools where I used to work...) The exhibits seemed a bit lacking, especially considering the outrageously expensive admission fee, but there were still some interesting things to see (and it kept the kids entertained). There was one pleasant surprise in the form of a dolphin show in a (somewhat dilapidated-looking) pool behind the building. It wasn't a big facility, but that allowed the (small) audience to sit right up next to it and get a view of the dolphins that was far more up close and intimate than at Kamogawa Sea World or other big aquariums I've visited. The show, narrated (via a crackling PA system) by the trainer himself as he performed it, was also surprisingly entertaining.

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The trainer also kept things going a bit after the show ended so people could come up, ask questions, and get a closer look. The dolphins seemed only too happy to oblige.

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Smile! No, not you!!!!!!

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Here's a view from the top of the Marine Park Aquarium toward the end of the cape, including the little tourist resort and the lighthouse.

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And here's the view looking in the opposite direction. My son's video game addiction finally got to him, so he got his "fix" with the pay binoculars. *sigh*

Another reason I wanted to go to Choshi was to look for soy sauce. You see, soy sauce is a local specialty, and there are a number of small, local producers. One of them was named on a recent, famous gourmet TV program as the third best in the country. It costs about 10,000 yen (a little less than $100) a bottle, but I wanted to try it. Alas, the Marine Park gift shop didn't have it, and the big gift store in the Inubosaki tourist resort was closing when we left the aquarium and walked back there. I wound up getting a bottle of a much cheaper but still very famous local brand of soy sauce that is low salt to boot.

The drive home was long and slow thanks to traffic, but we still made it back in time for dinner. We'd gotten our exercise for the day, and the curry rice my wife made went down well.

Now...what to do tomorrow...

13 Comments:

  • What a wonderful weekend you had with your children! I miss my wonderful weekends! :)

    Aiiiii... a close up picture of your daughter, she is so cute!!!(kawai in japanese, rite?)

    By Blogger Selba, at 12:03 PM  

  • What a great Dad you are! Cute kids indeed. These are the days and things they will remember for many years - a day out with their Dad. To get away from computer games etc. too.
    W.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 7:56 PM  

  • Ack...looking over this post again, I was surprised at just how much of a bad rap I seemed to be giving the Marine Park aquarium. Yes, it was surprisingly (outrageously?) expensive. Yes, it had the faded, corroded, and smelly atmosphere of an aging municipal facility. Yes, the exhibits seemed a bit few and half-hearted compared with other aquariums I've visited. However, what they did have was actually pretty cool, and it did keep us interested. They had a number of rare species that one doesn't find in aquariums often. They also had a few surprises. The dolphin show is small (and the facilities old and in need of repair), but we really enjoyed it. I've also found it's highly recommended by travel guidebooks, even alongside more famous shows such as Kamogawa Sea World, and there's a good reason for it. The trainers know their stuff, and it doesn't disappoint.

    With just a little redecorating, fumigating, and price-reducing they'd have a really class act on their hands. I didn't mean to dis them that badly. (Okay, my conscience can rest a bit now...)

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:27 AM  

  • I bet the minisnab would have loved the marine park. She likes the Seaside Aquarium and they have squat compared to most places. (though the octopus is always cool)

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 1:45 PM  

  • Way cool, "Dad". Great pics of the kids which reveal just how cool it is to hike around on the rocks at the seashore or watch dolphins show off.

    K and I went to that lighthouse a year and half ago but didn't know about the aquarium. We'll have to check it out.

    Wonderful post about a great afternoon adventure.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 5:58 PM  

  • Selba
    I don't get weekends like that very often. Usually if my family gets some free time together we wind up spending it all at a shopping mall (not that that's necessarily a bad thing...).

    Wendy
    As far as I'm concerned I don't get out like that often enough. I used to just hop in the car and go exploring a lot...till my job got busier, my wife got tied down a lot more, and we wound up with 2 grade-school-age kids. Now it's just shopping, shopping, shopping...

    Don
    I don't think I ever went in the Seaside Aquarium, but recalling what it looked like on the outside, I'm sure it is kind of the same thing. Actually, when we went into the Marine Park (and I was still smarting from the entrance fee) and went into the first room the words "tourist trap" crossed my mind. Then we moved on to the second room, and it got a lot better. I guess first impressions aren't always reliable (though I was about ready to laugh when I saw "Ministry of Education and Technology" printed on the tickets).

    Pandabonium
    I've been to the lighthouse at least a dozen times, but this was the first time for me to go into the aquarium. In fact, I'd heard that there was an aquarium there, but I never really knew where it was. Then, as we were hiking around, my daughter suddenly pointed at it and said, "Papa, isn't that the kanji for aquarium?" Sure enough. Believe it or not, it's right across the street from the lighthouse's tourist resort park. Since the building is bright pink and has a lot of silly decor on the outside, I always thought it was an amusement arcade or something. Go figure...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:00 AM  

  • Hey, it's nice that the kids got to spend the day out with just their Dad, and no shopping. That's the kind of thing they will remember forever.

    Like I remember when my dad took me berry picking. It was "our" day out.

    Good stuff!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 12:02 AM  

  • The bluff below the lighthouse looks like limestone. Or maybe it is just chicken wire covered with gunite from a Star Trek set....

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 5:52 PM  

  • There are quite a lot of fossils in those rocks, apparently.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 7:23 PM  

  • what a wonderful time. i agree w/ everyone, i think it's wonderful that you and the kids went out instead of staying home. in looking back at my childhood, i wish i had a father and i wish i had special moments like these to think back on.

    your children are adorably cute. your daughter has the sweetest smile.

    By Blogger tooners, at 3:59 AM  

  • OHHHH dolphins!!!
    I love dolphins!!! *grin*

    It's really nice to have some time off with yr children,uh?I'm sure you all enjoyed it :)

    Just look at that smile on yr daughter's face.For sure this is a sign of happiness =D

    By Anonymous Angele, at 3:51 PM  

  • Oops...I just discovered that the name "Inubousaki" doesn't mean "Cape Dog's Tail" but rather "Cape Dog's bark". Perhaps it was named that because of the sound the surf makes when it hits those strangely grooved rocks. Yes, it sometimes sounds like a bark. My bad... Oh, well. That's not a kanji one sees every day...and it's still a cool place!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:15 PM  

  • Moody: I left a comment here earlier today but something trully horrible must have happened to it cause it's not here no more;) It was to the effect of me not having kids(yet) and just asking you what it's like. I also said you must be a proud father and glad you made the choice to relocate to Japan. Good for you for going with your heart(and mind, probably;)

    By Blogger Greg, at 1:41 AM  

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