Give up? Well, the correct answer is, a capybara is the second cutest animal in the world. (I assume that if you’re reading this blog, you are quite aware of what the number one cutest animal in the world is…) You may have seen capybara featured here on the panda blog before as well – besides being a real (and adorable) animal, over the last few years the capybara has experienced a boom in Japan as one of the most popular character goods since Tarepanda.
You know the amazing thing about capybaras? They are actually mice. Or rather, they are members of the mouse family – members of the mouse family that can grow up to 60 Kg (that’s 130+ pounds for my American readers) in size. That, my friends, is a big ass mouse. It also makes my dream of someday raising a capybara as a pet only marginally less likely to come true than my dream of one day raising a baby panda in my living room. (though it turns out there are people who actually do that) (and by that, I mean keep capybaras as pets, not smuggle pandas) (although there are people who do that as well).
Ahem. Where was I before all this heady talk of panda smuggling? Oh yeah. Capybaras. So they are huge herbivorous mice (who eat their own poop, but let’s leave that aside for now), they live in the water, make adorable sounds, have the endearing nose in the world and have been turned into incredibly cute characters goods in Japan. Do I really need any other excuse to traipse halfway across Kanto to go play with some?
Methinks not. But just in case I needed any convincing, it turns out a zoo over in Saitama has built their lucky capybara their very own onsen (bath). Oh jeez. Capybaras taking a bath in a custom-built outdoor tub? You know I’m there.
So anyway, that’s how I found myself in a minivan rolling across the urban expanses of the greater Tokyo area with two friends, two kids and Ne-Yo music videos (don’t ask) playing on the monitor, headed over to the Saitama Children’s Animal Nature Park (located, as one might gather, in Saitama prefecture) to check out their recently built capybara onsen. I’ll tell you what, whoever came up with the idea of building that onsen ought to have their salary doubled, because from what I can tell, that park went from being just another one of the thousands non-descript pseudo-zoos scattered across the country to being quite famous throughout Japan (it was featured in a couple of the national newspapers (which is how I heard about it) and it just took off after that). I mean, I normally couldn’t give a mouse butt about some random fake-zoo, but here I am, traipsing across the land with an entire domestic retinue in tow to check out gigantic mice taking a bath. (now that I think about it, this was the first minivan I had ridden in ever since the beloved elderberry mobilemeandering journey throughout Tohoku many years ago. The fact that this time I was doing it accompanied by two children this time made me suddenly have uncomfortable visions of what my mid-40s suburban existence might end up as if I’m not careful)
Good god. I just rambled on for a paragraph about my existential potential mid-life anxieties. I really need to have an editor look at this. Now where were we? Moving right along with our story…
Okay so our little motley crew arrived at the zoo bright and early in the morning, and shutting off the sweet lyrical croonings of Ne-Yo, we bust into the park with the quickness. The attendant tries to hand us some pamphlets detailing the various attractions the zoo has on offer. My friend stops her with a wave of the hand.
“Save ye breathe faire lady, for we come solely for the bath of capybaras.”
(For the purposes of this blog post, my friend apparently talks like a 12-th century English noble)
The clerk, to her credit, seemed entirely nonplussed by our reaction.
“Okay. It’s that way. They fill the bath up at 1:00. You can find the capybara goods gift shop over to your right when you go down this path.”
Sweet. Clearly this clerk gets it. My type of gal.
I’m going to cut to the chase for you. If you like capybaras and you want to see them bathe, then this is the place to do it (though I advise calling them first, as at the time of this writing, the bath is currently closed for repairs). However, you can’t really touch the capybaras so much (they’re in a fenced in area) so if that’s your scene (you furry you), you may wish to consider the Ichikawa Zo no Kuni (I’ve actually been there once before) over in neighboring Chiba prefecture, where you can play and feed with the capybaras to your heart’s content.
There are a few other attractions in the Saitama Park – a random assortment of barn animals (pigs, ducks, goats, err bats… etc.), the cutest guinea pig show I’ve ever seen (I’ve only ever seen three in my life though, so take that endorsement with a grain of salt), and umm, a lot of nature (actually, more than the animals, the nature is quite an attraction in and of itself (it’s like Narita Yume Bokujo in that respect), especially for people stuck in the concrete jungle of Tokyo. But really, if you’re making the effort to drag yourself out here (it’s technically possible to train and bus it, but really, a car is much, much better), you’re basically doing it for the capybaras. So you know, make your plans accordingly.
In the end, we spent a nice few hours watching the capybaras and then slowly making our way around the rest of the park. While I was initially reticent to bring along my friend’s children with us, in the end I’m glad we did, because we could use them as camouflage – given that this is a “children’s” animal park, it turns out most of the people there had at least one or two kids with them. So you might want to consider renting/borrowing/kidnapping some if you don’t have your own and you want to visit.
Alright, and now that I’ve basically advocated what I’m pretty sure constitutes a major felony in most countries, I’m going to leave you with some more random pictures from the day. Enjoy!
That’s it for today! Stay tuned for more posts next week, including the continuation of my JLPT poast series (maybe, if I can motivate myself to write it haha).
Now listening to: “Passion Pit – Little Secrets”
The lyrics are actually kind of dark if you pay attention to them, but the beat and song itself is incredible…!
my face blew up at such a casual sight
this miracle is of ecstatic fright
theyll rush above me to oblivion
outlining white sidewalks with halogen
oh have you ever felt so goddamn strong
how come it takes some people so damn long
he tried to squeeze the lemon juice to rain
the citrus drawing out the seasons stains
watch the basin drain
as your life lines wane
and you cant explain
as your friends complain
youve caused all this pain
and you proudly shame
your whole families name
let this be our little secret
no one needs to know were feeling
higher and higher and higher
but i feel alive and i feel it in me
up and up i keep on climbing
higher and higher and higher