Thursday, April 22, 2010

Japan Roadtrip: Izu Biopark

Setting off for two days of driving, my buddy picked up the rental car and brought it back to his place to gather me. His wife had created a most delicious pack lunch for us, and with car and food in hand, we started off.

Our first stop? Izu biopark. Why? Because it had Kapibera. After a week of hearing about them, and seeing their stuffed representation everywhere, I'd be lying if the excitement to see them hadn't gripped me as well.

It took hours to drive out there, passing all number of terrible toll gates where fees kept increasing as we drove along. The view, however, was beautiful. Driving along the ocean, I was witnessing a very different Japan than the one I had come to expect. I was witnessing a Japan accessible only by car.

Unfortunate, because they make it damn near impossible to ever own one. The fees, and taxes, and other horrible things that compound the purchase make them far too out of reach. Unless they have a yellow license plate, and as such aren't “real cars.” There's more to this, I'm sure, but I don't know the specifics.

All I know is that eventually we reached the biopark.

Before going in we ate the more-than-fantastic pack lunch provided and discussed just how wonderful it was. After it was fully eaten, and instantly missed, we headed into the zoo.

Inside were fifteen types of animals, a whole lot of construction vehicles, a petting zoo, and zombies. I'm fairly sure there were zombies. But we'll get to that.

The animals were a quick pass to see, however it was the petting zoo that captured both our interests. Imagine a six foot three, white man with his head shaved, and a bearded me in a Japanese petting zoo to visit the small rodent that is the Kapibera. We stayed there for nearly an hour.

I'm not going to lie, it was pretty fantastic. The boring giant monsters hung out, trying to escape the touch of people like me, but the bunnies ran rampant. In fact they seemed to enjoy napping on top of the disgruntled kapibera.

All around us they ran, and still other locations offered other toys to play with. Err animals. Animals to play with. You could pick up baby ducks, or pet the guinea pigs. It was at this point that I felt a little guilt for having eaten one only a few months back. They were so terrified and afraid, with only a small feeble shelter to protect them. They were like tribbles who had lost their ability to reproduce in great quantities.

Konichiwa! Konichiwa!

Did that parrot just say hi to me?

Konichiwa! Konichiwa!

It did! A talking Japanese parrot! This was even more impressive than the Toy Story action figures that spoke Japanese. Now it stands to reason that a parrot can mimic any language, which suggests that we could teach them all sorts of fun things to say. They could make parrot cages that are themed for different countries and teach them to speak those words. Maybe even give them little costumes! I know, this wouldn't be so good for the bird but – well, here? A lot of animals were having a rough go of it.

At two we were allowed to feed the kapiberas (thrill upon thrill! How I wish I wasn't serious) and then we headed off to see the chimps. The poor sad chimps clapping their feet and bouncing around, showing clear signs of insanity due to capture. Without warning the animal jumped at the glass wall screaming, throwing its feces at us.

Thank you glass wall.

Then it went to the corner and began rocking back and forth, which it would continue for some time to come.

That was our final animal to see, as they were renovating the park. There was a black bear cage open, as it was being painted. And while I very much wanted a picture of me inside it, I had that little itch of, what if the animal really is there, and it was left open by accident.

I should have taken the picture!

A bridge led away from the animals towards the amusement park. This is where the zombies lived. They must have. There somewhere, just out of sight.

The amusement park was empty. As we walked through it there was no one, and nothing to be seen. Still, the haunting music of a maniacal circus gone wrong, played from every speaker hidden along the paths. In one corner there was a spook house – a mannequin screamed from the upper window, as the door was presented as an evil face, through whose mouth we needed to enter.

This was the type of ghost house from the early years of my life – but with the added terror that there may be something real waiting inside to kill us. This was, after all, Japan.

As it turns out, the creepiest thing was a statue of a naked woman, guts ripped out, eating herself on a table. You know, come to think of it, that is pretty creepy indeed!

Once free from the terror pit, we headed to the abandoned arcade, where I played (terribly) some pachinko. I now have an understanding of what makes the game tick. I'm ready for the big leagues.

From there we walked the go-kart tracks, as there was no one manning them. The only person we saw was the fellow missing a good number of teeth pressing the button to make the monorail go. Or he would, if there were any customers – which there were not.

From the end of the go-kart track we headed along a path with statues of more nude women in a number of poses – art pained primary colours – until we reached a golf course and driving range. There was also a dog run, the air still filled with the terrifying upbeat music.

In my head I plotted the zombie story I hope to write when I no longer have any other pressing business to finish. And with that complete we left the park, and headed off on our way once more.

With most places closing down, we headed to Lake Ashi in Hakone. Why here? Because it was part of Tokyo III where the sixth angel appeared, of course. But never mind me geeking out for a moment, to get there we had to drive through the mountain roads. Tire treads could be seen left in the asphalt along the twists and turns. This was the land of Initial D and though the tiny car had little power, it was still a fun trip down the narrows bends. Mirrors allowed for future-foreseen around the upcoming corners.

At the top of the hill I could just barely make out Mt. Fuji. I could see enough of it to admit that it might be real. It was a line behind the clouds. Though I should have been able to see Fuji a number of times in my trips to Japan, I never have. It is for this reason I claim it does not exist.

After the lake we headed to the hot springs where black eggs with make you live longer. But it was closed. There would be no black eggs or longer life for me. Instead we stopped at an abandoned hotel. After the economic boom a number of fully realized places were simply abandoned, tables still set, beds still made, as if waiting for someone to reopen them and start accepting customers once more.

Finally we found our hotel and broke off to find the night life, or perhaps a karaoke booth. Of course the town we were in was dead, and the last karaoke bar closed at eight at night. I mean, really, who does that? This is Japan – hadn't anyone told them?

The hostess bars were still open – but that didn't seem like a good use of money. Not when I could buy a bottle of Zima that came with a a replica of celebrity lips. Zima does not exist in North America anymore, for good reason. That made me want to at least try it. That it came with creepy false lips? I needed it! Oh Japan, I love you so.

Back at our place we past the time with music from the iPhone, and by learning how to play Gin. That's a card game, to be sure, and that I know how to play it means only one things – I truly am getting old.

Alright, off to sleep. Breakfast in the morning. The last hotel breakfast, back at the Onsen, that I expected to be terrible was quite good. I had no desire to miss this one.

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