Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Meet Tsukishima’s Most Popular Pet, Jiant Tortoise – Bonchan

Tsukishima (月島) is an area in Tokyo that is best known for its Monjayaki (もんじゃ焼き) restaurants. Monjayaki is the Tokyo version of Okonomiyaki. Both Monjayaki and Okonomiyaki are basically savory types of Japanese-style pancakes. If you are thinking of making them at home, you get to mix all the ingredients you like with the batter and then make a pancake out of it.

However, that is not really what we were at Tsukishima for! For one-time-only, we visited an area in Japan not for its scenery or food but to meet someone’s pet (≧▽≦).

Bon-Chan on Wall Street Journal

Bon-chan, the tortoise, was originally just a local celebrity before the WSJ broadcasted his daily routine with his owner to the world. As long as it is not rainy, you will get the chance to see the pair strolling around Tsukishima (≧▽≦).

And this is what we were keen to see! You see people walking their dogs almost daily, but how often do you come across people walking a tortoise in the middle of a big city like Tokyo?

Without much luck on the day, we didn’t sight the pair on the street, so we went straight to their home – Mitani Funerals. While you might think it is quite ironic to see a tortoise symbolizing longevity in a shop that looks after people’s funerals, isn’t his existence auspicious to all the customers coming in?

As soon as we entered the shop, Bon-chan was there! Chilled in its air-conditioned room from the super hot day we endured, we preferred this visit over the need to stroll around during the heatwave (´▽`*).

A Snapshot of Bon-Chan’s Life

Bon-chan (ボンちゃん), born in 1996, became the pet of Mr. and Mrs. Mitani during the Obon Festival in Japan.

Apparently, Mrs. Mitani looked into Bon-chan’s eyes the moment they met and decided to bring him back straightaway (love at first sight?).

When Bon-chan first became part of the Mitani family, he was smaller than the size of your palm! While the family thought he would spend the next few years growing in size, it wasn’t the case.

It was when he got to around the age of 10 that he became a lot bigger in a short time frame (tortoise’s adultescent?)!

Bon-chan is now a giant tortoise with a height of around 1m, weighing about 100kg Σ(゚Д゚). He is capable of carrying kids up to 20kg. It made us really wish that we could reduce our size and weight so that we would also have the opportunity to climb up on Bon-chan’s back…

Despite his size and weight, he doesn’t eat much. An apple, a banana, and eight pieces of cabbage leaves are all he needs daily!

On a hot day like the day we visited, he will be fed watermelon as a snack. And lucky for us, we got that opportunity (≧▽≦).

When the weather is freezing cold, Mr Mitani will dress Bon-chan up in warm clothing handmade by their neighbors (like the one in THIS ARTICLE). Mr Mitani even has a matching bag to go with it (´▽`*)

If you want to see how Mr Mitani dresses Bon-chan up, check out this YouTube Video. You will see it for yourself at the 1-minute point mark!

Probably for cuteness’s sake, you will often see Bon-chan strolling the neighborhood with a little hat on his head (we should have asked Mr Mitani how the hat stayed on his head when we visited…).

Anyway, check out this YouTube Video for a 2-minute Bon-chan cuteness!

How to Get to Bon-Chan’s House

Firstly, get to Tokyo Metro’s (or Toei Subway’s) Tsukishima Station (月島駅).

Mitani Funerals is the closest to Toei Subway’s exit no. 10, which is just a 3-minute away. But whether you are catching Tokyo Metro or Toei Subway, it won’t be a long walk!

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