I am a graduate student at UC Berkeley studying the diversity and evolution of whelks. This summer I was sponsored by the NSF (USA) and JSPS (Japan) to work with Dr. Seiji Hayashi at Nagoya University in Japan to collect buccinid gastropod (whelk) tissue samples and examine whelk shell collections at musems throughout Japan. Sugoi! Some of the snails that I study are pictured to the right.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nagoya fishmarket and Nagoya Castle

On Saturday I decided to give the fish market a try (alone) with my limited Japanese language ability then go see Nagoya Castle. It was an adventure! Here is the fishmarket.I was excited to find it and find tsubu-gai there too. Because I can say pretty much only "this one, please" in Japanese, the interactions I had with the vendors was comical. Some gave me whelks for free, while others I could hear saying the equivalent of "here she is again!" because I kept getting lost between the indoor and outdoor parts of the market and passing the same stall over and over again. Hah! By the end of the morning I had successfully bought (or was given) 4 tsubu gai species. Another small detail added to the bizarre but kind of wonderful atomosphere of the whole experience- the 80s song "She Blinded me with Science" was playing inexplicabley from somewhere as I walked around.It was a marine menagerie including octopus, who I felt really bad for...sea urchinsand tuna.I then went to Nagoya Castle, the emblem of the city.The castle boasts the famed (in Aichi Prefecture at least) golden "shachihoko" on its top.Images of these animals are ubiquitous around Nagoya in a variety of forms. I consulted various sources trying to discover the nature of this animal and was told that it is;
1. An imaginary dragon-like fish (Nagoya Tourist Guide)
2. Fish-like statue (Another Nagoya guide)
3. Golden Dolphin (Nagoya Castle pamphlet)
4. Dolphin-like sea creature (Lonely Planet, Japan)
5. A mythical creature with a tiger head and fish body (My Japanese host)
6. A killer whale (a new Japanese friend from Nagoya who I met at Starbucks)
The verdict? The characters for shachihoko are Chinese and mean "Orca", so my Starbucks friend was right. However, the depiction of the shachihoko has tiger head and fish body characteristics, so my host is correct too. The schachihoko that you can ride (!) on the 5th floor of the castle shows these dual characteristics nicely. As you can see, I am not bothered by such taxonomic and phenotypic inconsistencies and instead just enjoy having my picture taken on a large, sort of weird, golden statue.

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