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May 23, 2019 - Matsue Horanenya - The Beluga Whales of AQUAS

View of the Sea of Japan approaching Odashi

After the conclusion of the Chunichisai of the Horanenya festival, there are now another three days to spend on sightseeing around the San'in Region before the final day of the festival on Sunday. This was the prefect time to whip out my second Sanin-Okayama Pass and use it to discover a new prefecture, Yamaguchi!

My destination for the day is Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture. To get to Hagi from Matsue, one has to take the express train to Masuda and from there transfer to a local train to either Higashi-Hagi station or Hagi station.

Before going to Hagi, I planned to visit Shimane Prefecture's aquarium known simply as AQUAS. AQUAS is located in the village of Hashi, a stop on the Super Oki express train route between Tottori and Shin-Yamaguchi.

Since there was no need to spend so much time at the aquarium, I planned to spend the day at a leisurely pace by leaving Matsue at about 11am. I bought myself a delicious Ekiben and some desserts from the station and had lunch in the train while viewing the scenic coastline of the Sea of Japan.

Purging of the Orochi Ekiben from Matsue
A delicious cornucopia of shrimp, fish cakes and shijimi clams
Traditional wagashi from Matsue
Hashi Station

I arrived at Hashi Station and immediately there were signs of AQUAS featuring their main attraction, the beluga whale. It was just a short easy walk from the station to AQUAS. You can either ask the station attendant to keep your luggage or keep them at the aquarium.

Only 12 minutes on foot to AQUAS
Wave-like structure up ahead
Timetable for beluga whale performance, sea lion and seal performance and penguin feeding time

When I entered AQUAS for the first time, I was very impressed to find a well maintained aquarium in such a far flung area. The tour of the aquarium started off with tanks displaying fish, crustaceans, squid, octopi and jellyfish from different parts of the world. However, there was no time to stop and admire these marine beauties as it was almost time to see the main attraction of AQUAS.

What a motley bunch
Fugu!
School of fish tube display
Rockfish?
Squid
Jellyfish
Shark
Time to see the belugas in action!

This was the sole reason why I planned to visit AQUAS, the beluga whales! AQUAS is the only place in the world where one can see a beluga whale performance.

The performance started with the introduction of a lady diver and two cute father and son beluga whales. We were immediately wowed by the intelligence of the whales as the son performed the Ojigi in front of all of us! The father and son whales played catchball together, and was ensued by the main event, the magic ring performance. The beluga whales showed off their unique skill by blowing out bubble rings from their mouths the blowhole on the back of their head. The piece de la resistance of the performance was the time when the beluga whale blew a large ring from the blowhole and swam right through it! There was an embarrassing moment when the beluga whale father defecated during the show, but we the audience were simply mesmerized by what these intelligent beluga whales were capable of. All in all, a brilliant show and worth the effort to come all to way to Hashi to meet these wonderful creatures.

Beauty and the beluga
Beluga whale father and son playing catchball
Beluga whale blowing out a bubble ring
Bubble ring created from the blowhole
Passing through the bubble ring
Encore performance

AQUAS of course has the usual fare of penguin feeding time and seal and sea lion performances. I saw all three of them and enjoyed immensely watching the penguins fighting for fish. It was very cute to see penguin couples huddled together in their nest to warm their eggs.

Fighting for fish
Chubby emperor penguin waiting to be fed
Penguin couple protecting their egg
This is one hungry fella
Penguins swimming from above
Pregnant sea lion showing off her skills
Barking seal

Nevertheless, it was the beluga whale exhibit that outshone all other exhibits of the aquarium. The beluga whale breeding pool was a great place to get up close and personal with the whales and get that unforgettable shot of these majestic creatures.

Photos and videos of the beluga whale performance are available in my Flickr album https://www.flickr.com/photos/124829205@N08/albums/72157708933315016

Time to meet the beluga whales up close and personal
Having a special moment with the beluga
Hello there!
Beluga meets human baby

I headed back to Hashi Station and there was plenty of time left before the next Super Oki service to Masuda. The express train eventually arrived and it was time to enter the next prefecture, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Iwami Kagura livery train
Riding into the sunset
Sunset over Yamaguchi Prefecture

I got off at Higashi-Hagi station and walked 20 minutes to ruco, a backpackers hostel in Hagi that was the talk of the backpacking community in Japan. My first impression of Hagi was that it was really quiet and there were no 7 Elevens, Family Marts, or Starbucks to be seen! Nevertheless, ruco was a fantastic hostel, with a stylish bar, tasteful interior design and adequate amenities for showering, cooking and mingling with new people.

I met a guy from Taiwan and we were recommended by the owner of ruco to try some Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki at Hagizamurai. Upon entering the restaurant, we were immediately noticed by the locals and they immediately struck up a friendly and warm conversation with us. The okonomiyaki at Hagizamurai was delicious (it's hard to get good okonomiyaki in KL), a perfect introduction to what Yamaguchi Prefecture has in store.

Higashi-Hagi Station
One of the most renowned backpacker's hostel of Japan
The samurai cook of Hagizamurai
Delicious Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki with mayonnaise corn
Aburi edamame, with char marks from the okonomiyaki grill

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List of Posts:
2019/05/31 - Matsue Horanenya - Koyasan
2019/05/30 - Matsue Horanenya - Horyuji and to Wakayama Prefecture
2019/05/29 - Matsue Horanenya - Uji
2019/05/28 - Matsue Horanenya - Amanohashidate
2019/05/27 - Matsue Horanenya - Tottori Sand Dunes
2019/05/26 - Matsue Horanenya - Kangyosai Ҍ
2019/05/25 - Matsue Horanenya - The World Heritage Sites of Hagi
2019/05/24 - Matsue Horanenya - Akiyoshido and Akiyoshidai
2019/05/23 - Matsue Horanenya - The Beluga Whales of AQUAS
2019/05/22 - Matsue Horanenya - Chunichisai
2019/05/21 - Matsue Horanenya - Matengai Cliff and the Kuniga Coast
2019/05/20 - Matsue Horanenya - Sakaiminato
2019/05/19 - Matsue Horanenya - Izumo Taisha
2019/05/18 - Matsue Horanenya - Togyosai n
2019/05/17 - Matsue Horanenya - Getting to Matsue from KIX
2016/07/15 - Hokkaido Day 14 - End of the Trip and My Top Five Highlights
2016/07/14 - Hokkaido Day 13 - Biei's Patchwork Road and the Blue Pond
2016/07/13 - Hokkaido Day 12 - The Lavender Fields of Furano
2016/07/12 - Hokkaido Day 11 - Usuyukiso Habitat and Peach Rock
2016/07/11 - Hokkaido Day 10 - Rebun's 4-Hour Trekking Course
2016/07/10 - Hokkaido Day 9 - Wakkanai, the Northernmost City of Japan
2016/07/09 - Hokkaido Day 8 - Journey to the North
2016/07/08 - Hokkaido Day 7 - Last Day in Shiretoko
2016/07/07 - Hokkaido Day 6 - Bear Watching Cruise and Rausu
2016/07/06 - Hokkaido Day 5 - Shiretoko Five Lakes
2016/07/05 - Hokkaido Day 4 - Obihiro Butadon and the Kushiro Norokko Train
2016/07/04 - Hokkaido Day 3 - Hell Valley and Heavenly Ramen
2016/07/03 - Hokkaido Day 2 - Yoichi and Otaru
2016/07/02 - Hokkaido Day 1 - Late Night Ramen Dinner
2015/05/02 - Hanami 2015 Day 6 - The Wisterias of Ashikaga Flower Park
2015/05/01 - Hanami 2015 Day 5 - Kakunodate and Long Winding Route to Aomori
2015/04/30 - Hanami 2015 Day 4 - The Lonely Sakura of Koiwai Farm
2015/04/29 - Hanami 2015 Day 3 - Matsushima and the Shiogamazakura
2015/04/28 - Hanami 2015 Day 2 - Hirosaki
2015/04/27 - Hanami 2015 Day 1 - Shibazakura in Chichibu