Breakfast at a Kooky Cafe
After a good sleep at our ryokan in Randaij we unloaded our bikes from the hire car, checked them over and set off on a cycle ride along the back streets into Shimoda. seeking breakfast. We started the day with a coffee at a cute little café we found en route. I have always loved these quirky Japanese cafes, feeling like you are seated in someone’s living room with interesting collections of souvenirs and books. こおひいはうす可否was no exception, a vast selection of cups was on display in every nook and cranny and even hanging on hooks from the ceiling. The mama san also took her time to choose the beans and brew the coffee, slowly dripping it through a glass vessel that could have been the perfect fit in a chemistry laboratory. Jerome drank a fresh orange juice with our breakfast of thick toast and eggs.
Scenic Perry Street
Our destination for the day was the floating aquarium, located in a bay behind the hill of the memorial park at Shimoda. Cycling along the road towards the hill we stumbled onto the little canal area that now very much reminds me of Kurashiki, just in miniature. The street was named after commodore Perry, who apparently walked along the path to sign the important convention of Kanagawa that ended the complete isolation of Japan and opened the port to American trade in 1854. The pretty street is lined with heavy storehouses with thick earthen walls to protect them from fire. The old buildings remain in good condition and the street looks still like Perry would have seen it on his wanders through town but many have since been converted into shops and cafes.
Views over Shimoda Harbour and Bay
Crossing the little bridge at the end of the canal we turned up onto the hilly path just after the Myoken Shrine. The trail was rather steep and we had to get off our saddles to push our bikes up along the winding path. The path was lined with lush hydrangea bushes, still in flower and the views made more than up for the climb. Below we could see the houses of Shimoda, nestled in between the many hills and the dark water of the river and the port. To the other side of the bay we spotted the cable car ascending Mount Nesugata and the Susquehanna, a black tourist sailboat was just about to leave on the next cruise. The sailboat is a life-sized replica of the black ship that brought Commodore Perry to Japan. I am sure most kids would love to ride both the cable car and the sailboat during a stay in Shimoda.
The Floating Aquarium
Once we had reached the top of the hill we were in small forest that provided us with some well-needed shade and a chance for a rest and a drink after the climb. Peeking through the trees we could glimpse the floating “UFO” like building and pathways of the aquarium. Jerome got overexcited as he is a huge fan of underwater creatures and could not wait to arrive at the bottom of the hill and the entrance to the floating aquarium. Thankfully the way down was quick and easy on our bikes.
Visiting the Aquarium
The entrance fee to the aquarium felt rather steep but we had promised Jerome a visit and had to bite the bullet… Walking across the floating boardwalk we could see some people in the water of the enclosed cove and some dolphin fins. This immediately brought back memories of the film “The Cove” about the capture and slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fisherman. I have always been wary about keeping dolphins and larger sea creatures in aquariums and water parks across the world. I comforted myself with the thought that at least the dolphins here had more space than they usually did with access to a whole cove and natural sea water, not that this made the fact any better. However, I guess until people actually stop paying large amounts of money to swim and watch these shows the freedom for these beautiful sea creatures is still not guaranteed.
Sealife Around the Izu Peninsular
The UFO like building exhibited a variety of fish, invertebrates and seaweed recreating the sea around the Izu Peninsular. The sea around Japan has a wide variety of colourful fish being warm and almost sub-tropical. Next up was the penguin pool, and turtle pond. Inside another room we could see jellyfish floating through the water.
The Seal and Dolphin Shows
Inside the seal house we were lucky to just catch the feeding and Jerome was overjoyed to watch them for a while. In the end we watched the dolphin and seal show, which was in line with other Japanese shows, very entertaining and fun and totally over the top! There is no need to say that all the kids enjoyed the dolphins and seals doing tricks with balls, rings and diving along the glass wall that separated the aquarium from the seating area…some people even got wet at the front.
Kakigori as a Treat
After the dolphin show ended we had a sweet, sticky treat of kakigori (shaved ice with syrup). Jerome had started to fall in love with the sugary dish on a previous visit to Japan and has been obsessed with it ever since.
Search for a Beach
After leaving the aquarium we continued our bike ride along the coastline for a hunt of a beach where we could go for a refreshing swim in the sea. Read all about it in my following post.