Yeah, I’m ringing this one in alone. On the other hand, I’m watching CRAZY JAPAN TV. Their version of a New Years Countdown involves a lot of bell ringing (giant bells that are rung with LOGS, that is) and praying, and people RUSHING THE TEMPLE like it is Wal-mart on Black Friday to get their First Prayer of the Year over ASAP.

There was also this crazy concert, with like, potential drag queens and somebody in a TOTALLY BLINGED OUT jacket and vest and a lady in a ballgown that would have been lovely except for how it was covered in a COW PATTERN (because it’s the year of the COW, see?).

I got back from Osaka today. I left a little early because, well, almost everything was closed for the holiday. Except for the aquarium, but I did that later. (More on that in a moment.) Anyway, shops were open but there’s only so much shopping I can do in Japan before I start to feel like I am OBESE because none of the stuff here is made for people with, say, thighs that actually touch when your heels are together. (YES. I KNOW. They are SO THIN here that they can put their heels together and there is still SPACE between their legs. WHAT IS THAT RIDICULOUS FLUKE OF GENETICS.)

Anyway, I came back to Toyama, and the train was so crowded I actually had to stand most of the time. (Also, when it was clearing out and all the standing people were grabbing seats, I was a little slow because I had wedged myself into this corner and then somebody blocked my escape route.

I am super pissed at myself about the train, actually. I bought one thing in Osaka that was not food, and I left it in my seat. Grar. I talked to the station people, and I wasn’t on a regular train I was on a specific express train, so they might be able to find it for me. I knew which car I was in, but not which seat, and the bag is a souvenir bag from the aquarium, so it’s sortof distinctive. I mean, it’s got fish all over it. They were supposed to give me a call, but I never got one. I’m going back to the station on Saturday, the 2nd, when people will (mostly) be back at work, to ask about it. (It’s not super valuable, but if I can get it back I would like to.)

Anyway, so, the trip. The first day I went to the Umeda Sky Building – a sort of double skyscraper with a bridge across the top that serves as an observation deck. It’s very Modern, and the deck makes it look a bit like an enormously tall Arc de Triomphe. I thought it was kind of cool, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people hated it as much as Parisians have hated the Eiffel for ages. The view from the top was totally awesome, and you could even go on the roof and stand in the open air. It was actually a lot less windy than I thought it would be. There was zero chance of falling off though – I mean, you would have to be really working at it to get to the edge, and there were guards around to stop people. Absolutely nobody was going to fall off by accident.

Underneath was a sort of recreated old fashioned street, except that it had nothing but restaurants. I thought there would also be shopping, but no. Just food.

The next day, the 30th, I went to the aquarium I mentioned earlier. First, I rode the Giant Ferris Wheel. It was actually tremendously high, about 100 meters. (The carriages were enclosed, of course.) Again, the views were awesome, though it wasn’t as clear on Tuesday, so I couldn’t see as far. As for the aquarium itself…

Okay, so my standards are pretty high after SeaWorld, which isn’t technically an aquarium but nonetheless informs my idea of what any place containing animals should be.

The first level or so of the aquarium were a little meh – I mean, fish, okay, awesome. Colorful fish, even better. BIG fish, always fun. They had some otters, but the otters mostly looked a little like they would really prefer the screaming children to leave. The sea lions or possibly seals were swimming around, but somehow not shown off to their best advantage – the same with the dolphins. However, the dolphins were and entirely different species, not the bottle-nose at all. The otters at one point decided that they were FILTHY FILTHY and HAD TO SCRUB. NOW. which was pretty funny. The penguins were cool, but actually looked as though it was too hot in their area – they were all standing around with their wings spread and under the fall of snow instead of actually moving at all.

But the real excitement happened when I got to the main tank, because the main tank featured two GODDAMN HUGE whale sharks. Whale sharks are not like great whites at all, they’re much flatter and less pointy and they have spots. Also their mouths are not filled with freaky sharp teeth but instead greatly resemble that popular shark-styled dustbuster.

So there were two whale sharks, that were maybe as much as 10 meters long? Whatever, they were Damn Big. Then there were manta rays. Now, I love rays in general, but this was my favorite kind – black on top, white on bottom, with the elongated pointy fins instead of the blunted, more circular shape. These ones were big enough to ride. : DDD There were also some little hammer heads, and some big fish, and some little fish – enough of each kind that they made swirling schools in the big tank.

There was also a littler tank with something called “sunfish” that were sort of bizarre – they were quite large, but with no apparent side fins, only two big ones on top and bottom. The tail fin was very abrupt. In the tank with the sunfish were four large octopi. One was tucked grumpily in the corner. One was hiding in some rocks, all THIS IS NOT THE OCTOPUS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR and doing his best to blend with the rocks. (He wasn’t exactly up to Obi Wan standards though, he was … quite visible.) The third was just hanging out on the glass – like he swam up and stuck himself to it and said Hey, this looks like a nice place to just hang.

The fourth octopus was the best though. All the Japanese people were in general exited about them. The scene was sort of as follows:

tiny Japanese children: TAKO. TAKO. TAKOTAKOTAKO.
adults: Ooo. Nice.
me: Hi, Lunch. You look tasty.
octopus 4: HELLO. LETS HUG.

Octopus 4 was totally great all the time, wandering happily over the tank, pressed up to the plexiglass so we could see his gripping suckers and spreading himself out as wide as he could go. He completely stole the scene from the sunfish, which were the supposed star of that tank.

After the octopi there were some giant spider crabs. The thing I did not know about giant spider crabs is that apparently they do not scuttle, they mince. I would not have thought that their legs were good for walking, as they each seem to end in a deadly looking spike but they seem to manage. The crabs were basically the end, except for the jellyfish. They were cool, but not exactly… lively.

And now, it’s definitely time for some sleep. You all have some time to kill before that ball drops in NY, but here’s its been 2009 for a couple hours, and I should do something productive tomorrow. (LIKE BAKE, MAYBE. : D )