Golden Week Crowds: Shimonoseki

Golden Week is a series of about a week’s worth of statutory holidays around the beginning of May. It’s notorious for being a time where every Japanese person travels to another part of the country or else to another country entirely. All of the transportation networks are clogged and all of the tourist traps are overrun. This year was no exception but there was also a lot more travel outside of Japan due to fears about SARS having been much smaller than last year.

Instead of going on one long trip during the holidays, we made a few day trips. One was to the aquarium in Shimonoseki across the Kanmon Strait from Kitakyushu.

The Kanmon Strait is a narrow body of water separating Kyushu from Honshu. Kyushu is the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands and its northern tip is home to Kitakyushu City (North Kyushu City), which is where we are living. Honshu, Japan’s main island, is home to such cities as Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Nagano, Hiroshima, and most of Japan’s largest cities. Shimonoseki is at the southernmost tip of Honshu.

Now that the geography lesson is out of the way, I can talk about the aquarium itself. The building itself is quite interesting architecturally. Lots of curved walls and ceilings and open spaces.

View of the dolphin theatre at Shimonoseki Aquarium

There are a number of very large fish tanks, including a wide variety of displays of pufferfish—also known as fugu, or blowfish—the local delicacy.

One of many varieties of pufferfish (fugu) at the Shimonoseki Aquarium

One of the first places we walked through was a glass tunnel through a large aquarium full of fish. The photo shows a school of the smaller fish—they’re each about 6 inches long—but there were many larger fish in the tank as well. I’d guess that the hallways were more crowded with tourists (ourselves included) than the fish tanks. It was literally wall-to-wall people throughout the building.

Looking up from inside the fish tunnel