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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Great reviews – coffee, bikes and kisses (Day 201)

It's great to read great reviews about places, especially when they involve coffee, bikes...and kisses??!!

A lazy morning – mind you the blog from yesterday took a time to write. We finally left our clean and compact Airbnb early afternoon to go to @Giragirachariya cafe - it had 30 reviews with a 4.9 rating. We arrived to find that the shop was a bike shop with a little coffee bar – what a good idea. I joked with the barista that the coffee had better be good; we’d just walked for 25 minutes in the midday sun. He did well – the coffee was by far the best we have drunk in Japan to date. It was such a cool place. The coffee machine had bike handles and the bar stools were made from Brooks bike seats.

We chatted to Sayaka, a beautiful lady who co-owns this place with her husband. I really liked her, she was full of spirit. Sayaka shared that she was not one to behave in the traditional Japanese way and told us that there was a name for a wife – “kanai” that she disliked – it literally means “inside house”. We had such a lovely chat and then a lady came in with her 3 children all under 5-years-old, choosing a bike for the eldest boy. We mentioned that when our eldest learnt to cycle, we took him to a hill with long grass so he could freewheel down slowly. If he fell off at least he had a soft landing. He very quickly learnt to ride! I think she was impressed with this as she asked us about raising children.

Her husband Rene returned from a bike ride. He originates from Geelong near Melbourne and came to Japan 11 years ago on a working visa. He bought a Japanese bike and later sold it on eBay where he discovered that it was sort after around the world. He saw an opportunity in the market and set up an online business tracksupermarket and then this bike shop/coffee bar. What a great couple – inspiring. We would have loved to chat longer…but they do have a business to run.

They recommended a noodle bar around the corner called Horie Yabu which has been in the same family since 1913. We both had delicious bowls of steaming hot noodles, mine with tofu and Tim’s with chicken; so filling. The elderly lady who served us turned out to be the granddaughter of the first owners and a photo album was produced with snaps of the family. What a special time we had there.

Next stop was Kaiyukan which is one of the largest Aquariums in the world. Wow – we've heard it had great reviews and we can see why. It has about 30,000 marine creatures representing 620 species. The escalators took us to the top of the building and then we gradually spiralled down, going past various huge tanks that represented specific regions of the Pacific Rim. The centrepiece is a 9 m deep, 34 m long tank with 5,400 tons of water, the acrylic glass protecting the sea-life and us was 30 cm thick!

Interestingly the theme of the Aquarium is based on scientist James Lovelock’s Gaia theory, suggesting that the Earth, together with its many active volcanoes and all living creatures, interact closely to form and function as a single organism. It focusses on the Pacific Ocean between the Pacific Rim volcanic belt, which is very current with the news of Fuego, Guatemala’s volcano erupting just today. As we walked about we kept seeing diagrams of “the Ring of Fire” where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions frequently occur and “the Ring of Life” representing the distribution of biodiversity in the Pacific Ocean.

Because of the layout, it seemed as if we were in close proximity to the sea creatures. As well as the many fish, there were seals and sea lions, a variety of penguins, and my favourite was the dolphins from the Tasman Sea. They appeared as if they were communicating with us. In fact, I am sure one was trying to give me a kiss – what do you think?

In the main tank were two whale sharks, the largest of all fish in the world. Tim and I both got a bit besotted with trying to get the best photo of one of them. Not sure that either of us succeeded.

Later we were able to stroke the back of sting-rays – very slimy and was extra careful to keep clear of the tails, also coral cat sharks and bamboo sharks which were rough like Tim’s stubble. It was wonderful to watch small children experiencing this – their little faces in glee.

Just before we left, we went through a darkened room with tanks of jellyfish – bizarre yet beautiful creatures that glowed. The Kaiyukan has done a great job to recreate the beautiful and diverse natural environments in the Pacific Rim area. I did have mixed feelings seeing the dolphins in the tank, however, it is a balance to educate people about the importance of marine life and one of the best ways is to enable them to experience this, even in a city. Plus Kaiyukan focuses on research and environmental protection activities – so let’s hope this is all good for the future of these wonderful marine creatures and our planet earth.

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