Gi­ant tor­toise Bon-chan walks Tokyo’s streets — slowly

The China Post - - LIFE -

A huge rep­tile is on the prowl through Tokyo’s streets — but un­like Godzilla, who stomped across Ja­pan’s cap­i­tal in a blaze of de­struc­tive en­ergy, Bon-chan the gi­ant tor­toise isn’t do­ing any­thing very quickly.

The me­ter-long African spurred tor­toise, which tips the scales at 70 kilo­grams, is a regular sight on the streets of Tokyo’s Tsuk­ishima dis­trict, as he and owner Hisao Mi­tani take their snail­paced daily walk.

“My wife just fell in love with him when she saw him at a pet shop, so she brought him home,” Mi­tani, who runs a fu­neral home, told AFP.

That was 20 years ago, when Bon-chan was small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.

“I sort of knew he would be­come a good-size tor­toise but did not think he would be this big.”

And like Godzilla, Bon- chan can also stop traf­fic — though gen­er­ally it is so mo­torists can take a look at him, rather than be­cause he has crushed their ve­hi­cles.

While his fic­tional fore­run­ner fed — in some in­car­na­tions — on nu­clear power plants, Bon-chan prefers cab­bage and car­rots, gen­tly tak­ing them out of the hands of chil­dren who rush to greet him.

‘Even in sad­ness, peo­ple smile

when they see him’

The tor­toise lives in a pen at Mi­tani’s fu­neral home, where he greets callers.

“Some peo­ple may say it’s ab­surd to keep such a big tor­toise at the en­trance of a fu­neral ser­vice. But even in their time of sad­ness, peo­ple smile when they see him, so I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have him,” said the un­der­taker.

Bon-chan’s size — and the fact that Mi­tani dresses him in a frilly coat dur­ing the chillier months — have made him quite a celebrity in the neigh­bor­hood.

Tor­toises are sym­bols of longevity in Ja­pan, where lo­cal myth says they can live for 10,000 years.

That has rubbed off on his owner, who is known in the area as “kame sen­nin” (“im­mor­tal tor­toise man”), although Mi­tani cheer­fully ad­mits he’s not likely to be here for eter­nity.

“I hear this kind of rep­tile lives for about 80 years, so it’s cer­tain that I will go be­fore him,” said the 62-year-old.


This pic­ture taken on Wed­nes­day, June 10 shows Bon-chan, a 19-year-old male African spurred tor­toise weigh­ing about 70 kilo­grams, walk­ing with his owner Hisao Mi­tani, left, and meet­ing a passerby in the town of Tsuk­ishima in Tokyo.

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