I was eleven years old when that unforgettable encounter took place. Early summer that year, we had a large annual family gathering in a coastal city of Japan called Oarai. On the second day, we all made a visit to the newly opened aquarium in the city.
I was not a keen fan of aquariums, but this one was brand new and embodied the modern view of aquariums that the best way to showcase the life of sea animals was to let them live a life as close to their natural life style as possible.
As soon as I stepped inside the aquarium, I was amazed by its spaciousness. Almost every water tank stretched from the floor to the ceiling, and I felt as if I were diving in the ocean itself. Fish, shellfish and all other kinds of sea animals were moving around lively and freely around me. “Whoa!” I could not stop exclaiming as I walked through the rooms. I became very talkative.
After several rooms, we came in front of a particularly large water tank. I literally had to bend my body backwards in order to see the top of it. So many things were happening in the water tank that I needed to take a moment to take them in.
As I stood there, staring into the water, something large and fast swam across the water, its move so swift and elegant. “There goes a sea turtle!” My father’s voice rang next to me. “A sea turtle?” I had never seen one before. I was excited. I wanted to see it properly, but it had disappeared from my sight.
Just when I dropped my shoulders in disappointment, my father pointed to the water. “There he comes again! There is another one!” I saw two sea turtles swimming at a fast speed. I noticed something were dangling from their stomachs. “What are those?” “Those are remora. They don’t swim on their own, they have patrons that carry them.”
The sea turtles were fast, elegant, free and happy, and moreover, so generous as to allow other fish hang from their bodies without being affected by them. “I want to be like them!” I shouted.
On the way out, we all made a stop at the aquarium shop, and I bought a big cuddling pillow of a sea turtle, a reminder of this touching encounter.