Anyone who has eaten with us more than once will probably have read "meat and vegetables" and wondered what we would have eaten there. The answer is not much, but! they did have some soba noodles to cook up into yakisoba, and I thought those tasted pretty good. Kyoya told us we had to put sauce or something on them or they'd taste like nothing, and I was like, no, they taste like noodles, and noodles taste pretty good. Nevertheless, we didn't eat very many of them, because we were in a weird eating limbo kind of mood, as in, we knew we should get enough to eat, but because of the unusual situation, we really just would rather not deal with it. This mood was enhanced by the fact that we were all sunburned--nothing drains your motivation like having been out in the sun too long. So we felt kind of bad about it, because Kyoya just wanted everybody to have a good time, but we really did think it was a neat experience watching everyone else cook their food! It's like how we eat almost nothing but we still really enjoy cooking shows like MasterChef. Also, we sat out on the terrace (maybe not the best idea in retrospect, what with everyone being sunburned), so we had a beautiful view of the valley below. And they had some gachapon machines, where we got a cute Capybara-san mini-towel.
After lunch, it was finally time to see the capybaras! Yay! ...They're actually not my favorite animal, but they were still pretty cute. We have a special fondness for them because of Noragami, of course. And at the Nasu Animal Kingdom, they have them in an enclosure that allows for petting. Basically, you wander around, the capybaras wander around, and if you have food for them, they'll make a cute little clicking sound to beg for it. They're not soft at all--it's kind of like petting a ball of dry grass. But I found this one capybara and I started scratching it under its chin and it looked like the happiest capybara in the world. I stopped for a second and it looked at me like, "Hey, come on." The enclosure also had a hot spring for the capybaras, so we got to watch them swim! It was so cute!
I should also mention that there were other animals in there with the capybaras, but I am not sure what they're called. Something with an M, Athena says, and she couldn't say where in the name the M falls, so...
Anyway, we went from there into the Lesser Panda House. For some reason, in English these animals are called red pandas, while in Japanese they're called lesser pandas with the English words and everything. I don't understand why, only that it is. But they weren't the only ones in the Lesser Panda House. There were also local mountain cats, and a pallas cat, and I think there was something else, but it all flew from my memory when we got to the red pandas. The first thing I noticed was a little basket hanging from the ceiling with a red panda plush toy in it and a sign that said not to touch the red pandas. Next to it was a branch with a life-sized red panda plush toy on it that looked so very lifelike. Further inspection revealed that it wasn't a toy at all--it was an actual red panda! And it was right there, hanging on a branch in the middle of the walkway, with its tail hanging down so that we easily could have reached up and grabbed it! And oh my goodness, the temptation was strong. So very strong.
Nevertheless, we resisted and let the panda sleep in peace. There was another one on the other side of the walkway, and if I remember correctly, it was doing its best to ignore all the annoying tourists. Oh but they were so cute and huggable. Or, I imagine that they're huggable; obviously I didn't actually hug either of them, so I don't know. But they're just the right size! Maybe some day I will get to hug a lesser panda...
We spent a while in there, staring at the pandas and sometimes trying to coax them into more photographic poses. On the way out, they had a little photo op spot with red panda ear headbands, so Kyoya told lyschan to put one on and took a picture of the lesser lys-chan. Athena points out that she's really more of a giant risu-chan, ha, ha, ha.
Anyway, we continued on to the Penguin Village. There were, of course, penguins, but we didn't look at them very much because our hearts were stolen by the river otter who was swimming around and around. Someone in our party got a great set of pictures of it jumping into the water in its enclosure, so now Kyoya wanted to try, but the little guy refused to get back in the water. He just kept running around his little island and barking at people imploringly. I wonder if it was mealtime...
I was a little more interested in a different enclosure, though--the one with beavers! Aaaaaahhh!!! Beavers!!! I'd seen them so many times in cartoons, but I don't think I'd ever seen them in real life. I wonder if they had them at the LA Zoo and I just forgot or didn't care back then. But oh man, they were so cute! I found myself wondering why I had to go to Japan to see the North American critters... Oh well.
Past the Penguin Village exit was where they kept all the bunnies, including the...I forgot its official name, but it was something like Giant Rabbit. Because it was a giant rabbit. They had two-week-old babies that were the size of the full grown other rabbits. These things were huge. For rabbits, I mean. They weren't as big as the capybaras. But they were relatively gigantic.
Finally, we went into the cat house. Kyoya wasn't interested because he was all, "I can see cats anywhere," and we were like, "Who cares!? Cats are the best!" They had a big room set up with cat bridges and cat ladders and there were dogs there, too, but who cares, kitties!!! ...But most of the kitties were like, "I'm...just gonna go over here, out of reach of all the annoying tourists." There was one cat that was in a little cradle that said to please pet gently, and boy howdy did they mean gently. The slightest pressure on its body would cause it to snap at you! Poor little guy. But if you pet it gently enough that you felt its fur but not its body underneath, it didn't seem to mind too much. Nevertheless, too many people got it wrong, so eventually it walked off in a huff. It was for the best, I suppose.
After that, we all went to the gift shop! We posted a picture of the souvenirs we bought on Facebook, but I wanted to explain the capybara. Not that you all remember every little detail of the pictures we post on Facebook, but if you do, or if you saw it and thought, "Huh. I wonder why that is." let me explain! The capybara plush is holding an eggplant. Why? Because it's the Nasu Animal Kingdom! And the Japanese word for eggplant is nasu! Tadah! (The name of the place actually means something else, but they do love their homophones in Japan.)
Incidentally, there was another style of capybara plush toy that strongly resembled Capyper, and we can't help but wonder if one inspired the other.
Any road trip in Japan must culminate in a trip to a hot spring. Athena and I chose to sit out again, which I think is why Kyoya specifically chose a place that was next to a different place called Okashi no Shiro, which I will translate roughly to Candy Castle. While everyone else was enjoying a nice hot bath, we went to scope out the desserts they had on sale! We bought some to try, and we took them outside to a little picnic table that was surrounded by screaming trees! We always knew the insects were noisy in Japan in the summer, because in summer chapters of manga, the sound effects are everywhere, but now we were experiencing it firsthand! Also, we saw some kind of winged insect pick up a spider and carry it into a hole in the table. It was fascinating and creepy.
As we were driving around Nasu in search of the place, we saw posters everywhere for a thing called...um...something. I think it had the kanji for moon in it? But it looked like a little round cake with filling. So we tried one! And it was yummy! They also had these cookies that were shaped like leaves with some kind of strawberry jam filling, and they called it strawberry pie, but it was really more like a cookie than a pie. Maybe the cookie was a thick pie crust. But the best was the milk pie cakes. I don't know why they call it that, but it was basically a cake with a milky filling, like maybe it was made of condensed milk. I don't know, but it was delicious. I kind of wish we'd bought more... Oh well.
On the ride back to Tokyo, Kyoya set his iPad up on the dashboard and we watched Encouragement of Climb. This was the show that motivated him to climb Mt. Fuji, and he said we should all climb it together sometime. But just the thought of hiking makes me feel out of breath, and we'd heard that the Mt. Fuji climb is nothing to sneeze at, so we weren't too keen on the idea. So we watched this anime that inspired Kyoya to climb Mt. Fuji...and it made me want to try it even less. All it did was focus on how ridiculously strenuous it is, and elevation sickness and all the things about climbing Mt. Fuji that basically just make you want to die. It was a pretty interesting series, though.
And! it leads us to more on the discussion about why comedy is so hard to translate. This is probably the real number one reason. Comedy often requires more context than is provided in just the text and pictures. So in this anime, one of the girls catches a cold, and her friend says, "I guess that saying about certain people not catching colds is just a superstition." Kyoya heard that and laughed, then asked if we understood it, since it's based on a Japanese idiom. We did understand it, though, because we translate manga, and they say it a lot in manga. The "certain people" who don't catch colds are "idiots". And if you know that, the joke is probably a lot funnier. But if you don't know that, and if you don't think to look up what kind of people supposedly don't catch colds, and you translate it straight, then I don't think a lot of people are going to get the joke. And that is what makes comedy hard to translate.
So we made it back to Tokyo, and back to our hotel and the next day we went to church. This time, I actually wrote down instructions based on Google maps, so we were able to find the building without too much trouble. There was trouble anyway, though, because we didn't realize the train was going to stop and wait before leaving the station, and so we ended up arriving juuuuust a little bit late, but fortunately they were still singing the opening hymn. We snuck into a pew in the back and happened to be sitting next to the sister missionaries! Of course we didn't talk much during the meeting, but afterward we learned that one of them was from New Zealand, which makes two New Zealand encounters this Japan trip!
After sacrament meeting, lys ran off to meet with a friend while we went off to Sunday school and Relief Society. And then we went back to the hotel to rest and relax. We found an interesting TV show where they asked students of Tokyo University what their biggest concerns were and ranked them: 5)studying is hard, 4)everybody around them is amazing, 3)people keep expecting them to be super awesome, 2)they don't know what they're going to do after college, and 1)they can't get a boyfriend/girlfriend. The rest of the show was spent trying to help the survey applicants to solve that number one concern.
When lys got back, we spent some time hanging out and talking, and then we decided to go to bed, because the next day we wanted to beat rush hour traffic. We had two full days left on our vacation, and of course that means Tokyo Disney Resort.
Today I'm thankful for getting to hang out with capybaras, getting to hang out with red pandas, getting to experience a Japanese all-you-can-eat barbecue place, beavers!, and making it to and from church without incident.