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Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wakayama Tama

Somewhere in Wakayama lives a marketing genius. I'm referring to the individual who came up with the idea to assign the title "Station Master" to a living, purring, calico cat named Tama.

Wakayama Tama, Wakayama

Not only has Tama saved the local train line, but putting her various images on merchandise must be a cash cow for the city of Wakayama. Speaking as but one recent visitor, I put down a ten thousand yen note in the Tama shop and left without it.

When you go to Wakayama's main train station, on the walls are mascot pictures of Tama and paw prints on the ground lead you in the direction of the Tama Line. My daughter and I did not know what to expect but as we boarded the train we were full of anticipation.

Nitama and hat

She read a train board that indicated Tama had to go to the veterinarian that day, and second in command Nitama (meaning "Second Tama" or "Tama #2" ) would be filling in for her. When we got off at Nitama's stop, we had to wait a few minutes, but very soon a train conductor showed up with the beautiful, long-haired calico cat in his arms.

A Chinese tour group rushed around them excitedly. I was really surprised at the calmness of this cat. She seemed completely unruffled by the bustle about her. She posed for many photos and listened to plenty of oohs and aahs in a matter-of-fact manner. She was really cute.

Tama merchandize

We next decided to ride the train to the last stop and see the Tama Museum. It was located inside a small cafe in a little train station adorned with cat ears. Adjoining this was the amazing Tama shop where I easily parted with all that yen.

When I finished spending, we boarded the Tama train for our return trip. Images of the Tama mascot character covered the outside of the car, but since many trains in Japan are very colorful, we didn't think too much about it until we stepped inside.

Tama train, Wakayama

We had never seen a train car like this! The interior was beautiful, decorated with a polished wood floor dotted with occasional paw prints, cheerful Tama wallpaper, settee loveseats in feline-patterned fabrics, and a large wooden bookcase filled with cat-related books. It was impressive and fun. My hat is off to you, creator of all that is Tama!

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Asian Black Bears in Japan


The Asian Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus japonicus) is Japan's most common bear, usually growing up to around 100-120kg as an adult.

Known in Japanese as tsukinowaguma ("Crescent Moon Bear"), the Japanese bear is a sub-species of the Asian Black bear found in mainland Asia in the Indian and Nepal Himalayas, north eastern China, Thailand, Burma, Korea, Taiwan and the Russian Far East.

Asian Black Bears in Japan, Nagoya Zoo

The Japanese Asian Black bear is found in Honshu and Shikoku but is now extinct in Kyushu. In Hokkaido the Yezo Brown Bear is the only bear found on the island.

Japanese Asian Black bears are omnivorous and feed on a variety of insects, fruits, nuts, grasses, honey, mushrooms and even garbage. In June and July the bears will often peel the bark from trees. They are good climbers of both rocks and trees and hibernate in dens in the winter. Japanese Asian Black bears build cushion like nests in trees during their active months of the year.

Asian Black Bears Nagoya Zoo Japan

Japanese Asian Black bears can be dangerous if surprised and in 2009 four Japanese tourists were injured in an attack at a bus stop near Takayama in Gifu Prefecture. Walkers and hikers should carry bear bells and make noise as they travel through forests.

Asian Black Bear in Japan

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Saturday, June 01, 2013

Iriomote Cat


The Iriomote Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis) exists only on Iriomote Island on the Yaeyama chain of islands in Okinawa.

The Iriomote Cat is classified as critically endangered with less than 200 in the wild and great efforts are being undertaken to preserve the species. The Iriomote Cat is related to the Leopard Cat.

Iriomote Wildlife Center, Iriomote, Okinawa, Japan

Known in Japanese as yamaneko (mountain cat), the animal is largely nocturnal and its diet consists of a variety of amphibians such as frogs, birds (ducks and crakes), crustaceans (crabs and freshwater prawns), fish, insects, for example, crickets, small mammals such as bats, rats and reptiles, especially lizards. Iriomote cats can swim and climb trees and mark out their territories (of about half a square kilometer) by urinating and defecating.

Iriomote Cat Iriomote Okinawa Japan

The Island of Iriomote promotes an awareness campaign for drivers to look out for the cats at night, as road accidents have taken a heavy toll on the animals. Underpasses have been built to allow the cats to cross roads.

The potential spread of the invasive cane toad is also a threat to the Iriomote Cat's survival as is hybridization with house cats and feral cats. Measures such as limiting the number of domestic cats allowed by each owner and micro-chipping have been enacted to help preserve the Iriomote Cat.

Iriomote Cat Beware Sign For Drivers

A good place to find out more about the Iriomote cat and efforts for its preservation is at the free Iriomote Wildlife Center (IWC) not far from the southern port of Ohara.

Iriomote Cat, Iriomote, Okinawa, Japan

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Friday, April 05, 2013

Iriomote Wildlife Center

The Iriomote Wildlife Center on Iriomote Island in Okinawa is an interesting introduction to the amazing flora and fauna found on Japan's most natural island.

Up to 80% of Iriomote is virgin sub-tropical forest, coral reefs and mangrove swamps and this free museum, set up in 1995 by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, does a good job of introducing the many wild animals, birds and plants that exist on the island.

Iriomote Wildlife Center, Iriomote, Okinawa, Japan

The Iriomote Wildlife Center (IWC) conducts research on such endangered species as the Iriomote Cat, (found only on Iriomote), and collects data on other species. The IWC has wall panels detailing Iriomote's bird life, special features including audio-visuals on the Iriomote cat and stuffed specimens that have been hit and killed by vehicles, a bird's eye view of Iriomote (see image below), information on the Cane Toad, an invasive species on the island and a monitor of the outside traps set up by the IWC.

Iriomote Wildlife Center, Iriomote, Okinawa, Japan

The Iriomote Wildlife Center is a short drive from the southern port town of Ohara, see the sign on your left as you drive north towards Funaura.

Iriomote Wildlife Center
Komi Taketomi
Tel: 0980 85 5581
Hours: 10am-4pm; closed Mondays
Admission: Free

Iriomote Wildlife Center, Iriomote, Japan

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Kagoshima Prefectural Museum


The Kagoshima Prefectural Museum presents the geography, geology and flora and fauna of Kagoshima Prefecture in the south of Kyushu.

Kagoshima Prefectural Museum, Kyushu, Japan

Though there is precious little English, the exhibits of stuffed animals and birds, fish and small reptiles in tanks, dinosaur skeletons, fossils, a scale model of the Sakurajima volcano and rocks from the area are mostly self-explanatory.

The Kagoshima Prefectural Museum has three floors of exhibits with the 4th floor on the annex having a planetarium.

Kagoshima Prefectural Museum (in Japanese)
1-1 Shiroyamacho
Tel: 099 223 6050
Admission: Free; 200 yen for the planetarium.
The museum is an short walk from the nearest tram stops Asahidori or Tenmonkandori and is close to the Reimeikan.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture


The Noichi Zoo in Kochi Prefecture is a picturesque and interesting place to spend a few hours wandering among the resident animals.

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku

A smaller zoo has many charms. During our visit my daughter and I were able to see everything this lovely zoo has to offer. In California we have the San Diego Zoo, which is indeed a fine institution, but it is enormous, busy, expensive, and exhausting. For us, the Noichi Zoo was close to perfect.

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture

We noticed how the habitats were clean and well tended and provided visitors with an optimal view of the birds and animals. We were intrigued to see animals common to North America as part of the zoo's collection. I have never set my eyes upon a prairie dog or a beaver in my life, but here in Japan there they were.

We encountered a few school children who greeted us with giggles and a chorus of hellos. We passed a group of senior citizens accompanied by their caregivers. The day was peaceful and idyllic.

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture

After we had ice cream in the zoo restaurant we stopped in the gift shop. Of course I purchased a Noichi Zoo hand towel for myself. I also noticed there were affordable items that children could buy for but a few hundred yen.

Noichi Zoological Park of Kochi Prefecture
738 Otani
Kochi 781-5233
Tel: 0887 56 3500

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

White Snakes of Iwakuni


Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture is home to a unique albino snake that is generally found nowhere else in Japan.

These harmless white snakes are officially designated as national treasures and can grow to around 1.8m in length.

White Snake of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi
Jake Davies
Kikko Park, across the river on the Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni is the place to see the snakes which are thought of as symbols of Benten, one of Japan's Seven Lucky Gods or Shichifukujin.

Snakes in Japan are considered lucky and are believed to attract wealth, you may come across snake-skin wallets or people who carry a bit of snake skin in their wallet or purse.

The place in Kikko Park where the snakes are kept is open from 9am-5pm. Nishi-Iwakuni Station is the nearest station to Kikko Park. Kikko Park also contains Kikko Shrine, the Iwakuni Art Museum and the Kikkawa Museum.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Kyoto Municipal Zoo

Kyoto City Zoo京都市立動物園

Kyoto Municipal Zoo is Japan's second largest zoo. By American standards, it seems quite small. Tokyo's Ueno Zoo is Japan's largest zoo. Kyoto Zoo is the second oldest zoo in Japan.

Kyoto's zoo is located in Okazaki Park close to The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto, Kyoto Municipal Museum,  Heian Shrine, and Nanzenji Temple.

The zoo is home to roughly 700 animals.

It opened in April 1903 and retains a bit aged feel.

Some of the conditions in which the animals are housed are not ideal - barren concrete floors are standard - but it is for the most part a good day out.


Okazaki, Hoshoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Telephone : 075 771 0210
Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (March - November)


General: 500 yen
Junior High School Students: 300 yen
Elementary School Students and under: Free

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Animals in Japanese


Listen to the animals in Japanese from Joji

We have already looked at parts of the body, the numbers in Japanese, colors and days of the week, another rich source of vocabulary is the world of animals.

Dog (inu 犬), cat (neko 猫), bird (tori 鳥), fox, (kitsune 狐), elephant (zo ぞう), mouse (nezumi ねずみ), tiger (tora 虎), lion (rion ライオン), cow (ushi 牛), pig (buta 豚), sheep (hitsuji 羊), whale (kujira 鯨), turtle (kame 亀), bear (kuma 熊), rabbit (usagi ウサギ), goat (yagi 山羊), snake (hebi 蛇), dolphin (iruka イルカ/海豚), crane (tsuru 鶴), rhino (sai サイ), walrus (seiuchi セイウチ), spider (kumo クモ), mosquito (ka 蚊).

Some names of animals are more often written in katakana than kanji, there seems to be no hard and fast rules, except where the name is taken from a foreign language such as lion (rion リオン), where the word is written in katakana.

There are some interesting compounds such as goat as "mountain sheep", hedghog as "needle-mouse" (harinezumi) and dolphin as "sea pig." Animals are also common in Japanese place names such as Kumamoto (熊本) in Kyushu and Tsuruhashi (鶴橋) in Osaka.

Expressions using animals are common in Japanese and the book Japanese Proverbs and Sayings by Daniel Crump Buchanan has a number of proverbs dedicated to animals. Perhaps the most famous is: saru mo ki kara ochiru 猿も木から落ちる - meaning everyone can make a mistake. One not heard so much nowadays is neko ni koban 猫に小判 (lit. 'gold coins to a cat' so casting pearls to swine).

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Migrating geese in Kashiwa


Watch wild geese flying in formation over the skies of Kashiwa city

Tokyo University campus, Kashiwa.

I was out at the Kashiwa campus of Tokyo University this afternoon. Just before class I was sitting outside eating a snack when I was alerted by a massive squawking and cawing to great black ribbons of birds wheeling through the evening sky.

I don't recall ever having seen anything like it: hundreds of birds flying in a V formation that kept changing shape at great speed while retaining its integrity. It was amazing how instantly the whole or parts of the formation would change shape and/or speed without the slightest falling away of any one bird.

The word for goose in Japanese that most people with some mastery of the language know is 'gacho', but a colleague I recounted the experience to minutes later corrected me. 'Gacho' refers to a farm-type goose. Wild geese of the kind I saw are called 'gan'.

Unfortunately the trees get in the way a bit, but pay careful attention to the shape of the formation at the very end of the video. The way the formation unfurls like th e end of a whip in slow motion is amazing.

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