Having grown up in Seattle, a major port city, I had access to a wonderful aquarium which I visited many times as a child. I can remember my fascination with the animals and the environment, especially the outdoor habitats for the penguins and otters, and of course the Giant Pacific Octopus the Seattle aquarium is famous for.
On a recent trip to Osaka, I was able to rekindle a bit of that childhood wonder when a friend and I visited the aquarium there. Although, as an adult, the crowds tend to be a bit more bothersome. As a child I could easily squeeze between people’s legs to press my face against the glass, a bit inappropriate as an adult now. Of course, the aquarium was filled with small children weaving in and out of the crowd to get the best view, so if you do go, be sure to step carefully.
After leaving the subway station it was a quick and easy walk to the waterfront. Small shops lined the street, enticing tourists with their brightly colored wares. All of the flower boxes were decorated with various sea creatures, and at the end of the street there was a waterfront mall and a Lego Land, which was advertised by a sizable Lego giraffe standing on the street corner.
Next to Lego Land stood the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, a huge building decorated with dolphins and whales, which seemed to be swimming up the side of the building. Everything was incredibly tourist friendly and after purchasing a ticket for 2,300 yen, we headed inside. Luckily there was a block of lockers located directly inside the front entrance, available for rent for 400 yen, and we took advantage of them, leaving our heavy backpacks.
After passing a craft table, and a photo shoot area we followed the route up an elevator and were let out in the middle of the forest, or at least a habitat created in the likeness of the forest. The sound of falling water greeted us, and crowds of people were gathered around one of the habitats. We pushed our way to the front to see what the fuss was about, the otter habitat of course. We were more interested by what was next door, the Giant Salamanders!
I will not go into detail about each exhibit, but I will say that the aquarium is designed in a very intelligent way. The route starts at the top of the exhibits, and spirals down to the bottom, which allows the guests to see each habitat from a multitude of angles and depths. Each section of the aquarium is separated into different areas of the Pacific Rim region, The Pacific Ocean, The Maldives, The Great Barrier Reef, Antarctica, etc . . .
One of the highlights was the main tank, which held giant stingrays and whale sharks, do not worry about getting a good view from the beginning, the route follows the tank for a very long time so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see all the sea animals in the aquarium.
While the route spirals down and around the main tank, there are plenty of areas that branch off from the main path, allowing guests the chance to see dolphins and seals, various species of penguins, and turtles. I even spotted Dory, a blue tang fish, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef habitat.
Eventually the route diverges from the main tank, and leads you to the jelly fish exhibit, and finally a shark exhibit. Although, there are no sharks to see besides the whale sharks, and a few young sharks in incredibly tiny tanks.
The tour of the aquarium ended in the hands on section, where, after washing our hands, we had the chance to touch stingrays and small sharks. This was a really unique experience, and although it was designed with children in mind, I took the opportunity to gently touch a few of the animals. Stingrays are surprisingly slimy.
Finally we were dropped off back at the gift store, to browse the overpriced stuffed animals and t-shirts, before making our way back to the front entrance.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Who doesn’t enjoy an aquarium? And while it was a bit expensive, the range of species and design of the aquarium, made it well worth the visit.