I planned an entire date based on a Netflix drama. If I haven’t made this clear on Liv Wandering yet let me make this statement now: this blogger loves Asian dramas. I’ve been around the block on Netflix and a few of my favorites are Cheese in the Trap, Romance is a Bonus Book, and Noble, My Love. Among my favorites is the live action adaption of the Japanese manga Good Morning Call. The romcom entertains its audience with hilarious high school then college aged characters that are put in awkward situations. The plot evolves through two seasons which gave me plenty of inspiration for our date. It was just a matter of deciding which episode to base our date on for the day. It wasn’t a hard decision after rewatching the first season where the female protagonist and her childhood friend go on a date to an aquarium. The episode’s blue hues, graceful marine animals, and romantic light creates the ultimate tease for audiences shipping the couple. Although, the episode only lasted minutes inside the majestic aquarium it was enough to make fans–including me–add that kind of date to their bucket list.
Maxwell Aqua Park
I have a confession to make. Sadly, my boyfriend, Daniel, and I weren’t able to get to Tokyo to visit the specific aquarium filmed in Good Morning Call. The pandemic, and the size of my wallet, may have spoiled our plans to experience the Japanese aquarium exactly as the characters did but I’ve added it to my calendar for a future date. With that to consider, I decided to move forward by visiting an aquarium much closer to home. Not too far of a drive away in Minneapolis lies the Mall of America. If you haven’t heard of this monstrous mall, it’s a place where coasters roar, logs splash, lego buildings stand, and rainforests come to life. The 5.6 million square foot property houses an abundance of stores, accommodates tourists through recently built hotels, and is the safe haven for many marine creatures that live in the basement. Yes, you read that right. The Sea Life Aquarium is in the basement of the Mall of America.
The aquarium has been around for as long as I can remember and I believe that it opened in 1996. I recently discovered, it’s part of the Sea Life family of aquariums around the world. As a child, I didn’t understand the ethical debates around captive marine and land animals used for tourist attractions. As an adult, it’s something I try to continue learning more about and do my best to put my attention and money toward conservation efforts that help mother nature and her living creatures. Not diminish them. That being said, I did research on Minnesota’s biggest aquarium before dropping any moolah on our Japanese-drama inspired date. During my research, I found Sea Life has several positive impacts in the conservation world. The latest installment for the organization is their Beluga Whale Sanctuary. The species is not formally endangered but they are nearly threatened which is why it’s so exciting that Sea Life is the first to make a Beluga Whale Sanctuary a reality. I find that their care to protect whales and dolphins is not something to easily dismiss. In addition, the Mall of America’s aquarium is home to several rescued sea turtles that were in life threatening accidents. I had no idea these turtles had been through so much trauma. The final points which led me to purchasing Sea Life tickets were listed out on their conservation page. From what I can tell, it looks like they walk the walk and I’m all for saving our oceans. I was convinced they were genuine in trying to make a positive impact for the oceans and its beautiful inhabitants.
We purchased our tickets online days in advance. The day of our date arrived and our reservation time was in the later afternoon. Daniel and I checked in and went down the escalator to embark on our journey. The experience is broken into several segments. The entrance to the lower deck is an optional photography station where we had our picture taken; masks, of course, were required to stay on. After our photo, we stepped into the first themed section which resembled a rainforest. The sounds, animals, and room all transported you into a forest far away from the non-existent sounds of the mall above. We made friends with a couple Caimen, Piranhas, and crawling creatures. We continued on the trail by following a full moon and eventually found ourselves next to a waterfall where a ceramic parrot sang our praises. Mist fell in toward our feet foreseeing that we were almost to the 300-foot underwater tunnel. In a few steps, our rainforest enclosure transitioned to the bottom of Sturgeon Lake and eventually led farther down to the Wild Amazon. As an experienced tourist of this particular tunnel, it was exciting to once again visit the glimmering glass tube that surrounded each visitor in a world not always seen. Fish both big and small from the freshest of waters to the saltiest oceans were swimming around us in massive pools of water. The beauty of life below the surface captivated audiences of all ages. Our date was well on its way and I found myself chuckling as I watched Daniel’s face light while looking at the giant fish effortlessly floating around us. As we observantly walked through the paved tunnel we kept our distance from others experiencing the same phenomena as us. Some fish were sitting near the bottom and others were gracefully gliding along and over the protective glass. Alas, my happy place couldn’t last long and we had to enter the inevitable Shark Cove (1:46 in the video).
As our date entered the most thrilling part for Daniel, I was rather hesitant to walk into my old nemeses’ lair. I have an unfair fear of sharks and even as a little girl, I couldn’t last in Shark Cove for very long. Luckily for Daniel, the sharks were swimming all around us, toward us, behind us, and even popping up from a blind spot. He was incredibly thrilled to see sand sharks, tiger sharks, rays, and other species. On the other hand, I was starting to sweat and jump at reflections in the glass. I was getting irritable waiting to leave the cove but fate thought Daniel deserved more time with sharks. I was trapped in the walkway with the glass keeping the sharks and I separate without any sort of escape as the family in front of us stopped for quite a while to enjoy the sharks. I hate to admit a five-year-old was fairing better than me in the tunnel surrounded by harmless sharks and rays but my phobia had gotten the better of me. As I was spinning around constantly trying to spot any sharks coming near me, Daniel casually walked up behind me and gave me quite the fright. I thought his reflection in the glass was actually a shark and it having been so close to my face gave me an unsettling start. I’m honestly amazed I even had viewable footage to share in my vlog as I was pretty spastic when filming. My filming skills may have something to do with my previous practice in this tunnel years before. I’ve gotten very good at being scared; a slight jolt of my body is the only visible sign of fright I give off when I start getting jumpy. As I composed myself from the shipwreck I had become, the family in front of us moved and I left my date in the tunnel as I bolted for Rainbow Reef.
As I looked at the tropical fish swimming around, I patted myself on the back for keeping my composure in Shark Cove while Daniel enjoyed his first visit with the sharks. I may have, however, celebrated too soon as Daniel couldn’t help but notice my jump of fright. As he teased me through the tropical waters our date made it to the Coral Caves. A bright florescent pink display caught both of our attention. It was magnificent. Recently, I watched a documentary Chasing Coral and if coral was anything like I was seeing out of water, then it surely had to be more majestic in the water. The colors were so potent and enveloped every visual sense I had. Our cameras weren’t able to capture the coral’s inconceivably bright pink color as the pictures turned out blue but I promise the display was unlike anything I have ever seen (3:24 in the video).
Little did we know, the spectacular display of color wasn’t over yet. A welcoming seahorse mangrove led us through a kelp forest of educational facts about seahorses and the importance of ocean conservation. The water filled tubes of seahorses guided our path to a mesmerizing display similar to the one seen in the Japanese drama. As we entered the darkened room, a rainbow of colors flashed revealing the Jellyfish Mirror Maze. Jellyfish look delicate and are entrancing creatures already but the light display they dance to enraptured each guest passing through. We made sure to take several shots of the tiny moon jellyfish because of how beautiful and graceful the little jellies swam. As expected from the romcom, the jellyfish were incredible to see with our own eyes. The mirrored cavern sparkled in the dark and it was almost hard for us not to join the jellyfish in their silent dance. Eventually, we had to move on as the next group came through. Still encapsulated by the ocean’s treasures, we ended our date by visiting the Ray Lagoon and the Pacific Northwest Rockpool. In these two open-spaced sections we were acquainted with several dozen smiling stingrays, baby sharks, starfish, and even anemone. Acting as a guide and informant, a friendly masked associate delighted guests with facts of about the Northwest Rockpool and its many touchable creatures. Daniel and I touched one anemone that felt like the cold water surrounding our hands but quickly decided it wasn’t a good idea to continue. I couldn’t help but have Finding Dory 2 swim through my head as I reached my hand in the touch pool (poor Hank).
With Sea Life’s expected date experience delivered, we rode escalators back to ground level where people and life above the surface never stopped. We continued to digest everything we learned from our date and reminisced on the exhibits. It was an enjoyable experience to learn about the marine creatures through lit plaques on the railings but we found our attention stolen away for minutes at a time to read facts about plastic in the oceans. One memorable display we came across sat in the middle of the mesmerizing jellyfish cavern. We walked by each tube feeling entranced by the gliding jellyfish but our path took a turn to a tube that wasn’t like the others. The jellyfish in this tube were bigger and more reflective. At least, that was my initial thought until I quickly realized the tube was filled with plastic bags shaped to look like jellyfish (4:43 in the video). It’s what our oceans could look like if we don’t take action now. Needless to say, the conservation efforts were impactful. That portion of the aquarium had us in agreement that it showed they really are trying to educate the public about plastic in the ocean. Daniel said it best, that “some of the time you didn’t know what you were looking at but you were intrigued. After catching your attention you realized it’s not just for display. It’s for awareness.”
I have to say, our first attempt at creating an Asian-drama inspired date in real life was executed perfectly. It was an educational, dazzling, and beautiful adventure to share together and we were grateful to be able to experience it. In case the video footage wasn’t enough, we even got a couple pictures out of the deal which also happened in Good Morning Call. In the end, I’d say this date was a complete success and I’d be willing to try another Netflix drama inspired date in the future. Perhaps, I’ll try something from a different drama.