SHIKI, Saitama Prefecture--A wild seal that caused a sensation by appearing in the Arakawa river just outside Tokyo was made an honorary citizen of his adopted home on Oct. 18.
Hordes of sightseers started descending on Shiki city, Saitama Prefecture, on Oct. 11 after the animal, believed to be a spotted seal that is normally found in northern seas such as the Bering Strait, was sighted.
After disappearing for about a week, the animal was seen again on Oct. 17.
Akiyuki Imafuku, 70, who came from Yokohama's Minami Ward to see the seal, said it had sunbathed on a riverbank near the Akigase diversion weir on the Arakawa river for about an hour from 10:40 a.m., occasionally stretching and looking around.
After slipping back into the river, it showed its head above the surface at five- to 10-minute intervals.
Following the latest sighting, Akira Naganuma, mayor of Shiki city, declared that the animal had clearly decided to take up residence. "We were able to confirm that it is living in Shiki city," he said.
City officials issued a special residence certificate and Naganuma dubbed his fin-footed citizen "Ara-chan Shiki," after the name of the river.
The new star has some way to go to rival the fame of “Tama-chan,” a bearded seal that appeared in the Tamagawa river in Tokyo and other waterways between 2003 and 2004 and became a fixture of Japanese TV news reports.
Yasuharu Okuyama, an official of Enoshima Aquarium in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, said from filmed images, Ara-chan appears to be a spotted seal.
"Judging from the hair that remains in the part from the nose to the eyes, the wild seal is apparently the same as the one seen on Oct. 11," he said.
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