Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Step right up, getcher turtle rides here!

Monday last week was a pretty lazy day for Joe and me. Thanks to the Children's Day holiday, we were enjoying a day off work by puttering around and enjoying the sunshine. Children's Day (May 5) is a day to celebrate the healthy growth and happiness of children. Sounds like a good enough reason to take off work to me.

We were walking leisurely under a sunny sky to the Nitori home furnishings store when we happened by this little enclosed area with parents and small children milling about. I was astonished to see several giant tortoises lumbering about in a pen, with children feeding them cucumbers and carrot sticks and greens.

I was thoroughly tickled. A random petting zoo for tortoises?? It was the last thing I ever expected to see on the sidewalk on the walk to the furniture store.

I love Japan.

Some adults sitting at a nearby table were selling jars of the veggies for 100 yen ($1), which I happily forked over. I think maybe only kids were really supposed to do it, or at least parents with kids there, but maybe I got a pass for being so exuberant. They probably just didn't want to attempt to point out, in English, that I am not, in fact, 4 years old anymore.

Maybe I'm easily entertained, but it was a real thrill to see those monster turtles up close. I held the cucumbers out with a pair of tongs and they chomped 'em up just like good turtles should: slow and steady.

Unfortunately, I was too big to join the little tots for the turtle rides.

You shoulda seen some of their faces when their parents tried to set them on the shells of those mighty beasts. Pure terror! When one father held his little daughter out in front of him and tried to set her on a tortoise, she clenched the back of his neck with such ferocity you'd think he was dropping her not into a pen of sedate reptiles but a cage of starving wolves. Precious! Happy Children's Day, kid! Now begins your life-long phobia of turtles! Hurray!

Up close, they (the tortoises... not the children) look ancient. Their heads are leathery and wrinkled and spotted. Slowly, their heads sway from one side to the other, searching for the next closest carrot stick, their scaly club-like arms pulling them along so deliberately, so sluggishly, you feel like their shell must be like lead.

I call this one Mort. Mortoise the Tortoise.

Striking fear into the hearts of small children, Mort bolts across the pen at slug speed!

Appropriately, there was even a hare hiding out at the far end of the pen, ready to put the smack down on any of the smaller turtles if they got too rowdy.


M.KATE said...

Hi there, stumbled on this blog and very glad i did. this is wonderful, always loved japan, never been there though, so will come here often :)

XUE said...

kongbawa gail ! what i dread will be the appearance of my neighbours' summer pets - those huge rhino-beetles!