Thursday, September 11, 2008

Shikoku Day 6: Katsurahama Beach

On the final day of our Shikoku trip, the goal was to hit Kochi's beautiful beaches.

We headed first to Katsurahama Beach, one of the most famous scenic spots in Kochi prefecture. In addition to simply being a pretty spot with lush green pine trees bordering a very blue sea, it's also supposed to be a good site for moon watching, though we didn't plan to be there late enough for that.

Perhaps part of what makes the beach so pretty is that no swimming is allowed, so you can enjoy the scenery without a bunch of annoying tourists lounging around.

Another big draw for me was the aquarium. It advertised sea turtles. And seeing the sea turtles was, as you'll recall, the whole motivation for taking the trip to Shikoku in the first place.

On the way to the beach we stopped to have a look at this famous statue of Ryoma Sakamoto, one of the key figures behind the Meiji Restoration.

He is revered as one of the first Japanese to realize that Japan's future lay in an open Japan that could one day be the equal of the Western powers. The sign by the statue informs visitors that admirers from all over Japan visit the statue to have a talk with Ryoma, but nobody was chatting him up while I was there.

From there it was a short jaunt to the actual beach, which didn't disappoint. We had fun getting our feet wet and subsequently getting soaked up to our thighs when some big waves came rushing in with the tide. It was a bit gravelly.

Then it was on to the aquarium.

Jellyfish glow in the camera's flash.

The flash also angers the creepy demon fish...Watch out!

Of course the sea turtle exhibit was the main attraction. Gotta love sea turtles...

The sea turtle won't crack a smile for Joe.

There was a large pool set up in the middle of all the tanks where you could watch the sea turtles up close. For a 100 yen donation, you got a Dixie cup filled with little fish and a pair of disposable chopsticks to use to feed the turtles.

Joe tried it first.

Mr. Sea Turtle has his eye on a sardine!

What you don't see is the horror that followed — the blood bath that ensued after the turtle flew up and swallowed Joe's fist whole, clamping its large jaws around his wrist.

OK, just kidding. But it could have happened. Maybe.

That turtle did shoot up and chomp down fast and hard on Joe's tiny fish, snapping the chopsticks right in half. It was truly scary.

Of course, there were no aquarium employees in sight. Nothing to keep dumb people (or, say, small children) from reaching down to pet these dangerous beasts. There was just a warning sign on the wall showing a bloody finger. Like I've said before — the Japanese can be quite lax when it comes to safety. If you get hurt — Your Fault!

Now here I am feeding Mr. Turtle.

He had quite poor pool-side manners, if I do say so. Just couldn't control himself. He gave such a big splash with those flippers that that revolting pool water flew right up into my mouth, which was hanging open in a frown of horror.


But still. They were cute. In a crusty old lumbering kinda way.

After we'd had enough of the sea turtles, we climbed the stairs to the second floor. There wasn't much there, just a whale skeleton... and this:

It's a whale penis. If you don't believe me, look at the little illustration above it on the left. You can see a little arrow pointing to its penis.

Why the Japanese would feel the need to preserve a whale penis is beyond me. It made Joe's day, though.

Next it was back outside to admire some of the other sea life.

An inquisitive baby otter...

Some very playful but stinky penguins...

A seal in a rusty enclosure. Poor seal.

As luck would have it, a dolphin show was scheduled to start while we were there. Joe got a couple really good shots of the dolphins jumping.

The show was entertaining, although we couldn't really see the dolphins under that icky green water. I have to say I thought the entire aquarium was maintained pretty poorly, and the enclosures were much too small. It was depressing.

Leaving the aquarium, I saw this children's shirt for sale at a little kiosk:


I was very tempted to buy it. Amy, you came so close to getting a package for Chloe. She could've worn this during the terrible 2s. Kiss my ass!

From here we decided to hoof it to a beach where we actually could swim. Joe talked to a clerk in a souvenir shop who apparently told him in Japanese that the walk to the beach was probably a half hour. So off we went. It was hot. Very, very hot. Fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement hot.

We crossed a dangerous, heavily trafficked bridge and sweated buckets. I became highly cranky. On the other side of the bridge we realized we didn't seem to be getting anywhere and stopped at some seedy looking hotel and tracked down someone to call a taxi to take us the rest of the way. But after the taxi arrived, to our dismay the taxi driver informed us it would be a 40 minute drive to the beach — certain to be a pretty penny. So instead we asked him to take us back to Katsurahama Beach, and we just took the next bus back to town.

We didn't really have time by that point to try to make it to the beach since we needed to catch a bus home. So we never did get to go swimming at the beach, which was a little disappointing, but maybe we can do it if we make a return trip someday. I wouldn't mind returning to Kochi again sometime. There's a lot more to see and do... surfing, pottery making, cave exploring and, of course, a visit to those peculiar long-tailed roosters.

The bus back took around four hours. It was nice to finally be back home in our own beds.. er, futons. 

So there you have it! This concludes our great Shikoku adventure. Hurrah!


haseemscamel said...

What a great trip. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I saw your jellyfish post on google alerts. You might be interested in Jellyfish Art ( They make custom jellyfish aquariums.

Anonymous said...

Would you mind commenting on the situation of the animals in the aquarium especially the seals and Dolphins? I have heard some concerning descriptions and I wonder what was your impression

Gail said...

The conditions in the aquarium were far from ideal. We were saddened to see the rusty walls and green water. The enclosures were too small, and they smelled. It was all rather depressing. I had to wonder if the Japanese found it as disgraceful as I did.