A Travellerspoint blog

January 2011

Tennoji Zoo and 'Deep' Osaka

A week later than originally planned (due to an over-sleeping incident the week before) we finally got to go to Osaka zoo.

Built a stone's throw away from Osaka Tower (which stands as a back drop to many view in the zoo) it's a typical innercity zoo with all the good and bad that entails. It actually shares an entrance with an art gallery and gardens complex that has the same name - Tennoji Park/Zoo. Some day in the spring I'll probably go back to check out the gardens, but this time we just focused on the zoo.

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Some areas are old and look it (check out the retro candy floss machines). Likewise, some cages and enclosures could do with some expansion and a redesign, but in other areas they've done a good job of making nice environments within a limited space. We decided to cover the right hand side first - whichmeant monkeys, apes, asian elephants, koalas, bears and a big aviary.

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Some of the grey cages (top right above) certainly seem outdated, and, as in many zoos, it seemed to be the apes and bears that got some of the least inspiring environments. Things can change though, I remember the old bear cage in Kosice zoo (Slovakia) when I first moved there, which was small and depressing to say the least - but in recent years the bears there have been moved into a large natural open area, with many trees and a stream, which is incomparable to what they used to have. I do believe that most zoos strive to make improvements when possible.

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The polar bear, however, seemed to be loving the fresh cool weather and was in very high spirits - I've never seen an adult bear acting so playfully. He had a range of plastic tubes and balls that he was pulling underwater then releasing so they would rush up and burst out of the water. He then spent several minutes trying to carry everything out of the water (dropping and retrieving thing several times), so he could put a tube on one of the balls, and ride it with his front paws like a balance board.

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I also liked the rather amazing architecture of the aviary.

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I have to admit I actually liked the building more than the birds it housed - most of which seemed to be Japanese species that I often see outside around the lake anyway. I did like the dramatic sillouettes of the storks nests in the in the dome against the grey sky.

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There were other birds outside the main aviary as well, including a lot of local 'non-exhibit' birds hanging around trying to steal pieces of fish that visitors were throwing to the sealions.

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Our next stops were the elephant house (which I didn't photograph as I took a lot of elephant photos in Bali) and the koala house (where photography was prohibited). Both were pretty good, the elephants had a large, interesting outdoor paddock beside their house, and the koala house was the biggest I've seen.

The zoo offers a good Japanese and English PDF about the Asian Rainforest exhibit (where the elephants are), full of information and nice picture, that's free to download - http://www.tenzoo.jp/pdf/asian.pdf

There were also interesting, but unremarkable (nothing I hadn't seen before), nocturnal and reptile houses.

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After some lunch we headed over to the left hand side to check out the animals in the paddocks, a lively wolf pack and the well thought out African wild life area. Again I skipped taking pictures of animals that I'd recently taken nice photos of elsewhere - like the rhinos in Wakayama. I really liked the wolves and big cats here though.

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By then it was near closing time so we left the zoo, and Haru gave me a quick tour of 'deep' Osaka. The only real landmark here is the not-so-impressive Osaka tower. The narrow streets below the tower are mostly packed with small resturants, including many places serving fugu fish; the one that has a poisonous gland that can kill if the fish is incorrectly prepared, and correctly prepared means with just enough poison left in to make you lips pleasently numb when eating it... no, I didn't try it!

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The golden figure on he top left (above) is Billiken. While he might look like some ancient buddist icon he was in fact created by an American art teacher in the very early 1900s, and his likeness was sold as a charm doll bringing luck. Bizarrely Billiken caught on in Japan and was even enshrined in some places. In deep Osaka Billiken serves a double function as a symbol of Americana and as "The God of Things As They Ought to Be".

This was all very interesting but I still wasn't sure exactly what deep Osaka meant. According to Haru's definition deep Osaka is the area where most of the people you see actaully live in Osaka - the area that outsiders don't have much reason to visit as it's away from the cool shops and tourist spots. This means it also has more than a few discreet seedy spots, Haru (knowing what a pervert I am) lead me down a couple of side streets to show off a couple of still-in-business porn cinemas - one of which oddly shares a building with a kabuki theatre.

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You might think that there isn't really a place for porn cinemas in this world of home cinema and internet - but the guy in the top middle picture (above) bought a ticket and went in while we watched - and I was delighted to see there were also 'couples seats' available! How romantic.

Just across the street, there are also the semi demolished remains of 'Festival Gate'. An indoor entertainment and shopping centre that went bankrupt and closed down a while ago - though 'Spa World', which is kind of part of the same complex, is still in business. The sight of the Festival Gate rollercoaster track cut off in mid air got me excited about the possibility of exploring a great urban haikyo - but the whole place is tightly sealed off and nobody is getting inside.

It was getting late now so we stopped off to get something to eat, and by the time we came out onto the streets again it was a different, brightly lit, world of glowing fugu fish we stepped into.

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Sure, it's basically a run down urban nest of little streets, but all lit up there's something there that at least the likes of Jean Genet would find beautiful - to paraphrase Jeff Noon, sometimes 'in Osaka town, even our fugu flicker like jewels'.

Posted by DKJM74 23:38 Comments (0)

Festive Fun 2010

Christmas Hols around Osaka and ...

Happy New Year everybody! The weather finally broke about a week ago and it started to snow, as I write the playing fields outside the school are burried under two days worth of, almost constant, snow. It looks very pretty, but it makes the cycle to work tough :-(

Anyway, Christmas has come and gone, and this year we stayed fairly local (unlike last year when we went to Hiroshima and Miyajima) - mostly this was about saving money and holiday days for plans later in the year, but we also wanted to see a few local things. I'd heard nice things about the German Christmas market in Osaka, so we dicided to head over and make a day trip of it... well, I say day trip, but we seem incapable of getting out of bed before 11 O'clock when we don't have to work so it wasn't really a full day.

When we did get to Osaka we headed down to the port area (where the Kaiyukan aquarium is), it was still too early for the illuminations so we decided to ride the huge port side ferris wheel which gives a nice panoramic view of the area.

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One of the buildings we could see was the Suntory Museum (more of a gallery and exhibition centre) so that was our next stop - where we ended up watching an IMAX 3D movie about the underwater kelp forests of Calafornia - which was very nice, if not very festive.

By the time we came out of the cinema the aquarium's illuminations were all lit up and looking very nice.

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It seemed like now was a good time to head over to the Christmas market, which was in the grounds of the Sky Building; which means we ended up mirroring one of our first dates in December last year when we went in the Kaiyukan and up Sky Building.

The market was smaller than I expected, but it did actually have quite of lot of traditional European Christmas snacks, drinks and decorations - from the giant Christmas tree to soildier style nutcrackers - and a ridiculously cute pug in reindeer costume.

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As ever Haru was more interested in the food and drink - in particular the mulled (warm spiced) red wine - which was expensive, but you got to keep the Christmas Stocking shaped glass it came in; bargain.

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Of course there were some very Japanese twists to it all as well - like the seemingly obligatory cute costumed girl group singing a Christmas songs. At first we felt sorry for the one who had to wear the not-so-sexy reindeer costume, but looking back she was probably the only one who was warm.

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Western boy/girl bands typically have about 5 members which is enough to cover most of the 'types'. Japanese boy bands are similar (as you can see from this 4 man combo that was on after the girls); some popular groups include SMAP, Greeen, Arashi and Exile (I don't listen to them but I know about them). The girl bands however are often HUGE, with 20 to 40 members; AKB48 is probably the best known of these; there are many others as well, including at least two imitators with the number 48 in their name!!

So we'd looked around, eaten, drunk and I'd perv'd a bit - it was time to go home. The plan was to get up early next morning and head back into Osaka to check out the zoo and an area Haru calls 'deep Osaka' ... remember what I said about getting up when we don't have to work?

Well, when we finally got up, we both agreed it was too late for a zoo trip.

A while ago when were heading out on one of our road trips I saw a sign for 'The insect museum' on route, since then whenever we've been without a plan I've always said 'Let's go to the Insect Museum' - well this time Haru finally agreed; yeah! So we got in the car and drove over to 'Itami City Musuem of Insects', and although going there had always been a bit of a joke I was glad we finally went in the end. The museum was building in a nice big park and turned out to be pretty interesting.

It had lots of bugs - pinned, living and edible! (Actually I've tried that once myself so I can't comment).

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It also had bugs that look like faces, and places for faces that look like bugs.

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and we got to meet a huge Santa Wasp - who hasn't had that fantasy??

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but, best of all, it also had a very nice big glasshouse full of butterflies (with another nice Christmas touch - a christmas tree decorated with bright shiney cocoons).

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Most of the butterflies were species native to the Southern most territories of Japan (the Nansei islands which include Kagoshima and Okinawa). I was particuarly impressed with one species that had amazing I'm-a-dead-leaf camouflage when it's wings were closed, but was red and black when it displayed.

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Now I know a lot of you know I'm pretty keen on bugs and creepy crawlies, some people say I'm a little too keen and that I might just 'bug out' one day, like this -

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but don't worry, I found the perfect product in help you keep it together in the museum rest rooms.

Introducing -

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'Sanity - for toilet' no more going insane in public conveniences for me. Hurrah!!

Posted by DKJM74 01:31 Comments (0)

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