Why fish, just like deer, are creepy.
Once everyone had arrived and boarded the buses this morning, we left. The buses were nice and big, and it no longer felt weird to be in them not dressed formally. The bus drivers also showed remarkable skill in their ability to park. I can't back a car into a parking spot, and the thought of managing that with a bus is mind-blowing.
After about three hours of driving (and a ten minute break at a rest stop) we arrived at the aquarium. It had been several years since I'd been in an aquarium. Nothing that I saw today made me regret that.
The jellyfish were cool. And the penguins were cute, especially the only swimming one that liked to follow a little boy around. The little boy was clearly amused, too, and would stay closer by the glass, sometimes ducking down, other times walking slightly away. The penguin would always follow it.
Apart from that, there were fish in tanks. Some of them were pretty looking fish. Some of them were vaguely intimidating. There was once a human in a diving suit. That was interesting too. But I'm not that fond of fish in any form, so I was kind of glad we had under forty minutes to explore.
I'm not that fond of fish in any form. Even as food. Depending on the kind of fish, and the preparation that goes into it, I might like it. Breaded fish, for instance, is good. Raw fish, or fish that still have heads attached, aren't. Guess what lunch was?
The good news: there was breaded fish, rice, and a salad-like vegetable of some kind. The bad news: there was also raw meat (of several kinds, I didn't look too closely) and heads. Lots of them.
There was one prawn-like thing that appeared to have both a head and a tail. There was another dish that, at first glance, seemed to be some kind of lentil dish. If you looked closer, you might wonder what the silver things were. At some point, you or the person sitting next to you would realize and exclaim that they were tiny fish. Dozens of them. (It was amusing to listen to different people come to that realization.)
The tiny fish were surprisingly good, although I don't think I ate them properly. I did succeed in sitting Japanese style the entire time, so I'm counting that as enough of a victory for the day. (We took our shoes off when we arrived at the restaurant, than sat down on cushions on tatami mats and ate at low tables.) I didn't try the other headed thing, or anything raw. And no puffer fish, so at least I didn't have that to worry about.
After lunch, we got back in the bus and drove for a while more before being brought to a Buddhist Temple. It was clearly Buddhist, because there was a giant statue of Buddha. We had some time to explore that, but not much. There also wasn't much to do.
Back in the bus, drive a bit more, and end up in... a parking lot! They gave us an hour to explore this. There were a few other cars and some vending machines. And, more importantly, access/freedom to leave and explore nearby shops and/or the Shinto shrine.
I went with a group to get ice cream. Of the seven people who ordered, I was one of only two people to try sweet potato and green tea ice cream. Four people got vanilla, and one got vanilla and mango. They were missing out. The sweet potato ice cream tasted like sweet potato, even if it was way more purple than I'm used to. (The green tea ice cream tasted like the green tea ice cream frozen balls I sometimes had. About the same color, too.)
After that, we went to the shrine. Some walking around, reading what prayers/wishes I could (there were a couple in English and one that I saw in French. Mostly they were in Japanese, though.) and watching something. Still not sure what it was, but there were multiple people dressed in kimonos and a sense of ceremony around them. There was also music that sounded disconcertingly like bagpipes.
Back to the bus, another long bus ride back(with a stop at the exact same rest stop) and then we were back at the school. It felt nice when I realized we were back in Tokyo, though I'm not sure if that's because it meant I was almost back or because it meant I could find my way back if I somehow got kicked off the bus. Either way, I'm glad I'll be spending most of the remaining time in Japan in Tokyo, and not at the aquarium. Fish never close their eyes...