Ruins of Pompeii – My Experience

Pompeii was an ancient town in Italy. Along with some other surrounding towns, it was destroyed and buried under volcanic ash in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Pompeii was re-discovered in 18th century by excavation. Today the ruins of Pompeii is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy.

In the year 2013, I had a chance to visit this interesting place with two of my colleagues. My experience and feelings about this place is hard to describe in words. In my life, I have visited many ruins of historical importance, but it wasn’t just a handful of ruins, but an entire city, miles from one end to the other, that was buried under dozens of feet of ash. All the inhabitants of the town died instantly !

I arrived at the nearest railway station of the Pompeii-ruins, known as ‘Pompei Scavi’, on a bright and warm day in April 2013.

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Railway Station

The main site was a few minutes walking distance from the station. We got a map of the whole site from the reception counter at the entrance of the site. There were innumerable things to see there – ruins of several temples, some municipal buildings, a lot of bars and  restaurants, few bath-houses, markets and all other things that a town can have. 

We saw the body-casts of some of the human victims who were frozen to the posture in which they died.

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Then, one after another, we came across several ruined structures. We did not hire any guide, so we could not immediately understand which ruined structure happened to be what, 2000 years ago. The map and the little description on it helped us to some extent. I was so moved after visiting Pompeii, that after coming back home I used to google and read about the fateful town. In course of doing that, I found accurate details about the ruins of Pompeii in this website. This is still bookmarked in my laptop.

Pompeii was a huge town, and it was almost impossible to explore every corner of it by foot in few hours. However, we could see a significant part of it. We came across the macellum (market) of Pompeii, which was one of the focal points of the ancient town.

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Statues in market area

In the temple of Apollo, there is a bronze sculpture of goddess Diana. This statue is a replica of the original one, which is now in the National Archeological Museum of Naples.

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Statue of Diana

We saw a colorful fresco (left picture below) in the ruins of a thermopolium (restaurant). We also came across some erotic paintings and graffiti inside a building which was a brothel in ancient Pompeii. One of the paintings is shown here (right picture below).

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Mt. Vesuvius could always be seen in the background of the ruins. The destructor overlooking the destructions… Mt. Vesuvius is still active and it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the large population of people living nearby and the tendency of the volcano towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. 

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Mount Vesuvius

We came across numerous intricately designed pillars and statues. The carvings on the walls of some buildings were also very rich.

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We were amazed to see the amphitheatre of Pompeii which was pretty big in size. The structure was very simple and represents an example of the earliest style of amphitheatre.

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We continued to explore the ruins, walking through the streets. We saw some beautiful pillars and wonderful arches.

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We also saw the ruins of some of the bars and restaurants of the town. Some terracotta pots (below left figure) were found in the excavation which were most probably used to store food in ancient Pompeii. We came across some round shaped earthenware jars called ‘dolia’ (below right picture) underneath the counters of the bars. These probably contained food and drink.

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Public baths were an important part of Pompeii life. We came across a forum bath which had a changing room, a hot bath room and a cold bath room. Inner walls of the forum bath were ornately carved. Below, I give two pictures of the ruined forum bath that we visited.

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After roaming around for about four hours, we were completely exhausted and we had to stop. We bid goodbye to Pompeii, with a wish to come back again.

And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Great clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above

But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?

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On novelist J. M. Coetzee and his masterpiece, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’

I express my heartfelt thanks to Ms. Arpita Pramanick for having me as a guest blogger on her blog Scribbles@Arpita. She is a thoughtful young lady and an aspiring author with a strong observation power. Her short story, “I am Mala” is published on eFiction magazine in the May, 2015 edition. Her first book of short stories, “Bound by Life”, will release on June 20, 2015 on Amazon Kindle. Now, I myself is quite new to writing and when she asked me to write on her blog in the Saturday-special “Guest Blog” series on “writing”, I was a bit confused about what to write! Finally I ended up reviewing a book of the celebrated author J. M. Coetzee. I hope you will like it.

Scribbles@Arpita

Today’s guest post is written by Ms. Swagata Mukherjee, with whom I have had the good fortune to share a room for the last five months of my engineering program. Swagata is pursuing her Ph.D. in experimental high energy physics, has travelled widely and shares her travel exploits in her blog, Through My Eyes. The pictures on her blog are also mostly photographed by her. She is also passionate about books. Today, on my request, she shares with us her views on novelist J.M. Coetzee’s ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’. Thank you so much, Swagata Di, for this guest-post.


Not being a widely-read person, especially in English literature, I would have probably never come across a book written by J. M. Coetzee if a Bengali publishing house didn’t come up with a Bengali translation of some of the masterpieces of the Nobel laureate author. This year, at the Kolkata…

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No Strings Attached Award

NSA

With deepest appreciation, I express my thanks for being nominated by Ms. Arpita Pramanick for the No Strings Attached Award. It is a very special moment for me and I am very happy and excited. This nomination means a lot to me. This actually encourages me to write more. I want to mention that I am quite new to blogging, and it is Arpita who motivated and inspired me to start writing blogs. So, I am glad that my nomination have come from her. Thank you!

Some details about the award can be found here.

I would like to nominate Leanne Cole PHOTOGRAPHY for the No Strings Attached Award.

The Gorgeous Sunset

The gorgeous sunset from Enoshima island, Japan. The eye-catcher is these photographs is the one and only Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan and a volcano that last erupted in 18th century.

Mt. Fuji from Enoshima island

Mt. Fuji from Enoshima island

Mt. Fuji from Enoshima island

Mt. Fuji from Enoshima island

Mt. Fuji from Enoshima island

Mt. Fuji from Enoshima island

Mt. Fuji from Enoshima island

Mt. Fuji from Enoshima island

Just beyond the sunset
Someone waits for me
Just beyond the sunset
Lies my destiny
Where the purple mountains
Lie in deep tranquility
There I’ll find the treasure
Of love eternally

10 Days in Japan (Part 4) – The Automatic Train and Other Experiences

Hi everyone ! Here is the 4th and the last part of my stories of visit to Japan.

Day 8

It was May 2, 2014. Another day blessed with wonderful sunny weather. After having early lunch, me and my husband Biplob headed towards Bunkyo Civic Center, a government building whose 25th floor houses a free observation deck. The deck is around 105 meters above ground and offers a panoramic view of Tokyo. From there we had an amazing view of the Tokyo skytree, the tallest structure in Japan.

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Skytree, view from Bunkyo Civic Center

The cars and the people on the road beneath looked like small toys !

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A typical crossing, view from Bunkyo Civic Center

From the observation deck, we could also see the famous Big-O in Tokyo Dome City, an entertainment complex. Big-O is a center-less Ferris wheel; it is in fact the first center-less Ferris wheel in history. Tokyo’s largest roller coaster, Thunder Dolphin, passes through the center of the wheel.

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Big-O from Bunkyo Civic Center

After enjoying the Tokyo panorama, we finally came down and planned to go to Odaiba island. There was no direct train, so at first we went to Shiodome station and from there took another train to go to Odaiba. The train we boarded from Shiodome was a very special one! It was an automatic train, without any driver on board. This special train line is known as Tokyo Waterfront New Transit Waterfront Line and it is a transit system controlled entirely by computers.

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Automatic train

I was on the very first seat in the train, and the feeling was as if I was enjoying a joy-ride.Views from the train was nice; we got to see glimpses of a bridge, nice view of the Tokyo bay and we also saw a huge Ferris wheel through two buildings.

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Ferris wheel, from train

Finally we reached Odaiba, a large artificial island in Tokyo bay. The first thing that attracted our eyes was a replica of Statue of Liberty. In the background of the statue, there was a suspension bridge, known as Rainbow Bridge.

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Replica of Statue of Liberty in Odaiba

Odaiba skyline had numerous tall structures, but the two identical buildings were really interesting.

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Twin building, Odaiba skyline

We were amazed to see the headquarters of Fuji TV which is one of the most striking buildings in Japan. The building features a huge silver ball which serves as an observation deck.

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The headquarters of Fuji TV

However, we did not enter the Fuji building. We were sitting by the Tokyo bay and enjoyed the view of sun setting behind the iconic and tall buildings in Tokyo, making the Tokyo bay blackish, with occasional golden tint. This reminded me of the day when we had the chance to see sunset in the backdrop of Mt. Fuji, from Kamakura.

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Sunset from Odaiba

Even after sunset we were roaming around, walking on the shore of the bay and watched all the buildings and the rainbow bridge being illuminated with colorful lights. Some boats on the bay were also illuminated and they looked gorgeous.

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After sunset

Though it was far away, but the Tokyo tower could also be seen from there.

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Illuminated Rainbow bridge

Among the other interesting things, he saw a huge statue of a robot (Gundam) standing in front of the building of DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, a shopping and entertainment complex.

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Robot, Odaiba Island

We also saw the brightly lit Daikanransha, a 115-meter tall slowly-spinning Ferris wheel. We already had a glimpse of it from the train, but at night it looks pretty awesome as it is lit by thousands of neon tubes programmed to display multiple patterns in various colors.

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Ferris wheel

It was time to go back to our lodge in Kashiwanoha. We boarded the automatic train again and at night the journey was more fun. A moderately dark surroundings… occasional glimpses of illuminated rainbow-bridge, Tokyo tower and other high-rises… a train with no driver, which will take us to our destination accurately… and that feeling of riding on a joy-ride… indeed it was quite an experience.

Day 9

Next day, May 3, was spent in a rather leisurely manner. I had to come back to India the next day (May 4), so we decided not do make the day too hectic. We cooked some Indian dishes together and had our lunch. The taste of the food compelled us to make a dine-out plan for night. So, in the late afternoon we arrived at the nearby shopping complex Lalaport. I bought some small gifts for my relatives and friends and had our dinner in the food court there. In that shopping mall, we came across some interesting shops. There was a dog-grooming salon, where the dogs were having their make-over by trained professionals. We also came across a dog-cafe there. A dog-cafe is a place where people can go together with their own dogs. There are fancy dishes for dogs, human food is available as well. In a dog-cafe, dogs are welcome to sit on a chair or a sofa and have their food from a nice bowl placed on a table. I was totally amazed to see this, as this is something I never saw in my own country.

Day 10

My visit to Japan came to an end. Biplob came to the airport to see me off. Soon, we both had to go back to our daily routine, but the time spent together in Japan was very much refreshing. My flight took off at the scheduled time… ‘Bye Bye Japan’ – I may have murmured, and Japan also said goodbye to me. Do you know how? By offering a mesmerizing visual gift… the snowcapped Mt. Fuji !!

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Mt Fuji from air-plane

I did not have my camera with me, so I clicked a picture with my mobile phone. The picture is not awesome, but the view was.. and it will always remain in the core of my heart. In the rest of my journey back home, I was feeling like my Japan visit was complete and successful in every respect. Only that I was missing Biplob. But then the famous quote by John Gay came to my mind …..

We only part to meet again

10 Days in Japan (Part 3) – The Pedestrian Scramble and Other Experiences

Hi everyone, and here is the 3rd part of my story of visit to Japan. Here I pen down some more exciting moments of my 10-day tour.

Day 7

It was May 1, 2014. Yet another bright sunny day in Kashiwanoha (the place where we were staying in Japan). Me and my husband, Biplob, made the travel plan for the day while having our breakfast. We took a train to visit Meiji Shrine. But we did not get down at the station nearest to the shrine, instead we got down at a station which was at least a kilometer away from our destination. The one kilometer path which we choose to walk, was a very sophisticated and interesting place where one can get to see the modern youth-culture of Tokyo. It was a broad, tree-lined avenue known as Omotesando, also referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees.

Footpath, Omotesando

Footpath, Omotesando

Some call it the fashion street, probably because of the branded shops on both sides of the avenue, selling fashionable (and expensive) dresses and accessories.

A building decorated with flowers, Omotesando

Some building, Omotesando

At the end of the fashion street we found the entrance of Meiji Shrine, also known as Meiji Jingu. The entrance was marked by a massive Torii-gate (traditional Japanese gate) and once we crossed the gate to enter the shrine-area, we were as if disconnected from the hustles and bustles of the busy city.

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Torii gate, Entrance of Meiji Shrine

The main building of the shrine was approximately ten minutes of walking distance from the entrance. The walk through the tranquil forest-like area was enjoyable. We came to know that the trees in the shrine complex were donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established. On the way to the main building of the shrine, we came across the huge collection of (empty) barrels of sake, Japanese rice-wine.

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Decorative display of sake barrels

The main shrine was quite big in size and it was dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife.

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Meiji Shrine

Near the shrine, we saw some horizontal bars which is used to hang wooden tablets, where different wishes were written by people. It is a very common tradition in Japanese shrines.

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Wishes, written on wooden tablets

Our next destination was Yoyogi park, which is just beside the complex of Meiji Shrine. This Park is one of Tokyo’s largest city parks, having wide lawns, ponds, sitting areas and lots of lush green trees. We spent quite a lot of time there strolling around here and there and relaxing amidst the greenery.

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Entrance of Yoyogi park

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Yoyogi Park

When we came out of Yoyogi park, it was already late afternoon. We started to walk towards Shibuya crossing. We were walking through a posh area, with glamorous shopping malls and nicely decorated restaurants on both sides of the wide road.

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Decorated restaurant

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On the way to Shibuya crossing …

Finally we reached the famous Shibuya crossing! It was a pedestrian scramble, a special kind of traffic system that stops all vehicles at a time and allows the pedestrians to cross the intersection in every direction. For the first time in my life, I crossed such a special and world-famous intersection. Who knew that even crossing a road can be so interesting!

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Shibuya Crossing

After experiencing the scramble crossing, we arrived at the entrance of Shibuya railway station. There we saw the statue of Hachiko, the faithful dog. There is a story behind this statue. Hachiko was a pet dog of a professor of the University of Tokyo. At the end of each day, Hachiko used to go to the Shibuya Station to receive his owner. This was a daily routine, until the day when the professor did not return at all to the railway station. He had suffered a cerebral attack in his office and died. Hachiko’s endless waiting started from that day… Each day for the next nine years, Hachiko used to arrive at the same station in the afternoon and he used to wait eagerly for his owner’s return, and then finally go back, sadly.

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Statue of Hachiko

We liked that fact that people of Japan still remember the faithful dog. They made a statue of Hachiko near the Shibuya station, the surrounding area is named as “Hachiko square”, in the roads of Tokyo we came across a “Hachiko-bus” – all these were tributes to the famous Akita dog, who waited patiently for his owner.

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Hachiko bus

Then we took a train from the Shibuya station and our headed towards Asakusa to see the ancient Buddhist temple known as Senso-ji temple. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple and a must-visit place in Tokyo. It was dark by then and the huge temple was beautifully lit up. I had my tripod with me, so I started to click pictures.

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Senso-ji temple

Apart from the main building of the temple, there was a pagoda whose architectural beauty is worth mentioning.

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Sensoji Pagoda (at right)

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Temple gate

When we were roaming around and clicking photos in the complex of the temple, a tall and nicely-lit structure attracted our eyes from far. It was the famous Tokyo Skytree which is the tallest structure in Japan and the second tallest structure in the world. Its height is 634 meters! Biplob, in course of living in Japan for quite a long time, had already seen the skytree many times and he suggested that we could get a better view if we walk upto the bank of Sumida river. So we started walking, and yes! the bank of the river was actually a very nice place. We got stunning view of the Skytree and other buildings. This particular lighting style (in blue and white) of skytree is called “Iki”, which means stylish.

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“Love in Tokyo” 

It was cold and windy.. it was getting late.. but the place was so beautiful that we wanted to spend more time there. Before leaving the place, we captured the moment in my camera (utilizing the tripod). A kind-of-selfie…  “We and the skytree” …  Perfect!

We leave behind a bit of ourselves wherever we’ve been

10 Days in Japan (Part 2) – Handshake with a Sea-lion and Other Experiences

I am back to tell some more stories of my visit to Japan. I stayed in Japan only for 10 days, but explored a lot of places in and around Tokyo with my husband. The amazing experiences of the first four days are here. Now, let me tell the stories from the 5th day onwards…

Day 5

It was April 29, 2014. We had a plan to visit the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, which is the oldest zoo in Japan. As usual, we took a train and reached there. The zoo was quite huge and we started from one corner. The first animal that we came across was a giant panda. Until then, I saw this animal only on TV and in books. The pandas in the zoo were just like the teddy bears that I have in my home, so cute that I wanted to hug them. A lot of people gathered in front of the cage, but the pandas were concentrating only on eating bamboo-stems.

A cute panda in Ueno Zoo

A cute panda in Ueno Zoo

We were roaming around and saw elephants, lions, tigers, gorilla and some other interesting animals. The zoo also has a large collection of birds including owls, toucans, kingfishers etc. All the birds were in cages, as expected; but in one corner of the zoo there was a sulphur-crested cockatoo which was not caged. But surprisingly, it was not flying away !

Cockatoo

Cockatoo

Then we came across some more animals – in a pond there were some sea-lions who were having their lunch at that time and soon after finishing off their lunch they started to fall asleep on the small stone islands made in the middle of the pond; in an artificial small hill there was a polar bear who seemed to be not-too-happy with Tokyo’s weather in April. We walked more and found tapirs, Japanese macaques and some other animals, most of them were completely unknown to us.

Sea-lion

Sea-lion

Polar-bear

Polar-bear

Tapir

Tapir

Japanese Macaques

Japanese Macaques

Inside the zoo we saw the famous Ueno Zoo Monorail which is an example of suspension railway. This rail service aims to connect the eastern and western parts of the zoo. For me, it was an amazing experience to see a small train proceeding slowly by hanging from the rail track above it !

Ueno Zoo Monorail

Ueno Zoo Monorail

However, we did not board the monorail as there was a long queue; we continued walking and came across the penguins, the red pandas, the colorful flamingos, turtles, snakes, crocodiles, zebras, kangaroos, some more birds of different varieties and a lot more!

Penguin

Penguin

Flamingo

Flamingo

After exploring the huge area of the zoo, we had to give some rest to our legs, so we spent some time sitting on a bench amidst the greenery. But soon after we headed towards Nezu shrine, which is one of Japan’s oldest shrines.

Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine

Just beside the main building of the shrine there is a torii-pathway; a lot of small sized toriis lined up to make a tunnel-like structure. Torii is traditional Japanese gate, which is commonly found at the entrance of shrines. Following the torii-pathway we reached the top of a small hillock where we found another small shrine known as Otome Inari shrine, dedicated to goddess Inari. There were some fox-statues which is very typical for an Inari shrine. We also found some nice stone carvings there; one of them depicting the famous three wise monkeys.

Torii-pathway

Torii-pathway

Statue of a fox

Statue of a fox

Stone carving

Stone carving

Nezu shrine is a must-visit place in spring because of the Azalea Flower Festival. The shrine has a wonderful azalea garden which has more than 3000 plants in it, and in spring (April-May) all these azalea bushes are in full bloom, making the garden bright and colorful.

Azalea garden at Nezu Shrine

Azalea garden at Nezu Shrine

It was already late-afternoon when we came out of Nezu shrine. We were hungry and started to walk towards Ginza, where we could get some Indian food. Ginza is one of the most luxurious shopping districts in the world, with numerous shops, shopping malls, restaurants and coffee-shops. It was really dazzling and gorgeous !

Ginza

Ginza

As expected, we found an Indian restaurant, where he had a delicious dinner. Finally we were on our way back to Kashiwanoha.

Day 6

It was not a sunny day, it was drizzling outside. But of course rain could not stop us. A rainy day is the best day to visit a museum, so we planned for Tokyo National Museum, which is a very old museum of Japan and has a huge collection of paintings, masks, sculptures etc.

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum

The museum was very big and there were so many things to see there! We also found paintings from India. Some of the sculptures were also from India.

Sculpture, Tokyo National Museum

Sculpture, Tokyo National Museum

It wasn’t raining anymore when we came out of the museum. It was just early afternoon, and we were not in a mood to go back to our lodge so early… so we decided to visit Epson Shinagawa aqua-stadium, which is an indoor entertainment complex with aquariums full of water creatures. We were amazed to see thousands of fishes and other creatures of different colors and sizes; shark, stingray, starfish, Japanese spider crab and other unknown animals; the world under water was in front of our eyes!

Japanese Spider Crab

Japanese Spider Crab

We enjoyed a dolphin show in the aqua-stadium. The dolphins were carrying human beings on their noses! They were jumping rhythmically with the music. But, above all, the most attractive thing in that aqua-stadium was a show by two sea-lions. If they get to eat small fishes in regular time intervals, they can do pretty much everything; they can bow down, play balance game, catch objects thrown at them and even, they can say sorry for any mistake made by them during the show!

Stage performance of a sea-lion

Stage performance of a sea-lion

After the show ended, there was a interaction session between one of the sea-lions and the human beings. That was one of the most memorable interaction sessions of my life where I had an opportunity of handshake with a sea-lion !

The Handshake !

The Handshake !

After spending wonderful time in Epson Shinagawa aqua-stadium, when we finally came out, it was already dinner time. Six days were gone… but there were so many new things that I came across in such a short time !

Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world.