Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Osaka, Japan--Day 47

Today I got some photo works done in the morning then set off for the Tennoji Zoo in Osaka. The hotel staff told me that I could easily take the subway and train system which was right near the hotel. I headed out and crossed the street into the station and was immediately overwhelmed. There were hundreds of people everywhere and I thought that I could just follow and see what other people were doing but unfortunately I could only see signs in Japanese and really had not a clue what to do. Instead of trying to brave the subway today, I thought it would be best to just take a taxi to the zoo and then the subway on the way back.

I got to the Zoo and easily found their habitat and found both hippos underwater. Luckily there was an underwater viewing area and I was able to get some good shots of one of the hippos but the second hippo was totally out of view as it was separated by metal bars from the other. I waited for a long time for the second hippo to show itself on top of the water, but with no luck. I decided that I should go in search of someone who could help me figure out their names. I found two zookeepers and asked them if they spoke English, but they said no, but gestured for me to come with them towards the administration building.

Whoohoo! I was introduced to an administrator who was more than happy to give me the names of the hippos, Natsuko (the female) and Tetsuo (the male, Natsuko‘s son). Phew, with names in hand I headed back over to the hippos to watch them and see if Natsuko was going to come out of the water.

I waited, and waited, and waited. In the mean time I got some food to eat but mostly just stood watching the other people at the zoo watching the hippos not moving. Eventually, after about three hours, a zookeeper came up to me and told me that I sure must love hippos. I smiled and said yes. He told me that there were plenty of hippos for me to see in Japan, with many more zoos having hippos since they are such a popular animal here.

Really? I said. Hmm. Now the plan this time around is to only go to two zoos in Japan, and I was completely unaware that there could be the possibility of more hippos in other zoos that are unaccounted for. Was he sure? Of course, he says, and off he went.

What does this mean? Does this mean that there are potentially HUNDREDS of other hippos in Japan?!?! What was I going to do?? I got a little bit nervous but decided to first worry about these hippos before others.

Finally Natsuko started to move and swam around the pond a little bit then came out of the water just enough for me to get some pictures of her head. Finally!

I left the zoo and walked towards the subway and train station. It was about 4 o’clock at this point and I actually was able to figure out without too much trouble how to get back to the station near my hotel. However once I got back to the station I had a little bit of trouble finding my hotel and instead found the biggest electronics store that I have ever seen in my entire life. It was this huge mega mall type thing with over 8 floors selling all sorts of goods, with three completely devoted to electronic goods. I picked up some more data cds for the hippo pictures and then managed my way back to the hotel.

Since it was Saint Patrick’s Day, which I realized as I got back into the hotel, I found an Irish bar in my guidebook and headed back out on the subway in search of it. About forty-five minutes later I found myself in another huge shopping area, this time more of a huge street filled with shops and since it was still a little bit early I perused the shops of a while before heading down a smaller street towards the Irish pub, which was located on the 6th floor of what appeared to be a business complex!

I went in and was immediately taken aback, as it was almost the most culture shock that I have experienced on this trip. I was surrounded by English speaking people all drinking away and having a good and very loud time. I was starving and ordered chicken and chips (I know, not really the thing to be eating in Japan but at that point I just needed something to eat) and stood there eating my food while trying to talk to a girl who worked as an English teacher. She told me what she did (by saying where she worked) and I looked at her totally confused, in which she looked back at me like I was totally nuts since I had no clue what she was talking about. Umm, hellooo, why didn’t I know what she was talking about and why wasn‘t I 100% Irish?? Turns out that like 90 percent of all Europeans in Japan are English teachers and she obviously assumed that I was one. When she realized that I wasn’t she sort of apologized but I still felt out of place.

So soon afterwards I decided to leave and headed back to the subway and made it back to my hotel. My attempt at meeting some new people sort of failed but I had a good day anyway.

Now, what to do about those other hippos roaming around Japan...

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.