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Traveling beyond the gates

070306 -- AOMORI, Japan -- This pitted stingray is just one of several species that swims through the Aquarium Asamushi's 15-meter tunnel water tank. Pitted stingrays can reach up to 14 feet in length. The aquarium is approximately 90 minutes by car or bus from Misawa Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brad Sprague)

070306 -- AOMORI, Japan -- This pitted stingray is just one of several species that swims through the Aquarium Asamushi's 15-meter tunnel water tank. Pitted stingrays can reach up to 14 feet in length. The aquarium is approximately 90 minutes by car or bus from Misawa Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brad Sprague)

070306 -- AOMORI, Japan -- Two Pirarucu, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world can be found in the waters of the Amazon in South America. It can grow up to 10 feet long and weighs around 400 pounds. These fish can be seen on the second floor of the  the Aquarium Asamushi. The aquarium is approximately 90 minutes by car or bus from Misawa Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. A.C. Eggman)

070306 -- AOMORI, Japan -- Two Pirarucu, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world can be found in the waters of the Amazon in South America. It can grow up to 10 feet long and weighs around 400 pounds. These fish can be seen on the second floor of the the Aquarium Asamushi. The aquarium is approximately 90 minutes by car or bus from Misawa Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. A.C. Eggman)

070306 -- AOMORI, Japan -- Misawa family member Tyler Sprague, 5, enjoys some hands-on experience at the The Touch and Discovery Zone on the second floor of the Aquarium Ashamushi. The aquarium is approximately 90 minutes by car or bus from Misawa Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brad Sprague.)

070306 -- AOMORI, Japan -- Misawa family member Tyler Sprague, 5, enjoys some hands-on experience at the The Touch and Discovery Zone on the second floor of the Aquarium Ashamushi. The aquarium is approximately 90 minutes by car or bus from Misawa Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brad Sprague.)

070306 -- AOMORI, Japan -- A bottle-nosed dolphin plays with a ringlet after a 30-minute live show performance at the Aquarium Asamushi. The dolphin show is the one of the main attractions at the aquarium. The aquarium is approximately 90 minutes by car or bus from Misawa Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. A.C. Eggman)

070306 -- AOMORI, Japan -- A bottle-nosed dolphin plays with a ringlet after a 30-minute live show performance at the Aquarium Asamushi. The dolphin show is the one of the main attractions at the aquarium. The aquarium is approximately 90 minutes by car or bus from Misawa Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. A.C. Eggman)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The large comfortable bus cruised along Michinoku Toll Road through the snowy Japanese mountains as passengers chatted excitedly on their way to interact with rare, exotic marine life on Misawa's Information, Tickets and Tours Asamushi Aquarium tour in February. 

"This trip is a good 'starter' for rennet arrivals to Misawa," said Master Sgt. Tim Carney, 35th Fighter Wing command post, who joined 25 other Misawans on the aquarium trip. This was Sergeant Carney's first trip outside Misawa City since his arrival four months ago. "Although it was only a day long, it was just enough to let newcomers travel beyond the local area environ to experience Japanese culture and it was a nice change of scenery." 

The aquarium is also known as Aquarium Asamushi. Overlooking Aomori Bay, it is the northernmost aquarium in Honshū. It preserves and displays nearly 11,000 creatures, including those from Aomori Prefecture's abundant marine resources and about 514 species of rare aquatic animals from around the world. 

The aquarium is the largest general aquarium and has a variety of cold and warm water marine life such as sea otters, penguins, sea lions, and dolphins. 

Master Sgt. Brad Sprague, 35th Fighter Wing public affairs, decided to be adventurous and asked IT&T for driving directions. The Sprague family has been to the aquarium twice since their assignment here in 2004. 

"It's a good family day out and it's affordable," said Sergeant Sprague. Ticket prices range from 250 to 1,000 yen based on age, group size and whether you chose to drive yourself or take the IT&T tour. 

The two favorite areas of the aquarium for the Sprague family are the petting zoo and the live dolphin show. 

"My son, Tyler, really enjoys the petting zoo," said Sergeant Sprague. The Touch and Discover Zone is on the second floor of the facility. Children can touch and pick up the various sealife including sea urchins and starfish. His wife, Crystal, on the other hand, "loves the live dolphin show," he said. 

The 30-minute show, performed by bottle-nosed dolphins is one of the main attractions for patrons. Two other attractions are the otter and penguin feeding times. The Oriental Small-Clawed Otters are fed a variety of shellfish, squid and fish four to fives a day. The Humboldt Penguin breeds off the coasts of Peru and Chile and prefers warmer climates. The species is considered to be endangered with a population of less than 12,000. 

On the first floor, patrons can walk through a15-meter long underwater seawater tank, watch warm and cold water marine life such as the large sea turtles and stingrays, a wide variety of small and large fish, and watch the dolphin show. 

On the second floor, guests get the feel of a tropical rain forest, come close to fish such as the Piranha, carnivorous freshwater fish, and the Pirarucu, largest freshwater fish in the world, and experience the petting zoo. 

Whether you're intrigued by the variety of species, enjoy the hands-on experience or just watching the live dolphin and feeding shows, the aquarium is sure to awe and educate every spectator. 

If the aquarium isn't the adventure you are looking for, IT&T offers a variety of trips and tours around Japan. You can purchase tickets through the company and arrange your own transportation, or you can join one of the tours and let IT&T do the driving. Call 226-3555 for more details.