Japan is a country that prides itself on fish. So, whether you are traveling around the island of Okinawa, or heading over to Kyoto or Osaka, or even if you are staying in the area around Tokyo, there are plenty of aquariums for you to enjoy all over Japan:
1. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
(image by flickr.com)
Located approximately 2 hours by car from Naha Airport, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is on the Motobu Peninsula in the northern part of Okinawa Island. This area which faces the beautiful sea was once the venue for Expo ’75. In the distance, you can see Iejima Island. The aquarium, which has the theme of “Encounter the Okinawan Sea”, can be entered from the 3rd floor (Coral Lobby), and heading to the 2nd and 1st floors, the facility is built so that it feels like you are going underwater. In fact, it has been designed so that you can get the sensation of taking that mysterious trip into the Okinawan sea as you go from Life In Inoh to the Coral Sea, past the Kuroshio Sea to the Deep Sea.
The No. 1 highlight of Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is the Kuroshio Sea which is the largest water tank in Japan. Boasting a depth of 10m, a length of 35m and a width of 27m, this gigantic tank is filled with migratory fish from the Kuroshio, including 3 whale sharks and 6 manta rays. This multiple breeding for the purposes of propagating whale sharks and manta rays is something that hasn’t been seen anywhere else in the world. At the water tank known as the Coral Sea which lets in natural light, 800 colonies of 70 different coral are bred and are on display, a process that has taken more than 10 years. You can also view the coral spawning every year around June.
After enjoying the world of the Okinawan sea, why not take a break while still being able to see the sea life in the tanks up close? At the Café Ocean Blue at one corner of the Kurashio Sea, you can enjoy some tea and light snacks such as taco rice and purple yam tarts which are Okinawan specialties while viewing the whale sharks and manta rays swimming gracefully. The sight of fish swimming across in front of your very eyes is amazing. Since the seats in front of the water tanks are always crowded, heading for them as soon as the aquarium opens is recommended, although after 4 p.m. the crowds lessen somewhat.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 1,850 / Child: ¥ 610
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
- Tours of Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
2. Aqua World Oarai Aquarium
One hour by train directly from Tokyo. The Kanto region’s largest aquarium is composed of 9 areas. In the Encounter Sea zone, there is the giant water tank that is the largest in the entire facility in which you can see the amazing sight of 20,000 fish representing 80 species from offshore Oarai. In the Seas of the World zone, you can see the sharks that are the symbol of the aquarium. Within this zone, you will want to focus on the common smooth-hound, the only shark of its type found only at this aquarium. In the Ocean Sunfish tank which is the largest of its type in the entire nation, several ocean sunfish are raised.
The aquarium also has a Museum zone that is not found in any other current aquarium in which there are numerous deeply interesting exhibits such as a model of a shark 4 meters in length, a model of the world’s largest ocean sunfish, and a specimen of a shark’s tooth. Another attractive feature is the many opportunities for interaction. There is the popular program of the 50-minute Exploration Tour at the Backyard of the aquarium. Separated into the 2 courses of General and Specialist, they are held 3 times a day. The numbered tickets that are distributed when the aquarium opens are given out on a first come, first serve system so you will want to come to the aquarium early.
Then, there is Kidsland which is popular with children. They can watch the 15-minute Fun Fact Fishing video which is shown 4 times a day and enjoyably learn about ocean life through experiments. At the Touching Pool where you will be able to get in touch with the animals, you can pick up creatures such as starfish and sea urchins. Doctor fish which nibble on the cuticles of people are raised here and once you place your hand into the water tank, it’s fun to see the fish close in and start nipping at your skin. You can also observe the Penguins’ Walk Time, and the Aqua Viewing is also popular for being able to chat with the divers in the water.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 1,850 / Child: ¥ 930
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Aqua World Oarai Aquarium
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Aqua World Oarai Aquarium
- Tours of Aqua World Oarai Aquarium
3. Osaka Aquarium
Kaiyukan is an 8-floor aquarium with a large-scale indoor water tank. The entire building expresses itself as a Pacific Rim zone of life, and approximately 30,000 examples of sea life from 620 varieties can be seen. The regular route will first take you through the 3rd-floor tunnel-like “Fish Passage – Aqua Gate” and then on the escalator up to the 8th floor’s “Nihon no Mori” (Japan Forest). From here, you can view 14 aquaria as you descend a spiral slope. You can see the fish and expressions of the sea up close through the 10 regions of the Pacific Rim. Of particular note is the 9m-deep and 34m-long giant tank which holds 5,400 tonnes of water and resembles the Pacific Ocean. You can view migratory fish such as the popular whale shark (Yuu-chan), sharks, rays and horse mackerel swimming about calmly. The “Aleutian Islands” where you can see sea otters and the “Floating Jellyfish” tank where only jellyfish are placed are also popular. There are other various idea aquaria to interest visitors. If you visit after 5 p.m., we also recommend catching a glimpse of the fish in night mode.
You can’t miss the “New Interactive Area” which opened in 2013. You can see the animals up close and it’s possible to touch them. It’s also fun to experience the environment where the animals live including the smells and the cold. 3 zones are constructed in the “New Interactive Area”. In the Arctic Zone, you can see the sight of roundish ringed seals swimming from below through the world’s largest dome-shaped ceiling tank. You can also sense the cold of the Arctic Zone on your skin. In the Falkland Islands Zone, you can view rockhopper penguins in the open-air tank up close. Then, in the Maldives Zone, you can directly touch sharks and rays. The “New Interactive Area”, which overturns the image of existing aquaria, is extremely popular with both adults and children alike. You will want to strike a rapport with the animals.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 2,300 / Child: ¥ 1,200
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Osaka Aquarium
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Osaka Aquarium
- Tours of Osaka Aquarium
4. Kyoto Aquarium
The aquarium is located 15 minutes away on foot from Kyoto Station’s central exit. Kyoto Aquarium is located in the popular urban oasis of Umekouji Park. Within the facility, you can start from the Main Pool where you view sea life from 7 spots including a cave and a fish-eye lens as one of the 9 exhibition zones. With a five-storied pagoda far off in the distance, you can also enjoy the dolphin show. You may be thinking “Why would I head for an aquarium in the 1000-year-old former capital of Kyoto?” However, you can deepen your knowledge about Kyoto from a different angle from history and culture.
First on the menu are the two different water tanks with motifs of the Kamo and Yura Rivers. At this Rivers of Kyoto Zone, the nature of Kyoto is realistically recreated. Of note inside are the living fossils of Japanese giant salamanders which have been designated as the nation’s Special Natural Monuments. You can witness these animals which are native to the Kamo River flowing within Kyoto. There is also the Kyoto Woodland Zone which recreates the woodland area just outside of Kyoto. You can see the unspoiled landscape from the good old days of Japan with animals such as catfish, carp and frogs living in the terraced rice fields and irrigation canals.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 2,050 / Child: ¥ 1,000
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Kyoto Aquarium
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Kyoto Aquarium
- Tours of Kyoto Aquarium
5. Yokohama Hakkeijima
About 1 hour from Tokyo. This island in Tokyo Bay was first opened in 1993 as “Hakkeijima Sea Paradise”. There are 4 aquariums. The Aqua Museum is the symbol of Hakkeijima. The outstanding pyramid-roof aquarium displays 100,000 examples of sea life from 500 species. In the largest tank at the Aqua Museum, the nation’s largest school of 50,000 sardines is used in Super Iwashi Illusion. It’s a popular show in which the sardines dynamically race around while lit up by the tank lighting. At the Aqua Stadium, which can hold up to 2000 people, dolphins, sea lions, penguins and other animals can be seen at once performing in an exciting show. The Dolphin Fantasy is a magical aquarium with the theme of dolphins. There is no roof on the water tank, and you can view them from inside the tunnel. They can be seen on sunny or rainy days in conditions close to the natural sea, and it feels like taking a stroll on the bottom of the ocean.
The Fureai Lagoon is an aquarium where you can touch the sea animals. There is a program in which you can get a taste of being a trainer through touching the backs of dolphins and feeding them and there is also a program where you can swim with dolphins and whales (separate charge).
The Umi Farm is an aquarium whose purpose is to have visitors closely feel the environment of the ocean through the raising, harvesting and eating of sea life. Get the fish that you can eat and have it prepared for you. In the amusement park, there are attractions such as Japan’s first roller coaster to go partially above the water and the seaboats where dolphins swim nearby.
Admission: Adult: ¥ 5,050 / Child: ¥ 3,600
- Guidebook from Planetyze about Hakkeijima
- Reviews from TripAdvisor about Hakkeijima
- Tours of Hakkeijima
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