Yesterday was a wonderful day. We started in Tokyo Sea Life Park (the surrounding park was very aesthetic, photos at the end). Then, we ventured through the aquariums, encountering VERY adorable penguin plushed animals. In the afternoon, we met Oda sensei, who immersed us in a wonderful learning experience about tuna and the aquarium’s educational efforts. We started by drawing the bluefin tunas through direct observations and catching a glimpse of the “Employee Only” mechanical rooms. Lastly, we got to touch a frozen tuna for educational purposes. Then, we continued into an engaging conversation/Q&A about marine biology conservation and education efforts.
I am not the fan of neither aquariums nor zoos, but if I had met such an inspiring educator such as Oda-san and experienced his directly involved approach, I may have headed toward a different research direction in life. All I felt from aquariums (even more so than zoos) were the unethical confinement of sea creatures for recreational purposes. While the majority of the families yesterday still went for recreational purposes, I really appreciate the efforts done by the aquarium towards outreach (especially the free part). Compared to aquariums in Houston, where $$$ is the main goal and it is impossible to schedule an educational event without an organized school field trip), I have grown to see such institutions as just another money-making agency that exploits the livelihood of sea creatures (and a white tiger) for the amusement of humanity. I do think there still exists ethical problems with containing living organisms (since we would never do that to another human, hopefully). But, knowing that one can really learn and grow to appreciate life through close contact is settling. The best part was how enthusiastic the staff were. I am glad to see that despite language barriers, the mutual feelings of “interest” and “excitement” transfer and can be enjoyed by both.
At night, we went to Emi-san’s house and had the best time karaoke-ing, trying on yukatas, and eating homemade vegetarian food. Finally the “cultural immersion” aspect as marketed by most study abroad programs. I am extremely glad to be in the suburbia where “average” people live, not just those represented in popular forms of media. It felt like home, as in Hangzhou, with the high rise and the community. Emi-san was such a wonderful host, offering us food and taking us places. I will definitely be improving my Japanese to be able to communicate with my host family this fall.