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22 Days in Japan, Day 10: A Trip to the Zoo

October 16, 2010 in Featured, Travel

Today’s my last real day in Nagoya, and I closed it, in part, by going to the zoo. I haven’t been to the zoo in 10 years.

This entry is part of a series, 22 Days in Japan: A Series»

The zoo in question is Higashiyama Zoo (and Botanical Gardens) in eastern Nagoya, in the Chikusa ward. It’s gigantic by any means, combining an already large zoo with endless forests and gardens, and topping it all off with the Higashiyama Sky Tower (yep, another one!). Japan has a huge fascination with towers that I, an outsider from the suburbs of New Jersey, do not understand.

But first things first. Earlier this morning, I checked out of Hostel Ann, and checked back into Kyoya Ryokan. The previous night, I’d managed to wake everyone up in my guest room after stumbling around in the dark looking for my cellphone. I ended up knocking over a stack of coins that someone had thoughtfully set up, and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, as I try to check Facebook and email on my phone, I accidentally press the play button in the media player instead and start blasting music. And my phone crashes. FARRRRRRRRRKKKKK.

Lunch is a grab-and-go prepared meal from a supermarket next to the Higashiyamakoen metro station. The bread and pastry selection here is simply amazing. There’s pretty much every type of cream puff, stuffed bun, and flavored roll imaginable. I don’t know how the heck I’m not gaining any weight here. I stumble upon a shelf holding nothing but CalorieMate bars and laugh a little bit to myself. In the game Metal Gear Solid 3, the main character eats these to restore his health. They’re pretty tasty too.

Quite a selection of pastries.

Quite a selection of pastries.

And now I’m walking through the zoo entrance. The zoo is packed with kids, families, and young couples. Straight out of the gate, there’s a large pond on the right and a monorail on the left. The pond houses some black swans and turtles. Eh, seen those before. I move on.

The entrance gate to Higashiyama Zoo. Doesn't look like much from here...

The entrance gate to Higashiyama Zoo. Doesn't look like much from here...

Right past the pond are a few large pens housing some rhinos, aka rhinoceros unicornis. They’re pretty aimless, and seem eager to show onlookers nothing but a butt crack.

Next, I come across another pond with one of Higashiyama Zoo’s greatest treasures: penguins! Most of them seem content swimming around the pond or sitting around their little central base camp. It’s something like 70 degrees out here, I don’t know how these guys can handle it. An Emperor penguin waddles out of the structure, stands in the sun for a little bit, and then jumps into the water.

That’s the highlight of my day so far. I end up seeing some elk, pink flamingos, storks, bears, a giraffe, an ostrich, and some cute (and lazy) koala bears.

Pink flamingos at the zoo.

Pink flamingos at the zoo.

The area behind the zoo is a botanical garden, and it’s one heck of a garden. I make my way through the rose garden, which features Floribunda Roses, Old Roses, and Climbing Roses, for starters. Nearby, some flower paparazzi snap pictures of roses like nobody’s business. I take some pictures too, just for the hell of it.

War of the roses.

War of the roses.

The main paths wind around a big forest and lake, and there are lots of smaller trails leading into the forest. And there’s stairs. Who puts stairs in a forest? But this forest would probably be a great place to play Manhunt at night. Then again, I don’t think I’d want to be here at night.

Yet another trail leading into the unknown.

Yet another trail leading into the unknown.

I pass an old man sleeping on some leaves, a saran-wrapped tree, more flowers, and a tunnel made out of stone.

The last part of my zoo experience is the Higashiyama Sky Tower. It’s on top of a hill and you have to take an escalator up, before even getting to the elevator. It’s one of the longest escalators I’ve ever been on. And guess what? There’s no down escalator.

Higashiyama Sky Tower.

Higashiyama Sky Tower.

But the view from the top makes it all worth it. Looking over sprawling Nagoya, which just two days ago seemed almost like a quiet little neighborhood, I wonder how much of the city I’ve missed during my three days here. Have I seen only 1% of what this city has to offer? What about the other 99%?

A view of the zoo from the top of Higashiyama Sky Tower.

A view of the zoo from the top of Higashiyama Sky Tower.

A zoomed-in view of Nagoya from the top of the sky tower.

A zoomed-in view of Nagoya from the top of the sky tower.

On my way out of the zoo, I spot a spotted leopard in a cage, conveniently located next to a sign that says Please Touch My Whiskers in English. You know, that’s a tough one, but I think I’ll pass.

Please touch my whiskers.

Please touch my whiskers.

The rest of my day consists of roaming around Nagoya, attempting to visit several places that closed shop by the time I arrived. Come on, it’s only 5′oclock guys! I seem to have this problem a lot.

Night falls, and I take the train to Higashibetsuin, the closest stop to a place called the Golden Child Cafe. It’s a small cafe in a very dark part of town. Looks like a nice date place. That doesn’t help me much, as my attempts at simple conversation with my waitress fail miserably, and I’m convinced that she’s hiding in the back room while I’m there. I end up eating a chicken dish and having an orange-flavored alcoholic drink on the side, lamenting my last night in Nagoya.

…continued in 22 Days in Japan, Day 11.

***

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