About a week ago we announced the opening of an otter touching experience at Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park, and the response was huge. From Japan and all around the country people’s hearts melted at the sight of those gentle round eyes and long whiskers.

Managing to get a spot in the quickly filling reservations, one of our reported headed down to the Miura Peninsula to get all touchy-feely with a quartet of Asian small-clawed otters.  She came back with this report and a slew of adorable pictures.

Close Encounter of the Kawaii Kind
by Meru Rinko

Heading down to Aburatsubo, I checked over the widely spread advertising image of an incredibly cute otter reaching through a hole in some glass. My mind echoed the comments of netizens around the world such as, “I gotta get down there!” and “I want to touch them!”

After paying the 500 yen (US$5) admission, I bee-lined it to the otter section, where…. Yaaaaahaha! Four little otters were scooting around their enclosure. It was the first time I even saw otters in real life and soon I’d be able to touch them!

Here and there on the glass wall were some protrusions with signs hanging that read “Do not touch.” Those must be where the little hands come out for my impending meet-and-greet.


I passed the time watching the slick little cuties scurry about when a staff member came out and started removing the signs.  Like a herd of gazelle sensing a predator, all of the guests’ heads turned in unison. It was time…

With the signs gone we could now see the holes in all their glory. Surprisingly, the otters too were getting excited and started gathering near the glass. “Wow, those otters really want to touch us too!” I couldn’t help thinking.

Then, the same member of staff came out again carry some bowls filled with chopped up fish. Then it occurred to me that the otters were really after!

The lady explained that all we had to do was pinch a piece of fish and put it to the hole. That would bring the otter out for some hands-on time.

It was a mercifully short explanation so I didn’t have to wait long before pinching some fish and…

Oh, here it comes!

The little otter stuck his lovable little hand through the glass and… [Suddenly our reporter was overcome with cuteness and began using incoherent onomatopoeic utterings and baby-talk. The staff had said that this is a common affliction of guests.]

When I came to, the staff showed me how to fake-out the otter by swapping the piece of fish with my finger for a moment. As we touched fingers it felt really squishy. I never would have imagined that. I kind of felt like I was in that scene from E.T., only this was a close encounter of the kawaii kind.

I saw otters on TV before but never had the chance to appreciate all their squishy-fingered details. They had an adorability that soaks right into you.

Believe it or not, there is a down-side to the whole experience. To entice the otters you need to hold raw fish bits with your fingers. As you might guess, the smell gets into your hands and sticks with you for a while no matter how much you wash them. Still, it’s a small price to pay for such a rare treat.

This handshake experience that puts an AKB48 event to shame is being held until 13 September. Sessions are divided between morning and afternoon. With summer vacation now in full swing in Japan you may have trouble getting a spot, so if you want to get in on the otter action contact Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park as soon as possible!

Also, although I came for the otters, I stayed for the dolphins, penguins, and sea lions that can also be found hanging around the park, not to mention the gift shop. Even if you live on the other side of the country (or further) I’d still recommend you visit!

Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park – Kawau No Mori Gakubu
1082 Koajiro, Misaki, Miura, Kanagawa
Otter Finger Touch, Fish Catch from 13 July to 13 Sept, 2013
Open every day from 11:50 on weekdays and 12:40 on weekends and holidays
Admission: 500 yen
Maximum Number of People: 10

Source: Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park (Japanese)
Original Article by Meru Rinko
Photos: RocketNews24

A Close Encounter


Bonus Otter Shots

▼ And Some Exterior Shots

[ Read in Japanese ]