CREA­TURE COM­FORT: JOHNNY FILART dis­cov­ers that the Sun­shine Aquar­ium in Tokyo is a fas­ci­nat­ing place to ex­plore


Animal Scene - - CONTENTS - Text ansd pho­tos by JOHNNY FILART

Our fam­ily va­ca­tion in Tokyo was to cel­e­brate my only son’s grad­u­a­tion from col­lege. I had pretty much re­signed my­self to just fol­low­ing the plans of my wife and chil­dren dur­ing our five days’ stay in Ja­pan. My re­quest was sim­ple: “No tours, please!” This was one of the few trips abroad that we were to­gether as a fam­ily, so I re­al­ized my main role…was to fund the en­tire trip and en­joy it with the rest of the fam­ily! My wife and two el­der daugh­ters did most of the plan­ning; ev­ery­one else had very con­crete plans as to where to go and the pri­or­i­ties they had as far as shop­ping was con­cerned. And be­cause we were bring­ing along my grand­son, I felt like a proud grand­fa­ther and re­signed my­self to mak­ing sure things went right most of the time.

I was thrilled that de­spite the lan­guage bar­rier, I was able to eat din­ner in a Ja­panese restau­rant be­hind the ho­tel and had enough sign lan­guage left in me to be able to bring back enough take­out food for those who stayed be­hind. I ap­pre­ci­ated how a Google app let us pic­tures of an item we were un­sure of and then just press “trans­late” for help; other trans­la­tor and nav­i­ga­tion apps also helped. Thus, shop­ping was a breeze through­out the first two days. Walk­ing fif­teen kilo­me­ters a day for me wasn’t a chore as it took the place of my daily ex­er­cise and the weather co­op­er­ated with cool Baguio-like tem­per­a­tures; a light jacket was enough to pro­tect me through­out the en­tire day.

A trip to Ike­bukuro to shop at the Poke­mon Cen­ter took us to the Sun­shine Cen­ter, a fifty-two floor mixed-use com­mer­cial cen­ter on whose first four floors a com­mer­cial mall was lo­cated. Feel­ing sorry for me, the fam­ily asked again where I was in­ter­ested to go es­pe­cially since they were well aware that I gave up an in­tended trip to Tsuk­iji, Tokyo’s leg­endary fish mar­ket, which sells hun­dreds of tons of blue fin tuna caught in Philip­pine seas. The ini­tial sug­ges­tion for me to visit the Sun­shine aquar­ium on the tenth floor failed to make me smile. But af­ter two hours of walk­ing and fol­low­ing my fam­ily around the mall, I re­con­sid­ered as I was cu­ri­ous as to how a mas­sive aquar­ium com­plex could be built on the tenth floor of a Tokyo build­ing.

Sheep­ishly, I joined a line of moth­ers push­ing kids in their strollers to buy tick­ets for Sun­shine Aquar­ium. It sud­denly dawned on me that it was a week­day, so I was not re­ally go­ing in with a whole lot of peo­ple but rather, just a few moth­ers car­ing for their young ones dur­ing the day. I gave the full 2,000 yen pay­ment af­ter re­al­iz­ing se­nior cit­i­zens in Ja­pan had to be 65 years old to be given the fif­teen per­cent dis­count. No luck there!

How­ever, the dis­ap­point­ment was short-lived as I en­tered the aquar­ium af­ter be­ing given a guide to the en­tire com­plex. My cu­rios­ity was im­me­di­ately and im­mensely sat­is­fied as I saw two floors of in­door and out­door struc­tures that con­tained the var­i­ous sec­tions of the cen­ter. On the first level was the Ocean Jour­ney as well as the Marine Gar­den, which had the Sky Jour­ney, while the sec­ond level con­tained the Wa­ter­front Jour­ney of fresh­wa­ter fish and flora to­gether with at­trac­tive gift shops.

Ac­cord­ing to the guide, Sun­shine Aquar­ium was built as Ja­pan’s first metropoli­tan high rise aquar­ium, ush­er­ing in a new type of fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment meant to in­tro­duce discoverie­s that will in­spire peo­ple of all ages. It is an aquatic en­vi­ron­ment in the cen­ter of the Tokyo close to the sky. Since 2011 it has been bring­ing joy and ex­cite­ment to the peo­ple of Ja­pan as well as tourists com­ing from dif­fer­ent parts of the world.

The ocean jour­ney con­sisted of var­i­ous fish, mam­mals, and in­ver­te­brates, such as co­rals, squid, and jel­ly­fish. It show­cased how liv­ing mat­ter co-ex­isted in bays, along shore­lines, and deep in open wa­ters of the sea. Sun­shine’s huge wa­ter tanks are con­structed to re­flect how an­i­mals live at sea. The at­mos­phere sim­u­lates the ex­pe­ri­ence of walk­ing on the ocean floor and tak­ing an ocean jour­ney. The dark en­vi­ron­ment re­ally cap­tured what it was like liv­ing with sea crea­tures.

The wa­ter­front jour­ney takes you to the fresh­wa­ter home of Asia and Cen­tral Amer­i­can fish in var­i­ous rivers, lakes, and coasts, which are home to a di­verse range of liv­ing crea­tures. This was more fa­mil­iar to me as I could very well rec­og­nize the same types of fishes and rep­tiles I kept at home, from the Asian and Latin Amer­i­can arowanas and st­ingrays, igua­nas, col­or­ful poi­son ar­row tree frogs, as well as four va­ri­eties of tor­toise: red­foots, ra­di­atas, Burmese stars, and the spi­der tor­toise. Here was where I felt most com­fort­able through­out my three-hour visit. In fact, the time passed by so fast and I did not even feel hun­gry even if it was al­ready past 1 p.m.

The marine gar­den and sky jour­ney was in an open area show­cas­ing palm and gar­den trees amid the tow­er­ing cityscape of metropoli­tan Tokyo. Here, you ex­pe­ri­ence how birds, river ot­ters, and other small an­i­mals live to­gether un­der the open sky. Sea lions as well as pen­guins re­lax in their shore­line habi­tat as well as swim in acrylic see-through en­clo­sures, sim­u­lat­ing a feel­ing as if they were swim­ming through the sky show­cas­ing their daily ac­tiv­i­ties.

The trip was not com­plete without my half-hour visit to the gift shop,

where cour­te­ous English speak­ing sales per­son­nel walked me through var­i­ous items which even­tu­ally ate into my shop­ping bud­get. I bought a toy tur­tle for my grand­son, sev­eral red arowana mag­netic fig­ures, a few sun catch­ers for my sec­re­taries at school and at the of­fice, as well as key­chains for my friends. All of them rep­re­sented aquatic life in var­i­ous ecosys­tems.

Need­less to say, upon join­ing my wife and sec­ond daugh­ter for a ra­men lunch, I could not hide that huge smile on my face, es­pe­cially af­ter ex­cit­edly show­ing off the many pic­tures I took, and told them sto­ries about the brief en­counter I had with the aquar­ium in the sky!

Im­me­di­ately, this trip to Sun­shine Aquar­ium was one of the high points in our Tokyo va­ca­tion. Of course, I en­joyed the time spent with the en­tire fam­ily, cooking break­fast ev­ery­day for ev­ery­one to get them ready for each day’s shop­ping ad­ven­ture. Gone was my mind fo­cus­ing on an­tic­i­pat­ing lan­guage prob­lems or get­ting lost in this large me­trop­o­lis. In its place was a wide ar­ray of pic­tures and mem­o­ries of a morn­ing spent in a par­adise of my dreams!

So if you ever think you will get tired of shop­ping in Tokyo, Sun­shine Aquar­ium will surely fas­ci­nate you. It will ex­cite you and make you feel like a young child ex­pe­ri­enc­ing life in the for­est and oceans and all the liv­ing things God cre­ated to make a per­fect world!

A Surib­achi Co­ral gives life to schools of col­or­ful marine fish

The fa­mous black arowana

Sun­shine Sou­venir Shop guar­an­tees you will bring friends and loved ones great “pasalubong­s”!

A school of Ama­zon fresh­wa­ter fish

Squid idly and play­fully swim in their tank

Jel­ly­fish com­monly found in the Sea of Ja­pan

A rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Great Bar­rier Reef and how it gives life and shel­ter to col­or­ful marine an­i­mals like fish and co­rals.

A large school of sea bream swim­ming with a mag­nif­i­cent Napoleon Wrasse de­pict­ing the Force of Life!

Fish and co­ral life have been kept vi­brant and alive by so­phis­ti­cated con­tain­ment and fil­tra­tion sys­tems for the last 33 years.

A huge marine tank greets ev­ery­one who be­gins their ocean jour­ney at the Sun­shine Aquar­ium.

A beau­ti­ful stingray swim­ming grace­fully!

Gor­geous species of Burmese Star Tor­toises

Shop­ping in Tokyo is fun even in the rain; just ask the Filart kids!

Poi­son ar­row tree frogs from Cen­tral Amer­ica’s Ama­zon for­est

The au­thor at the fa­mous and su­per busy Shibuya cross­ing

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